Sunday Walk with Timothy and Ingrid


Took an entire Sunday off (totally unplugged!) to reflect back and learn from what went well and what didn’t go so well for ArtSpark in 2010. It was a very fast and full year: ArtSpark’s blog/website was launched and nine ABQ artists and arts organizations signed up to be the first ArtSpark cohort (a deep bow to all of you, thanks for journeying with us).

This is what we’ve learned (so far) in our quest to “ignite widespread creative expression” via online tools and social media to engage new audiences and fundraise.

  1. An online campaign TAKES TIME to think out and create (advanced visioning and planning are a must!).
  2. When an online campaign is tied to an event like a performance or festival, it’s critical to set up the campaign WAY ahead of time so that it starts in advance and rolls out without much effort because everyone’s too busy to deal with writing, social media coordination, etc.
  3. Setting up a blog schedule and publishing matrix can really help with # 1-2.
  4. Fundraising efforts like a micro/crowdfunding campaign sounds easy, but it’s actually not so easy… Blasting out of the gate asking for $$, even small bits, isn’t the way to go. It’s about building sustainable relationships with your public and potential patrons by inviting them to take a peek at your creative process and get involved in your artistic work.
  5. Offering an exchange of artist <—–> patron is rich with possibilities! Be innovative and use your imagination! Michelle Otero has done a fabulous job at this with her request for supporters to practice a “devotion” while she writes, plus in-kind contributions like a place to write (done) and a plane ticket to Washington D.C. to attend a writer’s conference (done). Michelle is, in turn, is sending a daily sentence and inviting all her supporters to a Chocolate Celebration and reading of her memoir in February to thank them. Inspiring…
  6. Online campaigns must connect with face time: nothing beats a live performance or gallery opening, sharing a coffee or glass of wine with an artist, an after-performance party, or an invitation to a rehearsal. Yeah, it’s fun when people you haven’t met before recognize you from your Twitter photo, but finally shaking hands and talking in person really DOES mean a lot more.
  7. An important detail we’ve noticed: there are numerous online fundraising mechanisms available to arts organizations and virtually none for individual artists that don’t require a fiscal sponsor, additional fees, etc. While this is changing (welcome Dwolla!), it would be great to have a seamless and easy fundraising mechanism for individual artists.
  8. ArtSpark’s vision goes way beyond what we’re able to do as a solo organization with no paid staff (thankfully, because of several very generous patrons, this is changing a bit… is anyone game to be a part-time [and paid!] communication/organization consultant?).
  9. ArtSpark wouldn’t be where it is without the support and involvement of all our partners from around the U.S., especially our technology “partner-in-crime” in SFran, AspirationTech.
  10. We’re keeping our eye out for what’s coming up re: sustainability strategies for online (and offline!) audience engagement and fundraising. There’s a lot going on, particularly in the mobile world. So stay tuned (and sign up to receive ArtSpark posts via email).

There are some glimmers (hat tip to Andrew Taylor, the Artful Manager) that 2011 and 2012 might be turn-around years for the arts, especially regarding program funding for nonprofits. Over the past 2 years, though, we’ve also witnessed how resilient and creative artists can be when the economy goes south. While we lost some wonderful arts organizations along the way, the public has really come forward to support the artists they love. BRAVO!