Arts Organizations and Artists 2.0: Social Media for Arts People

BlogHer Original Post

Friday Night at the Moma
Photo by Eggman

I recently lead a workshop called Social Media for Arts People. I've covered arts organizations and social media here and there over the past three years and last winter co-wrote a cover story article with Rebecca Krause-Hardie for ArtsReach. So, thought I'd take an opportunity to query my network viaTwitter and Facebook and see what's new and share it with you.


Everyone is a Curator

One of the best projects that illustrates the basic idea of Web2.0 - listening and conversation and stakeholderscreating their own experience with your organization - comes from the Brooklyn Museum of Art. They're now running a compelling experiment in crowd-sourced exhibition creation and curation via the photography exhibition Click.

Here's how Nina Simon described it on her insightful post analyzing the tactics used.

1. The Museum solicited photographs from artists via an open call on their website, Facebook group, Flickr groups, and outreach to Brooklyn-based arts organizations.

2. On the web, anyone can evaluate the photographs in terms of aesthetic quality and relevance to the exhibition theme. All evaluations are private; all artists are unnamed. It's very easy to sign up and judge... and you can do so now by registering here.

3. The photographs will be installed in a physical exhibition running for six weeks this summer. The art will be displayed in order of the average juried scores. Visitors will be able to see how different subgroups (including art experts) ranked and responded to the art. The exhibition will coincide with programs about art theory, online communities, and crowd theory, providing a forum for public evaluation and discussion about the process.

Nina observes that the following makes this project really special:

  • It is 100% community-based
  • The internal team is led by a non-curator.
  • They kept the interface simple
  • They make it easy to evangelize
  • They are sensitive to the artists who are being judged.
  • They ask judges to self-define their art knowledge.

But as Nina notes, they are doing research from this experiment about the role of independence and influence in a participatory experience. Note that this is a research/learning approach that is key
to success of Web2.0 projects.

More at TechCrunch and Technology in the Arts Blog.

Another theme of web2.o is Transparency - and the best example of that is what the Indianapolis Art Museum has done with its pubic metrics on its web site.


Elizabeth Perry, an artist in Pittsburgh and pioneer of "sketch blogging" reported that local arts organizations have been good at integrating
social media without having to create or maintain anything new. "They have begun inviting local bloggers as press to openings and events -usually they get in touch with Mike Woycheck or Cynthia Closkey, two of
the co-founders of Pittsburgh Bloggers, who then re-blog the invitation and spread it via Facebook or their own Twitter streams. Lindsay Patross runs the blog, and people get hold of her, too.

Similar strategy to what the San Francisco Symphony did with its blogger outreach event. ASOL gives a write up and some pointers for holding your own blogger outreach event.

What Should Artists and Arts Organization’s Blog about? An excellent question posed by Beth Dunn of Small Dots.

Most people are fascinated by the interior life of artists. Many people are
turned on by the chance to peek backstage at a theater. Almost everyone I know thinks they can curate an art exhibit. Are they right?

Artists: Write about your favorite kind of paintbrushes.
Write about where you go shopping for paintbrushes. Write about how hard it is to find decent studio space. Write about why you ditched that banker job to see if you could make it selling art. Write about
your crippling self-doubt and fears of failure. Write the truth. Not the press release.

Arts Organizations: Write about your insides — what goes
on inside a theater, a museum, a historical home? Not the tedious soap opera that will get you fired if you share - the cool stuff we’re all dying to know! Where do your staff come from? What brought them here?
How much fun did you have striking the set over the weekend? Can I help next time?

Artist Blogs

For individual artists, a blog can also help sell or promote their work. Here's some artists personal blogs that support their gallery sites where they sell their work -- A Planet Named Janet, Self VS Self, PaMdora's Box and Jen Lemen

Arts Organizations

Individuals from arts organizations do write blogs for professional development or a career blog like Museum2.0, and Im in Ur Museum Blogz. These are blogs written by an individual, not as part of the organization. The
content is focused on the professional area of expertise. Blog helps deepened expertise. Many early adopters in nonprofits got started this way - outside of the firewall.

Fresh + new(er) is an institutional blog from the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney Australia
written by staff member Seb Chan. Interesting that this blog has evolved into one that serves the sector of museum professionals. (see for example the post about blogging policy).

The Academy of Vocal Arts has a blog written by Daniel Pantano. According to Maryanne Devine,
the staff member to go to for all the AVA gossip. "The writing is in his own voice, personal and authentic, and he's giving the patrons exactly what they crave: who won which competition, who just got
engaged, where alums are singing, backstage snapshots. He doesn't get much in the way of comments, but when he misses a few days, he gets lots of complaints.

Musematic is a group blog of museum technology professionals. The description: "Rants and raves on the latest trends in the world of museum informatics and technology. An
intrepid cast of experts from the Museum Computer Network and AAM's Media & Technology Committee share their insights, observations and tricks of the trade."

The Walker Blog was one of the first arts institution blogs. The idea was to give an inside view of the inner workings of the Walker. Different departments
or individuals came on gradually. (I wrote about this blog back in 2005)

The Brooklyn Museum's blog is another one that takes a group approach, also focuses a peak behind the scenes. As does Indianapolis Museum of Art blog.

Tate's Mobile Blog is collecting audience input on the new building design at the Tate - via mobile phones to blog - or mob blogging.

Over the next six months we’ll be inviting all kinds of people,
including designers, artists, young people, families, students and Tate
staff, to share their ideas. Why not send us your own photos and join
the discussion here at The Great Tate Mod Blog?

Finally, Rebecca Krause Hardie has some notes from a blogging workshop given at the Museums and the Web Conference earlier this month


The Academy of Vocal Arts uses a flickr account to document organizational events/galas/benefits - good way to get started. Arts Northfield has well organized collections and sets of all organizational activities.

Brooklyn Museum of Art has a very active and successful group - notice the lively discussion board. MOMA has a group for its graffiti project.

This example of using Flickr for exhibitions - both in Flickr and on the web site. The American Image: The Photographs of John Collier Jr. online exhibit developed by the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology at the University of New Mexico and Ideum.

Finally the Library of Congress community tagging pilot project on flickr. (Launched in Jan. (follow up here). Nina Simon has a good piece on why museums should use flickr.


There are many museum professionals active on Facebook probably because step one is to create an individual profile and then go find your colleagues. The group Museum Professionals Unite Across Facebook has about 2,000 members and 89 discussion threads,
so there's definitely lots of places to talk shop on Facebook with peer professionals. There are a number of museums with official group and fan pages, like this one from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

As Nina Simon points out,
Brooklyn Museum of Art is the gold standard of Art Museums using social media and its projects on Facebook are no exception. (Be sure to check out Nina's Museum2.0 Blog for lots of great posts.

Brooklyn Museum of Art developed a Facebook application called Art Share. It lets Facebook users share works art from Museums
around the world on their profile. Artists can upload and share theirown work using this application. Participating institutions include the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Brooklyn Museum, Canada Agriculture Museum, Corning Museum of Glass, Indianapolis Museum of Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Powerhouse Museum, Royal Ontario Museum, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, V&A, Walker Art Center, Walters Art Museum.

The application launched in November according to this progress report the usage stats as of February were:

  • 1000 people using ArtShare
    on Facebook.
  • 174 artists are using ArtShare to share their own works.
  • Institutions have uploaded 438 works from their collections and artists have uploaded 754.

Some more on the metrics from the progress report:

On Facebook, the highest traffic comes from browsing profiles, so exposure to the images may be significantly higher. For instance, if each ArtShare user has 20 friends, a lot more people could be seeing the images from ArtShare being shuffled on that profile. In a nut
shell, 1000 people may have installed it, but a lot more may be seeing it and while this is not the kind of traffic we can measure, it is interesting to think about.

I wanted to take a quick look at what the performing arts scene was like on Facebook.

Doing a quick search on the word "symphony" on Facebook turned up
more than 500 individuals. A few of these are Symphony orchestras
using their individual profiles (incorrectly and a violation of the TOS) for an organizational presence. (There are quite a few individuals with the last or first name symphony.)

There were about 70 Fan Pages that turned up including a number of youth and college symphonies. A couple of major symphony orchestras, like the Chicago Symphony with 1336 fans and the Boston Symphony.
The fan pages are like mini-web pages with the ability to add applications. The features on their Fan Pages include music player (filled with symphony selections), albums, photos, events, and videos. There is also a discussion board and the ability to post notes. The Boston Symphony has been doing ticket giveaway promotions.

While I focused on Facebook for social networking examples, there are examples on MySpace. Even found an artist social network that is called Dripbook.


Twittours has a list of museums using Twitter. Looks like most are just learning how to use twitter and mostly tweeting about content on their sites. Using it like a newswire similar to New York Times Arts Section

Brooklyn Museum of Art is using twitter - mostly to point to blog content or web site content. Tate is also twitter, but hasn't really engaged yet - probably in the Twitter is the dumbest thing I've ever seen stage? But as the Field Museum notes on its
MySpace page status - still trying to figure it out.

Heard on Twitter a mobile poetry project on Twitter is in the works. (Poets.Org is already mobile)

Still more arts organizations on twitter found at TwitTours - this post about Alliance for Historic Hillsborough - tweeting about bites of information about its programs.

Beth Dunn has a great post on artists and twitter. It points over the Cycling Artist's post about the benefit and value of Twitter for artists.


What is a Museum without YouTube? sounds like a riddle. I couldn't think of a punch line can, you? This was a response from a Twitter follower, Hans de Kraker who pointed me to this blog post (in Dutch). Looks like it reviews Museum YouTube channels.

I like Moma's Channel.
The videos that give a peek behind the scenes at the museum have the most views, like this one of another sculpture installation. Interesting commentary by viewers too. The IMA has a YouTube Channel too that uses a slightly different approach.

Anaheim Ballet has a YouTube Channel with over 130,000 channel views. Perhaps due to their MySpace presence? Another good example is Youth Speaks.

Do you know a compelling example of an artist or arts organizations using social media effectively? What makes it successful?

Beth Kanter, Blogher CE for Nonprofits and Social Change, writes Beth's Blog.


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