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WESTPORT NEWS

NORWALK CITIZEN-NEWS

Friday, August 22, 2008

DARIEN NEWS-REVIEW

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Online Open Studios

By Nicole Rivard

Areaartist.com, a new online resource for artists and

art collectors in Fairfield County, has been

compared to having collective open studios on the Internet.
"If one artist has an open studio, maybe they'll get a few people to show up. But if a group of artists open their studios all at once, then a crowd shows up because they can see so much work all at once. That's the way I think of areaArtist.com," creator Peg Benison said.

The site currently displays work from Norwalk artists Lisa Black, Megan Ferrell and Gillian Marshall, as well as from artists in Darien, Greenwich, Stamford and Stratford. Art is listed by subject, artist and medium.

After serving on the board of both the Stamford Art Association and The Mamaroneck Artists Guild and as an advisory member of the Greenwich Art Society (GAS), Benison saw the challenges artists and arts organizations faced in promoting their work and shows on their own. She was also involved with creating Web sites for individual artists and arts organizations and recognized that everyone was trying to do the same thing -- get information out about where their work could be seen to get more people to come see their art -- but they were doing it on their own.

"It didn't make sense. I thought, 'What if we just had once place people could go and find out about several artists in the community?' " Benison said.
It occurred to her that if artists joined together on the Web, just as they do when they have open studios, they could better promote their work.

"Let's say someone is looking for a photograph or a landscape of a local scene, they could call individual arts societies and try and track someone down, but with a Web site there would be one place to go. And the beauty of this site is it's all local. So if you do see something on our site, well then you can see where the artist is showing and it's likely only a 10-minute drive."

She pointed out that when the Internet first started taking off, there were places listing artists from all over. She didn't understand how that scenario could work because if someone finds an artist they like on the Internet and he lives in, say, South Dakota, they either have to fly there to see his work or have the art sent to them to experience it, and then it can be totally different than what was expected.

"With the Internet you really don't get the full experience of the color and the texture and the size. Art is something you need to see in person," she said.

Another thing that inspired Benison to create the site is the National Endowment for the Arts' recently released "Artists in the Workforce" report, which revealed that the Stamford/Norwalk metropolitan area is among the Top 10 areas in the percentage of artists in the labor force.

"I was so amazed by that, it spurred me on even more. To think there are so many talented people doing incredible work, we really need to get it out for more people to see," Benison said.

Among those talented people is Norwalk's Marshall, an exhibiting member of the Greenwich Arts Society, who jumped at the chance to be part of AreaArtist.com She noted that the site is juried so artists have to submit their work for consideration. There is also a one-time fee for the design of the pages and a membership fee that could be paid annually or quarterly.

"When Benison (also exhibiting member of GAS) had the brilliant idea to start areaArtist.com, Shauna Holiman, friend and president of GAS, e-mailed me, suggesting I submit my photography for consideration," explained Marshall via e-mail recently. "This, I did, and was delighted to be accepted. During this process, I also got to know Peg as a friend and am hugely impressed by her talents -- not only as an artist in her own right, but also as someone who is capable of creating Web sites of high caliber and sensitivity, tailor-made to reflect the unique artistry of each individual for whom the Web sites are created."

Artists like Marshall not only display work on areaArtist.com, they can provide a bio and a link to their individual Web site if they have one.

"I am delighted with areaArtist.com and the exposure this site offers me. Also, from the all-important financial point of view, it is an exceptionally good deal," Marshall wrote. "I'm confident that the selected artists on areaArtist.com will gain excellent exposure, locally and beyond."

Benison said she tried to keep the site as clean and simple as possible. "If you leave a Web site thinking, 'that's a cool Web site,' then the designer hasn't done their job. People should come away from a site, saying 'Wow, Look at that artwork.' "

 

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