Archive for the ‘State of the Arts’ Category

A Trip to See Several Exhibits in the Pee Dee Area of South Carolina in July 2014 – Part II

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

On a day when it was thundering and lightening around the lake here in Bonneau, SC, I decided to head over to the Pee Dee area of South Carolina, to see a few exhibits on view in Florence, SC, and Lake City, SC, just an hour’s drive north on Hwy. 52. If the computer had to be unplugged, why not go somewhere else where the weather is not so angry.

Part I, about my visit to the Jones-Carter Gallery in Lake City, SC, (home to the ArtFields event) can be seen at this link.

In Part II of this installment, I’m going to cover a subject I’ve talked about several times in the last few years, and that’s the growing arts district in downtown Florence, SC. It had been almost a year since my last trip to see an exhibit at the Art Trail Gallery and I was looking forward to seeing all the changes that had taken place during that time frame. I’ve also been waiting for almost six months to get a close look at the public art that was being installed in this district.

Downtown Florence, like many cities across America has a lot to work with as far as vacant buildings that can be rehabbed and buildings that will need to come down to make new open spaces and in the last 3-4 years I’ve been going there you could see signs of a makeover taking place.

So when I got to Florence after leaving Lake City, SC, I parked across from where the old Art Trail Gallery was on S. Dargan Street – where I knew Big Bleu Birdnanna, a towering sculpture by Mike and Patz Fowle was standing – the first piece of outdoor work to be placed in the new arts district by REdiscovering Downtown Florence, a division of the Florence Downtown Development Corporation.

I’ve seen photos of the big bird, but I wanted to see it myself before I reported about it. Once I got out of the car I could really see that a lot of work has been done since I was last in this area.

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Patz Fowle working on design of sculpture

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Installation

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Big Bleu Birdnanna today

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Another view

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Impressive sign for sculpture – any guess as to who made this?

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Many artists wish the sign for their sculpture ID sign was this good

After taking a few photos of Big Bleu Birdnanna, I followed a walkway to another open space that would lead me to the Art Trail Gallery on West Evans Street, but before I got there I discovered another open space which was totally changed since I was last in Florence. It was called the James Allen Plaza. I’m not sure who James Allen was but I’m sure he was someone important to downtown Florence or someone who gave them money to do this space. And, here I found the handiwork of Bob Doster, the man of metal, from Lancaster, SC. I’m telling you – his work is going to be everywhere someday.

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Sign for James Allen Plaza

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Here we see that Bob Doster has been here – it’s no surprise

Three of the pieces were influenced by students from local schools, including the Swallowtail Butterflies and Yellow Jasmine designed by Williams Middle School students. Doster works with a lot of school children all over the state helping them make sculptures.

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“Swallowtail Butterflies,” by Bob Doster with the help of Dredan Brown, Caroline Ham, Lyle Detalo, Marquise Brewer, Ryan Byrd, Hannah Culpeper, Rocye Anderson, and Haven Rector

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“Yellow Jasmine,” by Bob Doster with the help of Henry Frierson, Jazmyn Rowell, Caleb Farrell, Ciona Gray, Lilly Huiet, Hannah Rose Carter, and Ezra Smolen-Morton

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Unknown title, by Bob Doster, with the help of Lauren Bynum, Lelley Pierce, and Hannah Gandy, from unknown school

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Rendition of the City of Florence Seal, by Bob Doster

Here’s a little pitch for REdiscovering Downtown Florence:

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REdiscovering Downtown membership is similar to memberships other downtown groups have, but focuses just on public art rather than business promotion.

Arts and culture is a very important component of the downtown revitalization process and creating public art will make the area more inviting and encourage both locals and tourists to REdiscover the historic heart of our community.

With your support, public art will be purchased each year and be placed in downtown courtyards and all the streetscape of Evans and Dargan streets. The city of Florence is providing matching dollars for this project utilizing funds from the fees collected from Sundays alcohol sales. This means that every dollar you donate will leverage public funds to help grow art downtown.

For further info and to become a member visit (http://www.florencedowntown.com/arts-culture/rediscover/).

The rest of the time before the reception started for the exhibit at the Art Trail Gallery was spent walking around W. Evans Street and S. Dargan taking photos of some of the buildings which now hold new businesses and some that will soon hold new businesses – in Florence’s new arts district.

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Another open space on W. Evans Street

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Businesses on S. Dargan Street, near W. Evans Street

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More signs of change – building coming down near Irby and W. Evans Street

I understand the new Florence County Museum will be opening sometime in October of this year, and that will add another big cornerstone in that arts district.

Things are happening in South Carolina’s Pee Dee area.

Artists Be Smart – All Shinny New Things Are Not All Good

Monday, January 6th, 2014

If you’ve been on the internet looking at publications this holiday season you may have seen ads for a new online gallery with a slogan – Ugallery original art. original you. I’ve even see it on our Google Adsense ads on our website and blogs – of which we have no control.

After seeing it for the 50th time I clicked on the link to see what it was all about and essentially it was nothing new – an online gallery. Although it looks slicker than most and doing the most advertising than any I’ve seen it’s still like most online galleries – lots of pictures of a variety of art. The only difference is they boost of having the “top emerging artists” and the key word here is “emerging” – meaning artists who are not that popular yet. Which was true when I looked at the artist’s roster. I did not recognize any of the names I saw representing North or South Carolina. Which means they haven’t been exhibiting in galleries in the Carolinas. At least ones we’ve been covering.

Here’s their basic statement: “Here at Ugallery, we represent the top emerging artists from across North America and photographers from around the world. We’re passionate about our collection and our artists, and we are always looking for talented artists with positive attitudes to join our community. The application process is a quick one, and we’ll get back to you within one week to let you know if you’ve been accepted to the website. For more information on how we operate, be sure to read our Artist FAQ.”

Here’s a few of their FAQ’s that stood out to me:

One more thing – we charge a small non-refundable fee of $5 to apply to the website. Bummer, we know, but it helps us ensure that the artists who apply are serious and committed.

We split the sale of artwork 50/50 and we cover all of the costs of packaging and shipping the work.

We currently represent 450 artists.

UGallery has the exclusive right to the artwork displayed on the website. This prevents the risk of selling the same piece of art to two different parties. However, we encourage you to pursue physical gallery representation while exhibiting on our site. This increases the exposure of your work as well as of our gallery.

OK – if I were an artist those four answers to FAQ’s would give me second thoughts about applying to be the 451st artists in their roster. And when you take a look at some of those 450 artist’s work – you better hope you have something really different than what I saw to help you stand out. Besides I’m not sure how many people will look through that many different portfolios in this day of short attention spans. And, I bet after this media blitz their roster has doubled. They might just be making money off the $5 application fee. And, does $5 really make you serious and committed? That’s a laugh.

Ask yourself what are they doing for their 50% cut? Except tying up the rights to the works you send them. And what does that mean? Do they have the right to sell your images to be used in advertising or what? This media blitz won’t last forever and each time they run it – it will just increase their stable of artists – unless the turnover will be that great. Then you have to ask yourself why it there that much turnover?

The problem with most galleries – from an artist’s point of view is that they represent too many artists and don’t spend enough time promoting their work. Think about that 450 number now.

The one good thing I read about Ugallery is that you still hold onto your work. So you won’t get lost in some warehouse with thousands of works stacked up in it, but once you send the work off to their buyer (regardless if they pay for shipping) – will you get paid in the time frame they state? Your work is gone. And if you don’t – who do you call to find out about when you get paid and where is Ugallery anyway?

Sure this system may be good for some artists – emerging artists – but I hope “emerging” in this case doesn’t mean learning tough lessons about the art industry.

I’m just saying – be smart – ask questions – ask around.

I’ve got a question for Ugallery. How do you think that physical gallery is going to feel when they find out that you want their artists to stay with them while playing around with you at the same time? You’re not playing on an equal basis. Ugallery isn’t like a physical gallery in another city 300 miles away – paying overhead, local taxes, and greeting customers who come through the door.

Tom Starland: An Interview With Myself – Part III, with questions and answers by Tom Starland

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

Twelve years ago, back in the year 2000, I came up with an interesting idea – I would interview myself so I could address some issues on my mind. No one else in the media seemed to be interested so why not do it myself. My ego isn’t that big that I wasted space in our printed papers to include such a self-serving piece, and they were too long to include anyway. So they were posted only on our website (www.carolinaarts.com) – where they are today (Archives – Special Features), and every once in a while someone comes across them and really learns something about this paper and me – if they can get through it all. In reading back over them I have to say, if anything I’m consistent. My opinions have stayed the same on most of the subjects covered, although some of the subjects have gone through major changes or disappeared all together.

The first interview dealt with a lot of the paper’s history. Tom Starland: An Interview With Myself, with questions asked by Tom Starland was offered in May/June 2000. You can read it at this link (http://www.carolinaarts.com/600tominterview.html).

The second interview dealt with a lot of frustrations about how bad things in the visual art community were – in 2006. Tom Starland: An Interview With Myself – Part II, with questions asked by Tom Starland was offered in March 2006. Things were bad, but who knew the bottom was going to drop out in 2008. You can read it at this link (http://www.carolinaarts.com/306tominterview2.html).

A lot has happened in the six years since the last interview – the economy went to hell, funding for the arts has been under attack, we stopped printing our paper and became an electronic publication, and we got a new President. And, a lot of things have stayed the same.

So in our 25th year of covering the visual arts in the Carolinas, first in Charleston, SC, then the State of South Carolina, and finally in 1997, both North and South Carolina – it’s time for the third interview to take its place in an issue of Carolina Arts.

Q: Are you a little surprised that we are doing this for a third time, considering the bridges you burned in the first two interviews?

A: The biggest surprise is that they still couldn’t find anyone better than you to do this. Or, were you referring to the fact that we have made it through 25 years of publishing an arts newspaper?

Q: I see we are going to have the same banter of the first two interviews.

A: Smart-ass questions deserve smart-ass answers. And, in response to your first one – yes, I am surprised that no one has replaced us in covering the visual arts in the Carolinas. Some have tried or think they will, but they have a rude lesson to learn. And I’m happy to let them learn it.

The main problem is that there is not enough profit in covering the visual arts in the Carolinas while we are still in business and in 25 years we’ve learned to deal with that reality. And, yes I’m surprised we made it through the last six years – which have been a nightmare of change – a changing market, a changing medium, change, change, change.

Q: I take it you don’t like change?

A: I hate all change unless it is easy and benefits me. Who likes change that is bad? We’ve had enough of that in the last six years. If someone told me I had to change the font we use in the paper – I’d hate that, just for the sake that it is a change of what I’m used to, but if they said it would double our readership and be as easy as resetting something on my computer – I still would fight it, but eventually would embrace it, but I wouldn’t like it. First because if it was that easy to double readership by changing a font – that would make me feel stupid for not doing it long ago. Second, because it didn’t take that much effort to change for the better. But, not all change is that easy.

Q: So what changes have been good?

A: Well, the big change of not printing the paper and going online with an electronic version of the paper was hard, but it turned out to be the best change we ever made – next to starting out years ago picking Apple computers to work on. Our readership has gone from a possible of 10,000 (the amount of papers we printed each month) to an average of 100,000 downloads of the paper each month.

A lot of credit for these downloads go to the people and organizations which help us distribute the paper to their e-mail list and friends and contacts. They help spread the paper beyond our reach.

Not printing the paper has saved a lot of trees, landfill space, and money. Although entering our third year online, we are still paying off our printer for previous printings of the paper before 2010. We are also saving a lot on transportation cost, but I feel a little cut off from the art community we cover by not delivering papers to it every month. And, the time spent delivering that paper was consumed in more time spent on the computer covering more areas of the Carolinas. We’re operating a lot more green then before and that’s good for the environment.

We are also able to publish the entire paper in full color vs. a color cover and the rest in black & white or in the end just black & white like we started. I never liked covering the visual arts in black & white. The paper also has active links in it so that readers looking at ads can click and go to the advertiser’s website or click a link from an article and go to a website.

Our ad rates also went down while the size of the paper stayed the same. Which was good for the art community as a whole considering the decline of the economy and arts funding in the last six years.

Q: So what changes were bad?

A: All of them. Like I said I don’t like change. The biggest complaint we have comes from people still stuck in the 20th century. They say they like to hold a paper in their hands to read it. They say they have trouble downloading the paper which takes less than a minute on most modern computers with any decent internet service – other than dial up. And, now they say there is too much to read.

Most of these complaints are really about people not being able to deal with technology. I understand, I feel their pain – I’m one of those people. I have to be dragged kicking and screaming to try something new. Linda, my better half, is an adventurous explorer when it comes to the computer. She enjoys telling me of things she discovers that can really make a difference and I have to be embarrassed into trying them – which turn out to be really cool things – real time savers. I hate it when she does that, but I also love the new tricks. They’re amazing.

So these folks who have a hard time adjusting to the new technologies – I know what they’re going through, but they are going to be left behind as the world changes – if they don’t change. Besides holding an iPad or any of the new tablets in your hands is a great way to read any book, magazine or newspaper.

Look, some of these folks who ask where they can get a printed copy make the mistake of saying they used to pick it up at some gallery or art space, but in the last few months it’s been hard for them to get by these places. We haven’t printed the paper in two years. These are not regular readers we need to be concerned with – apparently they didn’t read it that often to begin with.

The other change that is bad for me is the fact that doing this new paper and all the components that go with it – our three blogs, Facebook and now Twitter – has me chained to my computer. We’re providing more information than we would have ever dreamed of in a timely fashion – sometimes within minutes of receiving info from someone on the blogs and Facebook, but it all takes a lot of time to process. And, we are now covering all areas of the Carolinas that we hear from when we used to only cover areas where we got advertising support.

Now that’s a policy I’m still wrestling with. Ever since we began we have fought against being just another “you pay, you play” publication. You know what I’m talking about – a publication which only includes info about the people who buy ads. I’ve always felt that by including everyone, it makes the paper more interesting and informative. When we were printing the paper and delivering it we had to restrict our coverage to areas where we received advertising support and areas near those places. We did include everyone who sent us info on our website once we launched it in 1999.

When we went totally online and didn’t have to print the paper or deliver it, we decided to include everyone the same, but as the amount of info increases we find ourselves doing a lot of work including areas (some very large areas) with little or no support coming from those areas. When it gets to the point that we can’t handle it all at the expense of those who do support us – we may have to make some cuts of those areas. And, that day may be getting closer and closer.

You see, there are a lot of folks who think the media has to cover them as a service to their readers or at least that’s what they hope. They think that by sending the media a press release and saying, “Thanks in advance for helping us spread the word on this important event,” is all they need to do.

Q: I hear and read you asking people to send you info all the time. Is that just a ploy to get them to eventually advertise with you?

A: I know it’s the stupidest thing I do. I want to cover everything and do encourage people to send us info about their exhibits – that’s the focus of the paper – exhibitions taking place in the Carolinas – commercial and non-profit. It’s my Catch-22 (Google it folks).

I want Carolina Arts to offer the most informative and inclusive coverage of the visual arts in the Carolinas, (which we do already – but we want more) but time is limited and we are a business. We can’t do it all for free – all the time.

Q: So you do hope people who are sending you info will advertise or as you would put it – support the paper.

A: You will never get a cold call from us asking you to advertise. We have no advertising sales staff. Yes, we hope the light bulb will go off in people’s head eventually when they tell us how we are providing such a wonderful service to the community that they will one day support us with advertising. They could just send us piles of money, but I’m not holding my breath. Advertising gives you something for your money. Each month we send out an e-mail to those who have advertised with us if they want to again. Eventually people are taken off if we don’t hear from them again.

As far as the time factor goes, here’s the deal. I can process a well written press release in minutes and prepare an image sent in a few more and it’s ready to be placed in the paper. After 25 years you get a system down pat. What takes time is when people send you a mess that is incomplete and you have to go back and forth collecting the info they should have sent to begin with. Some articles take weeks to process. I don’t mind that when it comes to supporters, but it’s a pain when it’s coming from folks who are not. And they seem to always be the most drag on my time.

We expect more from people who are being paid to do this – it’s their job, but we are often disappointed, and we cut those who are beginners some slack, but eventually expect them to catch on, but you’d be amazed at how little people can remember from month to month – year after year. And then there are those special few who actually read the paper, study it and deliver their press releases exactly the way I would have processed it. Folks, their stuff goes in the paper first and is always in the best spots – if there is such a thing.

But getting people to send us info about their exhibits is the frustration that never seems to change. It’s the biggest problem in the visual art community – a lack of communicating and when they do – a lack of knowing how to do it in a professional and timely way. And that goes across the board – commercial galleries, non-profit art spaces and art museums. Some of the worst are colleges and universities – which have better resources at hand to do this job.

Q: I can tell you are tired of this subject by the look you are giving me. How did you like The Hobbit?

A: You are a hobbit.

Q: So how’s your relationship going with the SC Arts Commission?

A: You are a stupid hobbit. Ask me something that matters.

Q: So what do you think is next?

A: Well, you got me there. I have no idea what change will come next. I just know I won’t like it already and probably after years of doing it – what ever it is – won’t understand how it works. And, The Hobbit was great.

Q: What would you like to see happen in the future?

A: I’d like to be able to tell my computer what to do. That’s probably already possible, but either too expensive or to complicated for me. But, that would be nice.

I’d like to get more coverage and advertising from areas we never hear from. I know exhibits are being offered everywhere, we just never hear about them and the people who are presenting them probably think no one wants to hear about them, but I do and I think our readers do too.

Every once in a while I get some free time to do some research on the internet and you’d be amazed at the great exhibits that are taking place around the Carolinas in places that rarely get regional coverage – much less local coverage. I feel sorry for those art spaces that are in the area of coverage of a major city – which has a bunch of non-profit institutions presenting exhibits. Try getting coverage for the little guy when space in most publications for the arts is shrinking and these big institutions are always pleading for local coverage. Oh, it happens when a big name artist is showing in a smaller space – that’s news to these papers, but what about the talented local artist? There’s no room for them in arts coverage in major publications.

Some would say that’s the natural process of survival. The cream will rise to the top, but that’s a bunch of bull droppings. I know a lot of talented artists who will never get their spot in the sunlight, and a handful of less than talented artists who always seem to get their 20 minutes of fame -over and over.

And, I could get rich if I just got a dollar for every time someone asked me “why” I was including this or that exhibit. I collect $5 in my head for every time they ask why I placed that same article next to their’s. It’s a dog eat dog world out there when it comes to media coverage. And some what it to be an exclusive club with restricted membership.

Q: Yet you say you have to beg for people to send you info.

A: There’s the rub. We’re still living in a world where print media coverage is still on top. Who know’s how long that will last – I don’t know, but that space is getting harder to come by. There are a lot of folks out there that don’t think an online publication is worth anything.

Don’t get me wrong, I know coverage in our paper doesn’t compare to a local gallery space or artist getting coverage in a local publication that all their friends and neighbors will see. That’s an exciting occasion, but it also stops at the extent of that publication’s coverage – which is limited. An article in our paper has regional coverage which for an artist and gallery has the potential for growing their market. Coverage in our publication might get you a future show in another region of the Carolinas or a visit from a traveler who takes home some works off your gallery’s walls.

For folks under 30 – online media and social networking is their way of life, they don’t know much of anything else. For folks over 30 – it’s all so new and change is coming too fast for many of them. And, for most people the older they are the more they cling to the old ways. But, more and more older folks are seeing the light and are making the leap into the future and finding an amazing world out there. We’re hoping more and more of those folks who say they loved the old Carolina Arts will one day find us online and discover we are better than ever and that turning pages on a tablet is easier then re-setting the clock on their old VHS recorder.

But getting back to the subject at hand – we offer a great opportunity for any art space that presents exhibitions to get coverage in our paper. And, for the time being – it’s free. All you have to do is get the info to us by deadline. I’d tell these folks all about how they can get the info about doing that on our website at (www.carolinaarts.com) under the heading “How the Paper Works” – a phrase I’ve written and spoken a million times, but they’re probably not reading this. At least I hope they haven’t been reading our paper all this time and are still not sending us info.

Q: What else do you hope for in the future?

A: Beside computers that do the work when you tell them what to do and for people to promote their exhibits in Carolina Arts? Well, how about Star Trek style transporters, and non-fattening, vitamin enriched, ice cream? I’m ready for that kind of change – where’s that?

Oh, I got one. I wish someone, preferably Apple would come up with something that replaces Facebook. If Apple does it I hope it works better then them trying to replace Google maps.

Q: Well, I was thinking more about the visual arts.

A: Do I get three wishes – that kind of thing?

Well, I wish more people would buy art and buy it at galleries, art fairs, artist’s studio tours, and even online and say they did it because ofCarolina Arts.

I wish Americans would realize that funding for the arts is like the government funding other industries – like corporate farmers, energy companies, and the defense industry. Stop using the arts as a political whipping post. And, the arts should stop wasting some of the money they get from the public by giving the money to artists who insult the public.

And, I guess my third wish would be that I wish the SC Arts Commission and Carolina Arts were BFFs.

Q: The SC Arts Commission keep popping up. What’s that about.

A: Is about me pulling your chain and making people read on hoping I’m going to drop a bomb on them, but I’m not. Like a lot of folks my age, my Momma told me that if I couldn’t say anything nice about someone – don’t say anything at all. I don’t really want to be BFFs with them, they have enough of them already.

Q: Any closing statement?

A: Ya know, here’s another change. So much that I’ve talked about in these three interviews has stayed the same that there’s no reason to go over them again and again. But, here’s an answer to a question a lot of folks have asked me.

If I won the lottery tomorrow and they gave me $300 million in take home cash, the first thing I would do is call my cousin Joyce, who I promised would be my first call, and no I would not go back to printing Carolina Arts. I would definitely spend some money making it a better online publication, but I would not go back to print – ever. This is the future.

And don’t call me again for one of these interviews until another six years passes. I want to be surprised as to where we are then.

A Senior at a York County, SC, High School Wins an Art School Scholarship and Says – No Thanks

Friday, July 13th, 2012

Shelby Williams, a 17-year old senior at Northwestern High School in York County, SC, isn’t letting awards and scholarship money go to her head.

Williams’ artwork, Going Places, was the top winner of the 2012 Congressional Art Competition (5th Congressional District) in South Carolina. She won a $100 from the York County Art Council and a $3,000 scholarship to attend the Savannah College of Art and Design, SCAD. But Williams has no intention of using that scholarship as she has plans to open a custom auto paint shop in the future.

Williams didn’t even know her work was entered into the competition until after she learned she had won.

Read more here: (http://www.heraldonline.com/2012/06/28/4080630/rock-hill-student-garners-national.html#storylink=cpy).

Williams is one smart gal. A full tuition to SCAD is about $20,000 a year. The odds of her ever making a return on that kind of investment in being an artist is slim to none. She’ll have a better chance at success in the auto paint shop business.

The point is – not everyone who likes art or even those who are good at creating art should become artists. And, the way things are today, the art community doesn’t need more artists – it needs more art patrons and supporters. In fact Williams has a better shot at contributing to the art community by being successful in the auto paint shop industry and then buying art and supporting the arts with her profits.

We need lots of people who appreciate the arts, are willing to support the arts, are willing to have their tax dollars go towards supporting the arts, and who are willing to participate in the arts. We have no shortage of artists.

Good lucky Shelby – we’re all counting on you!

Taking a Look at Marketing Techniques in the Carolinas The Press Release

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

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This year we’re taking a detailed look at how the visual art community in the Carolinas is marketing itself. This is based on a piece I first posted atCarolina Arts Unleashed on Jan. 12, 2012. I borrowed a technique from comedian Jeff Foxworthy who tells his audience – “You might be a redneck if….”. I used the phrase, “You might be pretty bad at marketing when…”. You can see this post at this link.

There’s a lot to read and absorb here, but I think there is something here from which anyone can learn and a lot for some folks to learn. We offer it so people can do a better job, which will make our paper better to read and hopefully leads to more visitors and customers for all.

Here’s what Wikipedia had to say about a press release:

“A press release, news release, media release, press statement or video release is a written or recorded communication directed at members of the news media for the purpose of announcing something ostensibly newsworthy. Typically, they are mailed, faxed, or e-mailed to assignment editors at newspapers, magazines, radio stations, television stations, and/or television networks.”

I’ll go along with that with a few exceptions in this case. Don’t send us a fax (we unhooked it) and we’d rather receive info by e-mail than the regular mail. We are not accepting press releases through Facebook.

Without looking further at Wikipedia, I can tell you one thing a press release is not – it’s not a paid ad or paid advertising and the word ad has nothing to do with the words press release.

Also, I’m mostly interested in improving the press releases I receive, so we’re talking about a press release about a visual art exhibit or a visual art related event taking place in the Carolinas (North or South Carolina) for our monthly newspaper Carolina Arts or one of our other blogs, Carolina Arts News or Carolina Clay Resource Directory – each has their own area of focus. But this info should be good for other media outlets, but remember – they’re all different.

Which brings up one of the basic rules about press releases – know who you are sending them to. There is no reason to send a press release to someone who is not going to be interested in using it. A good example is the numerous press releases we get about exhibits taking place in California, New York or South Dakota. Those people could have saved their efforts by just looking at our name or our paper. Have you ever seen any articles in Carolina Arts about exhibits in South Dakota?

We also receive press releases from performing arts groups on a daily basis. They just don’t get it – we’re just visual arts unless the performing arts are involved with the visual arts.

So it’s well worth spending some time figuring out who is going to be receptive to your press release. That may involve reading the publication or calling to see if they would be interested in receiving your news. And, it won’t hurt finding out how and when they would like to receive it. It may only take a few minutes to find out when the deadline is, what format they would like to receive the press release in and where you should send it. You may even find out what they are really interested in – what gets them excited and what they are not interested in receiving.

Some people who think of themselves as “publicity” people like to just collect contacts – e-mail or mailing addresses. They don’t care where they come from or where they are going. They might even brag on the number they have on file, but for all they know 50 percent of them could be worthless and never see the light of day beyond a delete button or the trash can. It’s not a contest to see how many outlets you send your release to – it’s about how many outlets use the info you send.

And no matter what kind of list you have you should try to update it at least once a year. There has been a lot of turnover in the media in the last few years.

If you’re going to lose sleep at night worrying about whether your press release was received by the right person or at all, you can always ask for confirmation. If you sent it in the form of a letter – you can give your phone number or an e-mail address as a way for the receiver to get back in touch with you. If you sent it by e-mail – make sure you have a return e-mail address – one you read on a regular basis. Don’t worry if it’s a long distance call – the media should have that covered in one way or another.

If you don’t hear back about a confirmation request – give them a call to see if they got it after a few days. It doesn’t hurt and you’ll know if they got it or not – and make more personal contacts.

The Format

Speaking for Carolina Arts – don’t send your press release as a PDF or Tiff, which means you are just sending a picture of a press release that has to be further processed in order to use it. Just send it in plain text in the body of an e-mail so it can be easily copied and pasted into the files to be used. Why e-mail instead of a letter? What media outlet wants to spend time scanning or re-typing your letter?

Keep it simple. There is no need to send text in colors, fancy fonts, or in an eye-catching layout – we just want to copy and paste. Do not use all caps to make words or names seem more important. You don’t need to put words or sections in bold.

If you are sending photos do not imbed them in PDFs or in Tiffs of your press release. Send them as attachments and make sure you identify them. I hate nothing more than spending time requesting info about images sent in a return e-mail or phone call.

The W’s

You know about the who, what, where, when and why. At least I hope you do. They’re important in any good press release, but in some that I receive one or two is sometimes left out or overlooked. I’d add two more that are important, but not always possible – well written.

Including all the W’s are important but the why and well written may make the difference between having your press release just included or highlighted.

Your press release is competing with many more press release and space is always limited in some form or another. In our case, during any given month several hundred exhibits are being presented. That also means the public will have hundreds of exhibits to choose from – if they think going to an exhibit is worth their limited time. If you’re presenting your exhibit in a small community far from other urban centers you may have a captive audience, but who doesn’t need more visitors. And, I would think the number of visitors to an exhibit may have some relationship to the number of buyers or donors you will also attract.

To come up with your why, you might ask yourself a series of questions that the public might be asking themselves in deciding if they should go to your exhibit – if they see notice of it in the media.

What’s so special about this exhibit? Is it the annual exhibit by an artist who is a regular member of a gallery? Is it just the latest exhibit of new works by an artist’s owned gallery? Is it an exhibit of an artist who has not exhibited in ten years and shows a major new shift in direction by the artist? Is it an exhibit by a nationally known artist who has never been shown in your city? Or, is it an exhibit by a new group of emerging artists, which sometimes means ground floor prices? These are just a few examples of question people may ask themselves before deciding to go to an exhibit.

Remember, you or your group decided to give an artist or a group of artists an exhibition over many other artists – you must have had a reason. If your reason was that it was just their turn – coming up with the why may be very difficult.  But someone made the decision – they must have had a reason for their selection. Unfortunately, I read a lot of press release which offer no reason for why I should go see this exhibit.

Now just including the who, what, where, when and why, may not be enough to get your press release published or read by the public. Putting all those elements into a well written press release may also give you an advantage to reaching the top of the heap.

My expectations for receiving well written press releases has been lowered over the past 25 years, mostly because many of the folks sending these press releases: were just assigned the task, only send out a few in a year’s time, let the artist write the bulk of it, are unpaid and untrained, think “art speak” is the way to communicate to the public, perform the task at the last minute, don’t use spell-check, don’t let another person edit what they have written, don’t read back over what they have written, or any number of reasons.

We even deal with a few venues that think if they have to explain to you who the artist is, beyond providing their name – they’re not really interested in seeing you in their gallery. They may be some of the lucky few who deal with artists that are that important and have no problem selling the work they put on exhibition. If you’re one of those lucky people you wouldn’t have ever started reading this posting.

My question to those few would be – so, you’re not interested in educating or developing new customers? You’ve got them all in the palm of your hand?

To me, every press release is an opportunity to educate and inform the possible readers about your venue, the artist, the medium they work in, the works being presented in the exhibit, and why the reader should come see your exhibit over all others. Some people take advantage of that opportunity – many don’t.

One of the trends I’ve noticed over the last five to ten years is people using a charity as their why, by announcing that 5%, or 10% of proceeds from sales from an exhibit will go to a local charity. I really don’t care for this technique – mostly because of the lack of follow-up. We never seem to hear after the exhibit is over how much money was raised for the charity. I’m all for making donations to charities, but this seems to be a why open to all kinds of problems. And, now we have some galleries who don’t present exhibits without a charity announced as their partner – whether the charity knows it or not.

The use of the visual arts in raising money for charities is a subject too large to cover in this posting. There are good examples and just as many bad ones.

Let’s go over the other W’s in the who, what, where, when and why.

The who should include: who is sending the press release, who wrote it and can answer any questions about it, who is presenting the exhibit or event (gallery, organization, institution), and who the artist is or who the artists are. Make sure all names used are spelled the same each time they are used. Make sure you have a phone number (including area code), e-mail address, and a website address included.

Even if you have sent me a press release every month for the last 12 years, you shouldn’t make short cuts assuming I will always be here. Dark forces are amassing powers to take over any day – I might not always be here. And, if you’re sending your release out in bulk – other folks who were receiving your pr last month or even last week might not hold that job today. So, my point is don’t take things for granted that the people you are sending info to know certain details.

When it comes to the what – like an exhibit. An exhibit has a beginning and ending date and perhaps a reception date. If you just send a reception date, I don’t feel it’s an exhibit at all – it’s just a party for a few hours. I can’t use that in a monthly paper. If the event is a lecture – I want to know when it begins and when it is expected to end. I’m sure readers want to know how much time they will spent if they decide to attend the lecture. Just saying it starts at 7pm isn’t enough – especially if it will end at 7:30 or go on until 11pm.

It is also important for some folks to know if the artist will be at the reception or not.

The where should include the full address of the venue including any helpful locating factors. If your gallery or art center is across from the post office – that’s an important fact. It should be pointed out if you’re located on a second floor or where you are located if your venue is in a larger building shared by other businesses or offices. Also, for some folks it would be good to know if the venue is handicap accessible. And, don’t forget to say which state you are located – both NC and SC has their share of Beauforts, Greenvilles, Columbias, and Mt. Pleasants. Our readers come from all over the county and around the world. They shouldn’t have to do any detective work to find you.

The when, again, include dates and times your exhibit is open to the public. And, you better include the hours that you are there. It doesn’t take someone more than one time to show up during published hours and find the door locked to decide not to return. If you have an emergency – post it at the door and don’t expect people to forgive multiple emergencies. So, be very careful with the dates and times you provide in a press release. I don’t like people who state that their exhibit will be up until the middle of the next month – is that always the 15th? If I’m coming from the next city over 100 miles away I want to be sure before I leave the house and are you available to take my call to ask 24/7?

The why revisited. Here’s some whys that I don’t think hold water anymore if they ever did.

Artists who say they create because they have to. What artists don’t?

Artists who are recording the world often unseen or unnoticed in our fast paced life. Maybe there’s a reason we don’t notice certain things anymore.

Venues who guarantee you won’t be disappointed if you come see the exhibit. With that kind of challenge made I’m almost always disappointed.

Press releases that include how many pets live with the artist, their species and cute names. Do we really need to know that artists are people too? That they have spouses, children and pets – oh my!

I want to know why I should go see this exhibit. I’m sure readers do too. And, I want all the information I need to do that successfully. Is that too much to ask?

If someone was showing an exhibit of early watercolor landscapes painted by Jasper Johns when he was 19, never seen in public before – would you go? Would you go see it because it was works by Johns? Would you go because you wanted to see what kind of watercolor landscapes he would paint at age 19? Would you go to confirm to yourself that all artist may start out in a place far from where they end up? Or would the phrase – never seen in public before – be the determining factor for you.

One last point about press releases is when to send them. And first on my list is don’t send them to me until you have finished and checked everything in them at least twice and then let someone else read it.

I don’t have a lot of time to waste and I doubt other media outlets do either so I start processing a press release as soon as I get it so it can be ready to be put in the paper when I start to do the layout. Nothing gets my attention more than having to revise a piece I’ve already processed because someone discovered they got a name wrong, a date wrong, a time wrong or just left something out. By the third correction, you’re pr is slipping down the line to last place. And if you need to send a correction, don’t just make the correction and send your press release over again forcing me to re-process the whole thing again instead of making a simple correction.

As far as the Carolina Arts goes I hate to say it is ever too early to send a press release – unless changes and updates will have to be made. Get it to us by deadline, but there is no reason to wait for the exact day of the deadline if you can send it early. Sending it early gets you ahead of all those who take till the last minute to send theirs.

When it comes to the blogs like Carolina Arts News – sending a press release early can be a problem as we’ll only post it once and people tend to forget things that are posted months in advance. The exception to that rule is (Call for Entry) notices. For artists, these kinds of notices can never be too early.

Don’t send your same press release to the same media outlets once a week until the day of your event. We only need it once. If you’re worried about whether we received it, follow-up on it – don’t just keep sending it.

And, when it comes to organizations or groups – make sure only one person is sending press releases. I have received them from several different people – about the same exhibit – but you wouldn’t know it by reading them. This just causes more follow-up and delays in processing.

Over the years I have warned artists who are having exhibits at commercial galleries or non-profit institutions to not take it for granted that press releases about their exhibits will be sent out or received on time – even when people say they will take care of it.

There is nothing I hate more than getting that call after an issue has been published from an artist asking me if I received a press release about their exhibit and why I didn’t publish it. And, I have to explain – we didn’t get it or it would have been there. I warn them to call or e-mail well before our deadline to make sure everything is in place for them to get the publicity they are counting on.

I don’t like taking a press release from an artist directly – I feel the venue has that right and responsibility. There are some who don’t want to be included in our paper for one reason or another. (Another blog too big to get into here.) But, I would think it is your right as an artist to request a venue to send press releases where you would like.

And finally, one solid truth about Carolina Arts. If you’re one of our supporters, which would include advertisers or people who work hard at helping spread the paper around – you do get treated better than others. You may even get a call from us asking – don’t you have an exhibit coming up? We haven’t received a press release yet. I’ve even been known to help those folks out with their press releases to make sure they have all the right info in it. In a few rare cases I have even written press releases for supporters when they were short on time to make sure something got in on time. And, don’t tell anyone this, but there have been times when supporters lost track of time and sent us a press release after the deadline and it may have made it near the top of the list to go in the paper or on a blog.

Why such special treatment? If you haven’t figured it out yet – they make the paper and all we do possible. There is no money to be made by just having people send you press releases and publishing them. We’re not Facebook, WordPress, Twitter or Blogspot – who can sell your efforts to advertisers to make millions – we need direct advertisers to make it all work.

I hope reading this helps some folks. I know it made me feel better just writing it and getting it out there – in cyber space.

I’ve Been Taking a Survey of Charleston, SC, for 35 Years

Saturday, July 25th, 2009

I came to the Charleston, SC, area from Michigan in November of 1974. I liked what I found here and have found no reason to leave since – although I eventually moved 45 miles away to Berkeley County – a place where I could afford to do an arts newspaper and own a home. And, maybe 35 more years or so from now – I might own that home one day, if I live that long.

I came, so many years ago, as an adult. And I only mention this in the context that when dealing with many people in the art community these days – I’ve lived and dealt with Charleston’s art community – long before most were born – some in Charleston – most from somewhere else.

I mention that last bit about coming from somewhere else because I’ve been and still consider myself part of Charleston’s working class. We’re the folks that do stuff – offer services, create new – well, everything. That’s the way it’s been in Charleston for the most part – the people that built up the community come from somewhere else – first from Europe, then Africa, and now from other parts of South Carolina, the South, and America. Most, not all, who were born here are connected to a heritage of leadership and consumers – they’re the deciders and users. Both are vital parts of any community.

That was most evident at a recent meeting of arts people gathered together for a mid-June lunch at the Gibbes Museum of Art in downtown Charleston – to get to know each other. Most were relatively new to Charleston, some were what I consider very young and a handful were seasoned veterans of the Charleston art community. I myself, carry my scars of past battles (culture wars) and am easily frustrated by the enthusiasm of these newbees – in that they are going to change Charleston. I find myself more interested in deeds, not words. In fact, it is very hard to get me to go to one of these gatherings anymore. I still make the effort if I can see reason or opportunity, but as I said, I’m not impressed by words. I make my living dealing with words and I know how easily they can be offered without anything to back them up.

I’m a realist, I play the devil’s advocate, I’m pessimistic at times, I’m what my high school German teacher called facetious, but I’m also an optimist – I have to be – I publish an arts newspaper in the Carolinas. I could have done a newspaper about NASCAR and probably made a lot of money by now. But I love the arts. I’m focused on the visual arts, but I like it all – well most of it.

What I don’t like is being asked from time to time to join other folks to step into a big hamster cage and take a spin on the big wheel. I’m too old to ride that wheel anymore – spinning around and around just makes me dizzy. And, I find I don’t get much work done when I’m dizzy.

And spinning in place is what has drawn me to my computer today. ThePost & Courier newspaper has just offered another – State of the Arts article subtitled, “How are Charleston arts organizations weathering the current financial drought?” in it’s Weekend section (7/16/09). It’s as if they don’t even read their own paper – what did they expect to find?

I’m not familiar with the author of the article, (I’m a daily subscriber to theP&C) but I can only guess that it was a young person, fairly new to Charleston’s art community. No veteran would have written what was offered. The article was about a page and a quarter of a regular newspaper page, so expectations were very low to begin with. It’s not like this was considered a major subject for a series.

And, I’m not coming down on the Post & Courier (this time) – many other newspapers have gotten around to offering this same, limited look (more like a peek) at the state of the arts in their community. I’ve seen them in the FreeTimes in Columbia, SC, and the Charlotte Observer in Charlotte, NC – they’re all the same – a cursory look at how bad things are in the arts during this economic downturn. Duh! At least in this latest look at the state of the arts no one from Charleston said they depend on making people feel guilty to support them – as one arts person said in Columbia, SC.

Most of these articles are just another plug for a few nonprofits hoping to gain a few more donations, some like this latest version by the P&C were based on national surveys – this one was a National Endowment for the Arts 2008 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts. Guess what – it’s down.

Another darn survey of the arts!

Here’s a truth. No amount of survey results is going to change my thinking based on my own experience and I imagine that’s the way it is for most people. We are after all creatures of our environment and experience – knowledge based on anything else is hard to accept. We can do it, but it doesn’t come easily. Otherwise how would you explain that there are very large numbers of people in this country – educated under the same system that most people were in America, who believe the earth and the universe is only a few thousand years old. The rest, what most of us call history and science, is all made up by people who just can’t accept their way of thinking or their beliefs.

Surveys are not scientific – they’re just another form of advertising or wishful thinking on most people’s part. And, I’ve never seen one done about the arts that I could believe or that is anywhere close to my own experience – based on the last 35 years. And why is that so?

Most people in the arts don’t participate – that’s the truth. They don’t like the questions asked and they don’t see what difference the survey results will make. That’s even if you ever are offered a close up look at the survey results. Most of the time the only thing offered is someone’s interpretation of what those results mean. They don’t want you to see the raw data because it’s ugly, it might not show the organizers of the survey in a good light, and people who take the surveys plan their answers to project certain results. But the big problem is most people won’t participate. Surveys are no better than opinion polls. You can get any results you want by cooking the questions and selecting who you ask. Make people sign their names to a survey and tell them they are going to be made available for public viewing and I bet you would get entirely different results – if you could get them to take the survey under those standards.

Most of the public doesn’t care about survey results either – they’ve been offered survey results too many times that were just manufactured to project a favorable point of view by the folks paying for or organizing the survey. It’s unfortunate, but true. So, why do so many arts organization believe that doing a survey will change the public’s mind or at least the minds of people making decisions on who gets the money, on how valued the arts are to society? You got me. Look, they either get that point by now or they never will.

In today’s world, I think most people are like me – they want to see deeds, not hear or read words about what the arts are doing for them or how it can enlighten their lives. Show them the deeds and they’ll show you the money – if they have any to spare.

The Charleston Arts Coalition is conducting a survey. You can find it at on their website. The cut off day to participate is July 29, 2009.

Should people in Charleston’s art community take this survey in view of everything I’ve just said? Yes, but only if they are going to be honest and willing to work towards the goals that survey suggests – otherwise why bother? The Charleston Arts Coalition doesn’t just need your 2 cents worth, it needs your participation.

I first offered comments about this group at the very beginning of this blog on May 26, 2008, after going to one of those art community gatherings – this time it was about the lack of affordable space in Charleston for artists. Back then at the end of my blog entry I said, “Most things they want are possible and possible with the help of the community – once the artists – like commercial gallery owners – are willing to put their own money and futures on the bottom line. Money makes the world go round and it’s the mother’s milk of the arts. Once artists stop waving around pumped up economic surveys about the impact of the arts in front of the community and adopt a healthy respect for other people’s money, they will find that many are willing to become partners with them on sound projects. Don’t continue to delude yourselves or insult the intelligence of the public. The call for this movement – if there will be a movement, should be – get real, get serious and you might just get what you want. Carolina Arts will do its part – if presented with a sound proposal, but then we have to fight to survive everyday to keep what we have.”

Since then the Charleston Arts Coalition has been formed, they have a website, a blog and have created another website called Charleston Culture, launched May 14, 2009. The focus of the group seems to be on spreading information about the art community. The lack of space issue has faded into the background for some reason.

I have not found a lot of participation on any of these sites or the blog. Not many people are joining in or offering comments.

I’m still hopeful about this group, but somewhat frustrated with where they seem to be going and at this point – it seems to be the big wheel – in my opinion. Participation is the key and at this point I don’t see a lot of signs of it. A few folks are probably working a lot on this project, but they have yet to gain the attention of the greater Charleston art community. Time will tell and that’s always the case. I’ve seen so many efforts like this come and go – not just in Charleston. Getting the arts community together is like herding cats. I’m stealing that from Christopher Rico an artist and blogger in Clinton, SC.

Getting a large art community together – like Charleston is near impossible. Charleston is small and can’t support such a large art community, which makes for rough and tumble competition for funding and resources. Trust is low and based on past experience.

I’ve taken the survey, I’ve plugged the survey, and I’ve looked at the Charleston Culture and organization’s websites and am trying to figure where and if I fit in. I was trying to participate in a roundtable discussion, but the schedule was during my delivery time for Carolina Arts and that comes first. I don’t live in Charleston so I’m not in the social loop of this group.

I haven’t joined the organization because I’m not sure what I’m joining and where my membership dollars would go. Besides being part of the local media, I’m not sure you can be part of something and comment on it at the same time, and be honest. It’s not an easy thing to do. My best contributions my be as an observer from outside the group.

Either way, build or fade – this group’s efforts depend on the art community’s participation and past experience tells me – they’re not into it – right now at least. What will make them change their minds? I’m still working on that 35 year survey of trying to figure out Charleston’s art community. I’ll let you know when I have it figured out. I haven’t found a lot of logic at this point. But I do know they are not keen on participation, or working on goals where the payoff is in the future, and they have a hard time overlooking self interest for the good of all. This makes them not much different than art communities anywhere else or other people in general.

Now, one thing’s for sure about the Charleston Art Coalition – they have lit a fire under some other groups in Charleston that are supposed to be serving the public. Ever since the Coalition started talking about plans for a cultural website, the City of Charleston’s Office of Cultural Affairs has stepped up work on their efforts to promote Charleston’s cultural events. Even the Coastal Community Foundation suffered an uproar when it stepped in to just help a few groups suffering in the art community over the holiday season. They tried to promote a Charleston Art Alliance to make them look more inclusive, but they learned the art community is bigger than their usual myopic vision.

So if anything the Charleston Arts Coalition has stirred things up some, but time marches against them. People will lose interest – even those involved now, if they don’t see their time and efforts build on something – something not already being offered – something everyone in the art community can be a part of – whatever that is.

But, then again – I’m just one of the old farts of the Charleston art community who has grown tired of spinning in place and sees the negative side of things much more than those who seem to see only the positive future – unknown territory to most of us old veterans. Please, make me wrong folks. I want to be wrong on this subject. I won’t mind it at all.

Update on NEA Stimulus Monday for the Arts

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

We’re finding out some things about the $50 million the National Endowment for the Arts got for economic stimulus recovery for the arts. Well, the non-profit part of the arts that is. Everyone else involved in the arts will be left out in the cold. And, it’s pretty cold out there in this economy.

The trickle down effect is taking its toll on the $50 million figure. First off, $30 million was set aside for previous NEA grant recipients who received funding within the past four years. That’s 64 groups in NC and maybe a dozen in SC. The remaining $20 million was split (almost in a King Solomon manner) between 63 – state arts agencies including the District of Columbia, regional arts organizations like the Southern Arts Federation and US territories like Virgin Islands, Guan and American Samoa. The pie is bigger than most would think.

As the money trickles down from there, here is what our states received and those of states near us.

North Carolina Arts Council ($339,100), South Carolina Arts Commission ($311,500), Georgia Council for the Arts ($342,000) and Tennessee Arts Commission ($321,800).

The big states didn’t do that much better.

California Arts Council ($502,400), Texas Commission on the Arts ($427,300), and New York State Council on the Arts ($399,900).

Imagine trying to split up $400,000 in recovery money for the arts groups in New York city alone, much less the state of New York.

And, what about the smaller states?

Alaska State Council on the Arts received ($290,000).

This hardly seems fair or makes good sense. Alaska gets just $100,000 shy of what was given to New York state. I’m not sure even King Solomon would see the justice in that.

And what about those “other” groups most wouldn’t think of off the top of their heads?

The Southern Arts Federation based in Atlanta, GA, will distribute $510,500 within the nine state arts agencies they represent. They say they will contribute $51,000 to each of the nine states to distribute within the states – saving a bit of the money for themselves ($51,500). A 10% finders fee – they have to eat too.

The District of Columbia Commission on the Arts and Humanities received ($290,000), Virgin Islands Council on the Arts received ($50,000), and the Northern Marianas Commonwealth Council for Arts & Culture, Guam Council on the Arts and Humanities, and American Samoa Council on Arts, Culture & Humanities each received ($25,000).

Now, when you start to think about the hundreds and hundreds of organizations in each of these states, regions or territories – that trickle stream is going to start to look like a drip, drip, drip. That $50 million figure almost seems laughable as economic recovery.

Out of the $311,500 the SC Arts Commision is receiving from the NEA, they will keep about $50,000 (16%), but that money will be made up by the SAF money – so it’s a wash. The Arts Commission also has to eat.

How many jobs will this really protect? That’s what it’s all about, right – saving jobs in the arts?

Here’s what the NEA says this is all about.

“The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) provides $50 million to be distributed in direct grants to fund arts projects and activities which preserve jobs in the nonprofit arts sector threatened by declines in philanthropic and other support during the current economic downturn. Forty percent of such funds will be distributed to State arts agencies and regional arts organizations and 60 percent of the funds will be competitively awarded to nonprofit organizations that meet the eligibility criteria established for this program.”

The NEA’s $50 million was to go towards saving jobs that were being lost in the arts community.

The SAF says: “Southern Arts Federation’s distribution of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds will be through partnering with our region’s nine state arts agencies to re-grant funds to arts organizations in our states for arts jobs preservation.”

But, here is what I found on the NC Arts Council’s website which sheds a different light on what this money can be used for or what it will be used for.

Letter from E-News from NC Arts Council Mar./Apr. 2009

From Executive Director Mary B. Regan

Updated March 9, 2009

“Last week the NEA released the guidelines for the $50 million in stimulus funds they received from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The one-time grants will help preserve jobs in the nonprofit arts sector that are threatened by declines in philanthropic and other support during the economic downturn.

Thirty million of this will be awarded through direct grants to organizations that have been NEA grant recipients within the past four years.

About 45 North Carolina organizations (those that have received NEA grants within the last 4 years) are eligible to apply directly to the NEA for grants of $25,000 or $50,000. Groups can apply for salary support for critical jobs that are in jeopardy or have been eliminated as a result of the current economic climate and for fees for previously engaged artists or contractual personnel to maintain or expand their engagements. The application deadline is April 2, 2009. We strongly encourage all eligible groups to apply directly to the NEA for these funds.

The remaining $20 million of the NEA funds will be distributed to state and regional arts agencies. The N.C. Arts Council will distribute our state’s share of these funds. Nancy Trovillion is developing these guidelines and will send them out within the next six weeks. We anticipate that the deadline will be in June and we will work on a quick turnaround review process so that announcements can be made in July or early August.

The NEA is requiring that our guidelines be similar to their direct grant guidelines. Organizations that receive one of the stimulus grants directly from the NEA will not be able to receive a grant from our share of the NEA stimulus funds.

Additionally, we have studied the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Economic Stimulus Package) to find opportunities for the arts to be a part of rebuilding our economy. There are Economic Stimulus Arts Funding Opportunities outlined on our Web site with examples of how federal programs can fund the arts.

To be very clear about the language in the Stimulus Bill, there is no restriction on using the money for the arts. The Senate version did contain language prohibiting the money from going to museums, theatres, and arts centers, but this language was dropped in the final compromise bill. If you encounter any confusion on this issue, please let us know.

Hang in there. Let us know if there’s any way we can help.”

Mary B. Regan, Executive Director
North Carolina Arts Council

As the executive director of the NC Arts Council points out to the people who will be applying for this money in her last paragraph – “there is no restriction on using the money for the arts.” She underlined the words no restriction – giving these groups the green light for – whatever.

Even though every statement keeps stressing that this recovery money is for saving jobs in the arts – wink, wink – it’s really for anything and anybody we want to interpret it to be for.

And, people in government wonder why people (taxpayers) don’t trust them.

Finally, just before posting we received info from the NC Arts Council with a link to their guidelines to apply for this funding of $339,100 – minus whatever amount they are keeping in house – all Mama’s children got to eat. The guidelines are titled, Creative Workforce Grants, and they use the words job and salary a lot, but it also keeps mentioning the word “project” – maybe that’s the wink, wink part. Here’s a link to the guidelines.

This fuzzy interpretation of guidelines is something I have found to be the norm in the world of the non-profit arts. They put out statements as to what qualifications are for a program or a grant – to discourage many from applying, knowing that the savvy will call to find out from their friends at the agency – how soft those requirements are. And, when the final results are announced – many that didn’t apply, as they thought they couldn’t, find they maybe could have – since someone like them did and got it. Even though the two are equally qualified or disqualified. It’s all about inside info and playing the system.

Like the little understood fact that when it comes to federal money – all can apply. No one can be turned down from applying for something even if they don’t qualify. Then, only those who apply can be considered, whether they are qualified or not. And, things do seem to slip through the cracks at times. The trick is to get you not to apply.

Let’s hope some change will come to this system someday. Perhaps it’s time for Mary B. Regan to retire too – wink, wink.

With the full disclosure promised with these recovery funds, we hope to keep you posted as to where the money goes and what it is used for – saving jobs – I’m sure. We’ll see.

Maybe it’s time for the Art Police.

Hard Times Fall on the Arts in the Carolinas

Friday, December 5th, 2008

They used to say during the Cold War days that if it ever came down to nuclear war – where one side or the other launched a strike and the other side retaliated – the resulting debris would block out the sun for years creating a Nuclear Winter. It seems we have reached an Economic Winter.

All sectors of the arts are hurting – commercial and nonprofits alike. Public and private funding is shrinking and in some places has dried up completely. Art galleries are closing, performances are being canceled or scaled back and the future is uncertain.

As the visual art community goes – so does Carolina Arts. Our advertisers are not immune to the current economy downturn.

During our 20 plus years of doing an arts newspaper we learned fairly soon that we have to reflect the economic situation of our supporters – when they cut back – we must cut back. And, when they expand – we expand. We have to remain flexible so we don’t put the whole paper in jeopardy. As long as we have advertisers – we will continue the paper.

Back where I come from – the half-a-year frozen tundra state of Michigan – one of the characteristics of winter is the loss of color. In this economic winter, Carolina Arts may lose its color cover. We’re not there yet, but we are very close. Some of the people who have been keeping our wonderful color covers going are having to cut back on their expenses – which we understand, so we’re calling out to see if there are folks out there who can fill in the gaps – to keep the color covers going.

Up to this point we have mainly offered full page ads ($1,000) and 1/2 page ads ($500), but we may be opening the cover up to 1/4 ads ($250) to help those willing to keep the color flowing. Of course we’re hoping to find people who want to advertise on a regular basis first, but will fill the pages as best we can – as long as we can, but if necessary we will go back to a black and white cover – which served us for much of our 20 years of publishing.

And, when considering these prices – keep in mind the size of our paper 11″ x 17″ – our ads are much bigger than most publications – it’s almost twice the size of most 8 1/2″ x 11″ magazines. A full page ad is 10″ x 16″. That’s a lot of image or a lot of images.

If you are interested in color advertising – give us a call now at 843/825-3408 and be the first to take advantage of this opportunity. Who knows – the economy could turn around at any minute. I’m hoping it will.