Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Local Art Community

Physallis - a work still in progress(?)
9" x 12", coloured pencils on Arches HP

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Connecting as we do as artists on the Internet, it's perhaps easy sometimes for some of us to lose sight of the artistic community and local resources which exist in the localities where we live.

Moreover, if you do want to know more about and connect with a local art community, it can sometimes be difficult for people to find out out about local artists, art activities, art resources and/or art organisations in that local community.

For example, I live in the East End of London and know that this area is supposed to have the greatest number of artists per square mile of anywhere in the UK! However, it's very difficult to find out about all matters art-related at a local level. Every so often I find out about something I had no idea existed!

It's also complicated and very challenging when we move or travel and want to find about a new area from scratch. Where do we go to find out what is available in the area? Aspects I've been particularly interested in when travelling is knowing about where the local art shops are and where are good places to go to draw/paint plein air. In general I've noticed that plein air painters at a personal level are very generous in sharing their knowledge about an area - but that very little of this is documented and most exchanges are on a one to one verbal/e-mail person to person basis only. Maybe that's the only way to pass on good 'secrets'? ;)

I've been thinking about this topic for some time - mainly because of my travelling and the way I research localities before I travel. I frequently find very little about what is happening locally and wondered how that might be improved.

Often the reason why we don't know what exists is because there's no obvious place to go to find out about what is happening in an area.
  • It's great if there's a local arts association or art society but even then you have to know one exists and where to find it!
  • If you're looking for information online, there might in principle be a website but it can often be difficult to access unless you know its name is or what the URL is. 'Isolated' and less well maintained websites don't always have a very high profile on the internet or come up in browser searches. Quality of content and frequency of change is what drives the profile and ranking of websites in search engines - and one often gets the feeling that some websites about local art activities get left for years at a time (eg "Come and paint with us on Sunday" - and a date in 2004).
  • In some places the noticeboard in the local art shop is the only method for communicating. However mine seems to be full of people offering to be artists' models or wanting to share their studio!
  • Sometimes an individual may set up a comprehensive links page on their own website which covers everything they know about art-related activities/organisations/events and artists in their locality - and very often these are the best sites for information that I come across.
  • Sometimes you can get a wealth of information about a specific aspect - BUT it's buried in a thread on a forum or in somebody's blog. It doesn't connect with any other related information.
That was about as far as I'd got in my observations and pondering until recently when I was sent a request for a squidoo lens to join my Resources for Artists Group.

The request came from an individual who wanted to promote and increase exposure for art, artists and art activities in her local community - her lens is called Exposing the Arts in Kinosha Wisconsin. is a collaborative effort of artists working with artists to promote one another in the thriving arts scene of Kenosha, WI.
That made me sit up straight quickly. Go take a look. In my opinion, the lens is simple and not overly ambitious in its scope at the moment - but it does the job and will doubtless grow and develop over time.

It also provides a baseline on which to ponder.......
  • Does a website exists which covers your local art community and is inclusive?
  • Do you know its URL / can you find it easily on the internet?
  • If it exists, what is its target audience? Is this clear or confused?
  • Who promotes it on the internet? Does it get a lot of visitors?
  • Is it well used? Can it be improved?
So - here's a challenge..........for those who are interested in this topic.

How about trying to work out what are the local resources for your area and then from that create a squidoo lens for and about your local art community - which records relevant information and links? I'll be very happy to advise on how to create a lens - and if enough people are interested I'll post a very simple ' how to' produce a squidoo lens for this topic for people to use as a guide! ;).

The really good thing about a squidoo lens is that they start with the potential to get good ranking on Google (because of being linked to squidoo) and actually always work better if you keep adding to them ad changing them. So there's no need to produce the definitive guide prior to publication. There just needs to be enough to make it worth publishing. You can share administration of a squidoo lens with other people so no need to feel you have to do this all on your own.

I've been thinking about what artists would want to know about - either local or visiting - or what local places or events art buyers visiting the area might be interested in. Here's some of the aspects which occured to me could potentially form different sections of a lens - although I guess most lenses would not need or want all of these! ;)
  • local arts organisations - both professional and amateur
  • artists studios
  • websites of local artists
  • blogs of local artists
  • local art shops/supplies
  • local art schools
  • local art classes
  • local art tutors
  • local art galleries
  • local art museums
  • local art festivals
  • local art exhibitions
  • local art societies
  • local art events
  • local plein air events / paint outs
  • good places to paint plein air locally
  • what else - you name it!
'Just in case' anybody is interested (and I have a feeling this might be a bit of a slow burn activity) I've created a Squidoo Group called The Local Art Community - Resources for Artists. The notion behind this is that this could act as a home for anybody else who creates a squidoo lens to 'index' their local resources/existing local websites and if you produce a lens which promotes your locality and local art community then I'll include it. It then creates the potential for a place where people - locals and visitors - can go to find out about an area - and also for local communities to share good ideas about what's happening in different places for promoting art at a local level.

At present, I'm also minded to try and develop some links for certain areas I've visited - as much as anything else do because I don't want to lose the information I've accumulated from those visits. I know I already share it with people who ask on an ad hoc basis and it would be great to have a lens I can just point them too. I've already started a lens called 'Venice - a resource for visiting artists and art lovers - to try it out and see how it might work. Already it looks like Google Maps might be very helpful for pinpointing locations - but will work much better for those based in the USA.

So how about it?
  • Is this idea of creating lots of small sites focused on local art communities brilliant or ridiculously ambitious or completely dumb or what???
  • If you think this idea has some potential, what suggestions do you have as to how might it be improved in terms of either practicality and/or effectiveness?
Let me know what you think - positive or negative.

Note about the drawing:
My physallis came from the fruit section of the Royal Horticultural Society London Show at the weekend. The drawing is deliberately high-key and I'm at the "umming/staring" stage as to whether or not it is finished. Current feeling is 'very nearly'.


Lindsay said...

What a great idea! Interesting idea and one I'll put on my New Year's list. I'd LOVE a tutorial on creating a lense.

Rita said...

This is an extremely good idea, Katherine. I'd have to give more thought as to the practicality and/ or pros & cons of it, but as soon as I read this post I had tons of ideas floating through my head.
I'm so intrigued by this idea that I may just start one for my area. I live in a very artsy area but it's "closet-artsy", if you will and I'd love to expose it ;). It's another thing to add to my ever growing "To-Do" list, but a very worthwhile task for sure.

Thanks for the inspiration!

Tania said...

This is a fantastic idea!! I would love to do one for my local visual arts community - I just signed up for a workshop today and the person I gave the fee to said, "Oh, don't you belong to such-and-such?" I'd never even heard of it and I've lived here for twenty years! And I'd appreciate a tutorial.

Katherine said...

Great - I'm not alone in thinking this idea 'has legs' as it were!

I'm also of the opinion this might be an idea which will catch on if people start seeing links to sites about our local art communities start to pop up on people's blogs plus we blog about them when we publish.

Plus I also thought of another totally obvious module for the lens - framers!

vivien said...

I think it's a good idea too.

Jeanette said...

Perfect idea Katherine! I always say that the art associations in Newfoundland and the world's best kept secret. What fun to bring them into the limelight.

I'll have to work on this but it may not be til the new year.

Jana Bouc said...

I like this idea a lot, and would be interested in learning more about how to go about it. Living in the SF Bay Area of California we have tons of art resources available here. It could be rather time consuming assembling them...I guess I'd need to limit it to just my own little corner of the Bay Area.

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