Building an Art-Focused Community in the Middle of the Social Media Revolution

Without a supportive community, the journey of being an artist could be a lonely and difficult one. Although social media is filling some of the loneliness gaps, an all-for-all approach to community is not necessary the best suited alternative for the visual artist. Between pictures of dogs, cats, politics and funny videos, social media does as much alienation and distraction and fails to provide a supportive and meaningful environment.  Spend 5 minutes scrolling down the Facebook wall and you can experience all of the emotions known to us. Have you noticed that? So the question is, can we create a focused purposely-driven community in the middle of the all-for-all social media revolution?

For those who know me well, they know that I really enjoy belonging to a community. In fact, I belong to a number of them based on personal interests. There is something special that only happens when people engage with one another. Whether it is online or in person.

Looking back at all the projects I have started over the years, including my gallery and the art NXT level platform, the idea of a healthy art community has been important to me. Why? Because deep inside I believe that within a focused community, people are more likely to thrive. In fact, it is one of the things that energizes my life.

For many years, I lead a collective gallery space of about thirty artists. The amount of energy and resources within that small group was amazing. When someone needed help, the community were likely to jump in and help out or provide some sort of input. As a group, we participated in some larger international projects and did some amazing things. Healthy communities have the innate power to help each other overcome obstacles that on our own would appear to be intimidating or simply impossible. Here in Chicago, I have been able to take part of a wonderful art community as well.

When it comes to online spaces, things get a little more complicated mainly because we are not sitting face to face and attention is not guaranteed. Take Facebook for example. Just because you posted something, it doesn’t mean everyone saw it. Facebook uses algorithms to measure engagement and make certain posts are more visible to your friends and followers than others. That’s why everyone gets to see the cat chasing the dog instead of your upcoming art opening announcement or your awesome new sculpture hot out of the studio. Sad but true. An all-for-all is what we are getting used to. Say good bye to deeper conversations. For many, a “like” is all they seek. No depth of acknowledgment or interaction.

I am as guilty as anyone else. A short “like” or a quick “cool” is all we have time for in the face of a rapidly changing social media wall. No one wants to get left behind. A post gets old and forgotten by the time the sun goes down. LOL (Sorry, got to finish this post quickly before you move on to the next one)! Cool, like, awesome, what they all mean anyway other than “I saw it. Bye. What’s next?”.

Don’t get me wrong! I consider myself a very active social media user. I’m in just about every platform known to be of significance and I often hear the comment that I’m very visible in these platforms. But, am I contributing to the clutter or providing value? Maybe both in some way or form because value for someone may be clutter for another. The simple fact that the approach of social media is an all-for-all platform makes it completely unfocused and therefore a digital jungle of random thoughts and ideas. Do we really need more distractions as artists? What will be the long term effect of such wasted time of our creative potential? That is subject for another post of its own.

Have you realized how much time you spend consuming, categorizing and scanning social media content only to find a few good worth while posts? I have. And personally, it’s a long chunk of my time. Increasingly, I’m getting tired of all the junk in there. As alluring and sticky as it may be, social media provides minimal valuable information for my art career. Yes, it allows me to connect to a ton of artists and friends and that is the only reason many of us have not left it yet. Besides, social media has become entertainment and an evergreen marketing platform. That is the real reason it exists, to create profit out of our “clicking” habits.

Of course every social media outlet has its focus and place. You can choose your platforms and levels of engagement. I actually recommend that as an artist you have a presence in these online spaces. But, what if we could connect somewhere else for the things that really matter to us as artists?

Over the last couple years, I have been interested in building online communities. As a result, I opened a focused Facebook group called The Contemporary Artist Group: Resources. Its only purpose is to share art resources (1798 artists are now part of it at the time of this article). My wife and I also started an online platform called Art Next Level in 2015 and more recently, I am launching a new community project called Amplified Art Network. These are focused communities.

What if there was an online platform where we, artists, could login and experience three things, GROWTH, NETWORK and SHARING of resources without the clutter of social media?

So, in January 11th, I launched the Art NXT Level Strategic Group. An online platform for artists with access to professional development, sharing of resources and community. There, you will find a section for growing your art career with hours of professional development content at your disposal. Everything from creating an amazing email newsletter, learning Photoshop to creating an exhibition proposal plus much more. The forum discussions help artist meet and friend each other and go deep in topics of interest. Community members are able to message each other and create their own networks of friends. The Share page gives an open forum for artists to share resources such as call for artists, art movers, opportunities and more.

I know there are other online communities for artists out there. This is not a completely new idea. Why this one? Because I want to focus on what I do best in life, that is create communities and bring people together to grow, network and share. If you have some curiosity about this new platform, check it out at www.theartistnextlevel.com.

I hope you take the time to check this out. It may be the coolest community you meet in 2016 and beyond.

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