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Artists Gather Online: The Valley’s Virtual Art Colonies

Visalia Direct: Virtual Valley
August 29, 2011 Deadline
October 2011 Issue

Artists Gather Online: The Valley’s Virtual Art Colonies

Not long after the first artist used charcoal and ground seeds to create the first cave painting, the first critic arrived on the scene. Having stated a mastodon could create better artwork, the critic then left the artist alone in his cave.

I am certain that within months, a handful of prehistoric artists met around a fire to reassure each other that critics were simply Neanderthals without any artistic abilities.

Over the following centuries, artists gathered in various places. Among the more popular settings where author’s met were cafés, restaurants and unemployment lines. Being an artist has never been easy and it is only occasionally profitable. It’s little wonder that artists need to gather and commiserate.

After gathering, artists find themselves reenergized. The support of your creative peers makes it a little less terrifying to expose your beliefs and artistic talents to public scrutiny. Artists face criticism for everything from the actual content of their works to their stylistic choices. I know that overcoming the natural anxiety that accompanies creativity is a major benefit to gathering with artistic colleagues.

Most of the artists I know have “day jobs” and other commitments. Scheduling gatherings is like playing calendar bingo, searching for the one or two days a month when more than two people have a free couple of hours. Too often we try to plan meetings that never materialize.

During the early twentieth century, supporters of the arts helped create artist colonies. These colonies were often private estates with space for artists to live and work together. Some colonies hosted short retreats, while others allowed artists to take up residency for years. Today, a handful of these colonies exist, and those that do survive can only accommodate a small number of emerging talents.

Thankfully, we now have the Internet and the World Wide Web. The virtual artist colony has replaced treks to Arizona or New Mexico. A few mouse clicks, and you can join artists from throughout the world.

While meeting people from other states or nations is inspirational, sometimes you need to talk to people who understand where we live and work. Valley artists are now creating their own virtual art colonies, specifically organized to serve the needs of this community.

You can use the search engine of your choice to locate Valley art communities and major organizations that support the arts regionally, but I’ve found there is one place where artists are taking special initiative to network: Facebook.

Yes, Facebook is emerging as the place where artists exchange ideas and share information about local events. There are networks of local artists on LinkedIn, Google+, Yahoo Groups and other  websites, but nothing seems to match the influence of Facebook.

Several of the artists I know have created “fan pages” on Facebook. This allows artists to promote new works, public appearances, major events and other information to their supporters. I “like” several Valley artists on Facebook so I can learn about their latest accomplishments.

To create a “fan page” on Facebook, visit: https://www.facebook.com/pages/

If you are a local artist, you should have a Facebook page. This page is not your personal page for friends and family. An artist fan page is meant to promote your creative works. Pages are the new business card. In fact, I’ve seen business cards that include the line, “Follow me on Facebook!”

You can search for Facebook pages by their purpose, topic or location. It is easy to follow too many pages, I’ve learned. I try to thin out my pages list occasionally, limiting my list of favorites to about 50 pages.

Facebook “groups” are similar to pages, but instead of promoting one person a group allows members to exchange messages and share ideas. Groups can be “open” or “closed” to the general public. Some artist groups are closed, meaning you need to be invited to join the group. Open groups allow anyone to request membership.

I am one of the founders of the “Valley Creatives” group on Facebook. The group is open to any creative artist and their supporters. If you would like to follow local arts news and events, you can join us at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/valleycreatives/

Some believe that a thriving “creative class” is essential to the growth and stability of a local economy. We know that creative individuals want to live and work near each other. The better we can promote the Valley as a great place for the arts, the more likely we are to attract educated, creative residents from other places.

The Valley struggles to support the arts. We’ve never had enough funding or resources, yet Valley artists continue to thrive against difficult odds. In the last decade, Valley residents have witnessed the loss of some museums, galleries and organizations. Online communities might be our best hope to nurture the arts during these tough times.

I ask you to visit Facebook online and join as many art groups as you can, if only to demonstrate your support for the performing, visual and written arts. If you are an artist, please create a fan page so people can learn more about your works.

The Virtual Valley has the opportunity to overcome the challenges we face. Imagine the power of every theatrical troupe working together to promote shows. Imagine galleries sharing news of other gallery openings. Working together, we can create a network that fosters change.

Waiting for funding and support from elsewhere is futile. We have to be the change.

Our young people, growing up in a networked world, are likely to discover the arts online. We need to be there, on Facebook and elsewhere, if we want to be discovered. We can create “virtual galleries” that will encourage people to visit our physical spaces.

Thousands of us, online, sharing information and working together to promote the arts will make a difference in the Valley for everyone.


Some Facebook Groups for Valley Artists:
https://www.facebook.com/artsvisalia
https://www.facebook.com/centralvalleywriters
https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Creative-Center-Foundation/
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Events-Visalia-Foundation/
https://www.facebook.com/fresnodesignalliance
https://www.facebook.com/fresnofilm
https://www.facebook.com/groups/valleycreatives/
https://www.facebook.com/TheVisaliaProject
https://www.facebook.com/Visalia.Visual.Chronicle
https://www.facebook.com/pages/VisArts-Project/

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