Chicago Gallery News and social media consultant Alicia Eler recently convened their second social media arts panel, this time at the Hyde Park Art Center for Chicago Artists Month. An enthusiastic group gathered on October 19 to meet, Tweet and trade ideas. We heard from four Chicago artists (James Jankowiak, Annie Heckman, Judd Morrissey, and Jason Salavon) each with their own social media opinions and experiences. Many good points were raised about the benefits and pitfalls of our digital age, and by the end of the night, we realized the conversation will continue as we all learn from and adapt to our changing landscape. Social media crosses many boundaries, and it is opening access to artists, collectors, and news outlets more than ever, whie also threatening to overload us all with too much information and not enough time to digest it all.
If you're intereseted in discussing social media in the art world, please follow the conversation on Twitter at #socialmediaartists. Below is an article from the fall issue of Chicago Gallery News about social media, specifically Foursquare, and more. Let us know what you think could be next!
Reprinted from Chicago Gallery News, September-December 2010
Many of us communicate now through social networking outlets; for those of us who do not yet Tweet or “check-in,” we’ve read articles dissecting the effects that Twitter, Facebook, and Foursquare are having on our social interactions, our attention spans, and our productivity. But there is another side to the data deluge: discovery and learning.
More galleries are using Twitter to communicate, and many art enthusiasts follow museums, art centers and galleries to get up-to-the-minute updates about art news, exhibitions, or just general art chatter.
To get some background about social media projects used on a large scale in Chicago, and to find out how galleries, collectors and artists might use the technology to discover our art community, I spoke with Sarah Best, the Department of Tourism’s Web Specialist for the City of Chicago.
The Chicago Office of Tourism actively uses Foursquare, Twitter (@ExploreChicago), Flickr, and Facebook to reach visitors, and since the department isn’t a member-based group, they’re not paid by businesses for any referrals; they’re responsible solely for getting people into the city’s neighborhoods and providing helpful, unbiased information. According to Best, “We do social media that helps meet the goals of extreme service to visitors. We are focused on leisure travel vs. convention activities, and we aim to connect visitors to locals.”
Chicago Gallery News has been active on Twitter (@ChiGalleryNews) and Facebook , but I was a little nervous about Foursquare before I spoke to Best. She explained how the City partnered early, embracing the service in fall of 2009, as a way to link visitors with a range of dynamic activities, particularly opportunities to collect ‘badges,’ AKA Foursquare bragging rights. Foursquare’s interactivity, mixed with competition, turns the city into a big scavenger hunt. Exploring is a little off beat, as well as personalized. You can measure the number of people attending an event or visiting a venue. You can tell where visitors are from; according to Best, people taking advantage of the city’s Foursquare offers come from over 30 states, as well as around the world.
I asked Best how Foursquare could work in the gallery community; she said galleries are ‘venues’ that need to first be ‘in the system;’ then they must leverage ‘tips.’ For instance, the City has over 200 tips it gives out - suggestions about where to go to find unique neighborhood tours, memorable movie scene locations, famous works of art (think Calder Flamingo, a walking tour of the loop, or free shuttles during SOFA.)
Users leave tips to let others know what’s good around town. Someone visiting a gallery district might leave a tip like, “Ask about upcoming Saturday gallery tour on November 20.” Or “Installations here by School of the Art Institute graduates.”
There is a Warhol Badge you can collect by visiting 10 different galleries. There is a Swarm Badge, which means that 50 people are ‘checking-in’ at a specific location – a gallery opening, an art fair preview, an artist lecture or open studio. Foursquare users get into the competition, since they like collecting things and trying to one-up their friends.
Foursquare isn’t for everyone, and it still sort of mystifies me, but I learned a lot from talking to Best; her insights let me imagine the possibilities for connecting the art world and helping people learn and discover art. Trying to reach new patrons and art enthusiasts is an ongoing effort for galleries and museums. Best says that Twitter has helped the Tourism Department reach some visitors for the first time, and also answer unusual questions. Online, the City reaches those who might not stop into the visitor center, and Twitter still allows people to have a conversation with a knowledgeable, live guide.
It’s daunting to visit a city and not know how to efficiently find what interests you. I ask friends who’ve previously traveled to a place for recommendations. The city is doing this service digitally, on a large scale, and making a different impact than a guidebook can. Chicago is a city that continues to expand and change, and we certainly are part of a community that is welcoming to locals and visitors alike, either in person, or online.