Thursday, October 15, 2020

I'm at an Art Society Virtual Conference!

In this post, I ask why more national art societies do not have virtual online conferences which allow participation by professional and aspiring artists from all over the world.

Reinventing the ASBA Annual Conference as a Virtual Online Event

Last year, I travelled to the USA to give a lecture at the Annual Conference of the American Society of Botanical Artists (ASBA)

ASBA have a four day Conference every year. Botanical artist members arrive at the city and venue from all over the USA. They also fly in from countries all around the world.  Last year in Pittsburgh, besides my fellow members from the UK, we had members from (I think) Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Netherlands and Turkey (and I think probably one or two more I've forgotten!)

This year the original planned Conference in Mobile Alabama was cancelled because of the Pandemic. 

So ASBA reinvented it as a Virtual Conference! Which I wrote about on my botanical art blog Are you going to be ONLINE in October and attending ASBA's 26th Annual Conference?

I hasten to add this Virtual Conference is wholly organised by WOMEN!  As women the world over know, women have a distinct tendency to "get on and do" when challenged by adversity. ;) (Now there's a metaphorical gauntlet thrown down! :)

So for the next four days - as part of a global audience of botanical artists - I'm going to be attending a programme of events which mainly comprise one hour Master Demonstrations - in real time - by leading botanical artists from various countries on a variety of topics.  Six demos a day!!

Here's the schedule at a glance - with timings based on Eastern Standard Time.

So my schedule is working like this:

  • Last night I watched the Welcome event - which included a virtual botanical art exhibition of small works
  • for the next four days I'll be attending Masterclass Demonstrations by leading botanical artists 
    • six one hour sessions every day on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday (just 3)
    • which are being held in the morning and afternoon (or for me - 5 hours behind - between 3-6pm and 7-10pm).  
    • These are being held as webinars i.e. we can see the demonstrator and what they are doing but they can't see us.
  • These will be followed by public program events in the early evening (or for me between 1pm - 2am) - which I might start but am unlikely to finish!)
  • I won't be making the virtual social interaction sessions later on which will be the middle of the night for me!
You can see more details about the sessions here.  If you click the name of the session, you can see what each session does - and some include a list of materials to be used in the session.

One bonus is that some sessions will be recorded - and available to review for up to 24 hours. (I'd have preferred it if they'd made it 48 hours - because life still goes on)

To accommodate our international members, most sessions will be recorded & available to registered attendees for viewing for a limited time upon the conclusion of each block of programming.
Below is a map (six days ago) of the people who have registered to attend sessions - and where people will be when they attend the Conference as as you can see although it's dominated by Americans, there are people attending from the UK and Europe, Asia, Australasia, Africa and South America

Map of where people attending the Conference live - and will be during the Conference!

Why don't more Art Societies have Online Conferences?

I'm genuinely puzzled as to why more national art societies - in different countries:

  • don't do annual conferences
  • haven't taken the opportunity offered by the Pandemic to create online virtual events which 
    • help to connect their members with other artists around the world
    • generate cash for the wider activities of the art society
Are conferences just "an American thing"? 
Do people think they'd never get the numbers to make it worthwhile?

I have news for such societies. 

  • With absolutely no hotel bills and transport costs to fund, it's much more likely that people will attend such events - and pay for the privilege. Particularly as all those who are more vulnerable will feel super safe staying at home.
Save $3,000+ No travel, airfare, meals, or hotel!
strapline marketing Realisim Live
  • Moreover - as a number of botanical art teachers have found - the scope of the technology means that 
    • sessions can be conducted as webinars and 
    • many more can view workshop sessions 
    • AND have a really good view of what the artist is doing!
  • plus the American Art Editor and Publisher Eric Rhoads of Streamline Publishing (Plein Air Magazine & Fine Art Connoisseur Magazine) has been very quick off the mark and doing pretty well organising two online conferences
    • Plein Air Live - in July - which had a Private Facebook Group
    • Realism Live - in 21-24th October - with a few days left to register!
    • it's where a lot of the sponsorship money is going - which is worth thinking about the next time an art society tries to drum up sponsorship
So how about it?  Is now absolutely the right time for more art societies to get to grips with technology and start finding partners and sponsors and organising online virtual events and conferences? 

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