Art 2.0 Social Networking the Arts 2010…

Posted on January 27, 2010

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Art 2.0 Social Networking the Arts 2010…

There is little debate on the fact technology has changed the world and the Arts in 2010.

The question is can the current models of how art is delivered be sustained Today. While the number of mainstream arts organizations has grown; attendance and audience is declining.

National Arts Index Finding:

Attendance at mainstream nonprofit arts organizations is in a steady decline. Market data gathered by Scarborough Research (200,000 surveys annually in the largest 81 metropolitan areas) indicate the percentage of the population attending museums and performing arts events (symphony, dance, opera, theater) decreased 13 percent and 17 percent, respectively, between 2003-2008.

This statistic is puzzling because more Americans are participating in the arts than ever before. Where is the Audience?

National Arts Index Finding:

The percentage of the American public personally creating art (e.g., photography, music making, and drawing) is growing slightly ahead of the growth rate of the U.S. population, up from 18.5 to 19.5 percent between 2003 and 2008.

A greater percentage of total personal consumption was spent on arts and culture (e.g., theater, books, movies), growing from 1.78 to 1.83 percent.

Community-based and culturally specific arts organizations are driving participation and vitality. The number of these organizations has grown faster than the rate of growth for all nonprofit arts organizations—and even faster than the rate of the minority population in the U.S. Additional analysis of their financial data reveals that they are more likely to complete their fiscal year with a surplus than the remaining universe of nonprofit arts organizations.

Again, this statistic is puzzling because according to the NAI one third of nonprofit arts organizations fail to meet or balance their budgets and continue to lose ground. We have seen art museums, operas, theaters, orchestras and all traditional types of art organizations cut back on services or close in 2009. It is clear that the audience is changing how they participate in the arts and in how they want the arts delivered to them.

The days of the stand-alone geographic specific arts organization may be limited or not? Community based and culturally specific mean to me, I want to be involved, I want to be hands on in some way and I want my involvement to be of specific interest to me.

National Arts Index Finding:

Technology is changing both how the arts are accessed and consumed. The number of CD and record stores has been reduced by half in five years, while online downloads of singles and albums have grown four-fold in three years. This not only provides consumers with access to a vastly larger catalogue, but greater control of when and how to access their music. More arts organizations use the Internet to share program content with their audiences or market using social networking. For instance, the Metropolitan Opera has had great success with movie theater simulcasts. Arts Memphis, a local arts agency, has created an app for iPhone users providing instant access to an interactive cultural calendar. Even within technology, there is variation (public radio listenership is up, while public TV viewership is down).

What this suggests to me is that the audience also wants to control how they engage, access and consume art.  The audience also wants to control when they engage in the arts. In addition to the music industry’s decline, the movies and television are also experiencing serious falling numbers. 50 percent of video rental stores have closed in the last five years and mainstream television is in real trouble. In fact, free network TV may soon be gone. The reason is I think simply about when the consumer wants to engage. No longer does the audience want to be tethered to a fixed schedule. Technology has changed the dynamic and freed the audience. You can watch TV on your personal schedule now with websites like HuLu, cable programming like On-Demand. You can also access movies without leaving home or late fees when you want them through Net Flex and iTunes. You can watch when and where you choose. This changes the geographic nature of delivering arts programming. However most mainstream arts organizations are slow to recognize the shift in American culture and consumerism. They are too busy looking for their audience to find them or they are simply just unable to get out of the box.

These cultural changes are also affecting how visual artists engage their audience. The exhibition and sales of artwork are changing. While I do not believe the internet replaces the experience of actually viewing art in person, it is a second best choice, especially if the audience is located in a different geographic location than the exhibit, gallery or museum. Today technology is again changing the rules. As an artist, you can get your work seen in New York or anywhere else on the planet in a number of significant ways. You can engage and build an audience on your own.

Social Networking may become a significant resource in the process of building a career as an artist and it may offer life to a dying arts organization.

So, what is a social network. A social network is a group of people sharing specific interests via available technology. What is the available technology, facebook, twitter, ning, You Tube and more? I think the best way to explain social networking is to show you.

Art Review was a leader in this new revolution. As a print magazine, they found themselves in trouble and decided to abandon the mainstream delivery of their product. An online magazine combined with a social Network supplemented the print version of the magazine. Art review gives the content away in the virtual format and still sells advertising. They galvanized and built their audience through a social networking component that is specifically interested in their content and content related advertising. Smart. The Art Review social network opened up a dialogue to artists around the world who can now look at each other’s work and discuss ideas. In addition, it is free.

Art Review: http://www.artreview.com/

Another successful social network for artists is the Brooklyn Art Project. They host actual art events in Brooklyn and offer availability to artists not geographically located in the New York area the ability to participate via the social network.

http://www.brooklynartproject.com

Art for Arts Sake another site created by Roger Povey a writer and now network creator located in Hastings Untied Kingdom has brought artists from around the world together, even those like me located in Montana.

http://artsforartssake.ning.com/

I became a network creator in just a few minutes creating the Montana Artists Network on Ning.

http://montanaartistsnetwork.ning.com/

Ning is the social platform for the world’s interests and passions online. Millions of people every day are coming together across Ning to explore and express their interests, discover new passions, and meet new people around shared pursuits.

http://www.ning.com

These networks are collaborations between artists located in different geographic locations that otherwise might never know or meet each other. The networks are available when you want to participate and are available to you regardless of where you are located.

Many artists and many art organizations are behind the curve when it comes to new technology. They are slow to recognize the changes and opportunity it brings. When the internet began to take off and websites were new, many organizations were stuck in the brochure, catalog and direct mailing mode. They had little knowledge of what a website could do for their budgets and programs. Print and direct mail are expensive and are major budget items in small and large organizations.

One Mainstream Art Organization that seems to, always be first into the murky water is the Brooklyn Art Museum. Today in no exception, they are using social networking to build audience participation and non-geographically located memberships. Through an innovative approach, they are including their new social network audience in the museums activities.

1stfans: a socially networked museum membership.

http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/join/1stfans/

They have even curated an exhibit “Click!” with the help of their social network. http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/exhibitions/click

Brooklyn Art Museum Home Page

http://www.brooklynmuseum.org

I would love to be able to, physically go to the BAM but I live in Montana. I can’t get to Brooklyn often, but I can participate when I want too, 24/7 from home.

Other museums are also using social networks but I have not found the type of memberships Brooklyn offers anywhere else but they will be coming soon.

The Cleveland Museum of Art has a feature that I like http://www.clemusart.com/explore/collectionLogin.asp

Personal Collections

This facility can be used to: assemble collections save collections for later study create presentations with your own notes.

The Whitney Museum of American Art also offers personal collections along with expanded social networking both museums offer the service free.  http://www.whitney.org/Login

So now, I can have a personal, Virtual art collection of major works of art. I can choose the art; I can view the art when I want to form wherever I am located. That is smart innovation and I believe extended audiences would pay for reduced cost internet membership at most major museums with interactive benefits especially if it included a limited admission should the member ever get to New York, Paris or Spain.

It is 2010 and the technology is here. Technology is only going to expand its influence on the arts audience. The question remains how we artists will learn to use it to our benefit.

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