The Art of Community

The Art of Community

community art projects, art events,
The Art of Community

Each week I write a brand new article to support members of our three wonderful groups on Facebook, The Artists Exchange, The Artists Directory, and The Artist Hangout and we are also now joined by another group, The Artists Lounge and you will find more details below. The topic this week, bringing your people closer and we take a look at going Glocal!

A journey of light…
I have always been fascinated by other cultures. I remember flying back home from the USA as we traveled across cities at 35,000 feet on a beautifully clear shut eye flight out of Orlando International. I have never been one who can fall asleep on an aircraft, I’m always too busy looking out of the windows. Mostly it’s always just fluffy white clouds which can appear to be almost mystical under a moonlit sky, but on this flight there were no clouds for the first few hours of an eight hour plus flight back to the UK.

I looked out through the window and we must have been heading over New York City. There was an ocean of light whereas for two hours before the landscape seemed to be filled with stillness and the peaks of the Appalachian Mountains. As I looked down I noticed all the traffic moving as if in slow motion. I was able to follow the tail lights and see street after street of what at this height looked like illuminated ants slowly scurrying. Nowhere near enough detail to make anything or anyone particular out, but just a stream of red and white light dispersed between city blocks. It was one of the most beautiful and most peaceful moments as the rest of the aircraft slept through the sights.

I remember thinking about what was going on down there, each light represented at least a person. What were they doing, where were they going, who were these people, were any of them people I have connected with on social media, if they were then we were at that point closer than we had ever been to each other physically and never realised it, perhaps some of those people would be people I would one day connect with.

We didn’t see any light again until nearly four and a half hours later as we started approaching the coast of Ireland. I could make out tiny dots of light peeking through what was by now dawns early light. In another hour and a half we would be back in England, cold, grey, frosty, and about a million miles away from the temperatures we had left back in Orlando. When I stepped off the plane the cold hit me squarely in the face and I had a pang of sadness and a feeling like I had left a part of me behind in the States.

That memory of looking down at a landscape of lights representing people moving around has stayed with me for the decade that has since passed. I often think back and try to remember the detail of what I could see. There was something that stood out more than anything else and it was a string of bright white light which from above looked like five arms of a star shape meeting at the centre, I had no idea exactly where this was and even to this day I have never been able to figure it out.

Whenever I have traveled around the world some of my best memories have always been of the people. People live very different lives but deep down we are all just the same. We need the same basic things to survive, but what has surprised me whenever I have traveled is that wherever I have been, people have a love and passion for the arts. The arts is one of the few things I have noticed that has a unique power to really bring people together.

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Another View

The Artists Lounge…

Last week I finally got around to setting up the new Facebook group, The Artists Lounge. It is intended to be a very different kind of art group. One where artists can come together and be themselves without the pressures of marketing and sales. A group where people can discuss the art world, what works and doesn’t work, what sells and doesn’t sell, because I have always been a big believer in finding our people. Our people are not just the “our people” who buy our art, but those who support us with encouragement and with a listening ear and advice and friendly chat too. Those people are just as important as the “our people” who buy our art.

Being an artist can mean that you often find yourself working in a silo. It can be the loneliest job ever at times but at other times it can be filled with people, sometimes many and even too many people.  The new group isn’t somewhere to go to try and find a new market, it is I am hoping, somewhere that artists will be able to visit and learn more about the art world, gain new perspectives and insights, somewhere that we can all find our other people within.
I was amazed at the variety of locations people joined the group from too. The UK, Southern Ireland, Alaska, New York, New England, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Florida, and other continents such as Australia and many places in between. 

What I find more amazing is that this global community came together within just a few short hours. No one as far as I know has physically met, people came together with only the power of the internet. I think back to that time I flew over New York and wonder how close to each other we might have all been at some time in the past without knowing that we are there or that we share a passion for the arts. Did we ever pass a now Facebook friend in the street once?
The Artists Lounge Facebook Group

Art brings people together…

There is no denying that the often used cliche that art brings people together rings true because it simply does. I remember spending two weeks in Cuba and despite the language barriers, art was the universal language we all understood regardless of the language we spoke. The same when I visited Russia and The Hermitage, Italy and Vatican City, no matter where you look or where you go, art is everywhere and it is a beautiful way to communicate.

In local communities art has a role too. Sadly we see fewer community art projects today than we once did due to funding constraints of local authorities and town councils, when money needs to be saved it seems that art is always amongst one of the first areas to fall under the axe. Yet art can build bridges in divided communities and bring people from many cultures together.

For artists, community based art projects can do more for your career than probably a life-time of hawking your work on social media can. I have seen this and experienced it in even recent times where artists have gone out into the community with local art projects and managed to pick up commissions and sell more art as a result.

The problem I had for many years as an artist is that I really struggled with the local connect. The internet has made global reach relatively easy, more people from continents on the opposite side of the world owned more of my work than local people did at one time, and I know of many other artists who have found this too. It’s not a bad problem at all to have but it makes life marginally easier to deal face to face with clients when they are in the local area and marketing becomes much easier too.

So while we do have this unique and enjoyable ability to market art globally, local reach is often way more challenging to win unless you live in a vibrant arts community already, and it’s a community with a lot going on that you can get involved with. Sometimes we even forget that a market might exist right on our doorstep.

The marketing side of your art practice does become much easier once you have that connect with the local community, I know it certainly was for me. Whenever we create marketing campaigns on social media one of the biggest issues that a lot of artists tell me and that I have experienced is that your marketing has to be amplified many times over and it has to connect with lots of different people from very different cultures.

Will buyers in Montana get that quirky joke about buses always turning up in three’s or not at all if they’re not familiar with how public transport works or more often doesn’t work in the UK, or will the marketing campaign still resonate with people if it is depicting a cultural nuance? Global marketing seems to me to be much more complex than local marketing yet we mostly all do global marketing on social media, the question is could we do it better and make it meet the needs of a more local market too?

A bad marketing campaign might become more amplified the further it travels, or it might entirely work in another global market, or of course it could just turn out to be a bad campaign everywhere. As independent artists and creatives we don’t have access to huge marketing teams spread across the world, so my moment of pondering this week is should we be really be looking at going Glocal instead of either global or local when it comes to marketing our art. We don’t always have the time to do both local and global well, but I know there is a difference in the audiences which is often cultural.

I always speak about finding your people but perhaps we are missing a trick here. Perhaps our people are scattered both globally and locally, but maybe there is some disconnect in what we are doing when we market our art that doesn’t quite resonate with a particular audience in a particular area?

When I think back to the big corporate brands and the times they have got this very wrong, I think we as single member art/director/marketing/everything else that an artist has to be kind of team, we should most definitely think about some of the nuances in social media or more specifically some of the nuances around the very different cultures who use social media.

Take a look at marketing blunders online and you will see names like Starbucks, Ford, Cadillac, and I kid you not, one ice cream cone manufacturer in India who chose the name of Hitler Ice Cream cones in a nod to an uncle who had been given the nickname because of his short temper, not good, not good at all.

Adding in another level of complexity into our marketing efforts makes everything more challenging but perhaps we don’t have to go as far as the corporate brands do. If art is the core of what we market, the art will communicate better than any words we dress it up with will. There’s no one size fits all approach to coming up with the perfect marketing campaign when it comes to art, but maybe an appreciation and a nod to other cultures is something that might be worth incorporating.

Creativity can be bound by culture. If we take a look at marketing and what good marketing looks like it is about the use of words and images that evoke an emotion or a reaction in the intended audience. Last week I spoke of the emotional connect that that people use to connect with the artist and their art and also the logical connect, but we also know that emotion is often specific to cultures too. What might evoke a positive emotional reaction in one market might fail completely and have the opposite effect in another.

Creativity is tied to beliefs and we often don’t realise just how much those beliefs can define who we are, or why we have the opinions and thoughts and ideas that we have and even why we produce the art that we do.

I think that this really does start to demonstrate even more the importance of finding our people but once we have found them we then have to take into account how we best reach them. Neither of those are easy things to achieve.

That’s why I say that local marketing is easier although for many of us it might not be the market we are in and for some people it might not be the market they want to be in. I have always found that for me and other artists I know, the local market can be a tough one to break into. If you had said to me a decade ago that global marketing would be easier than local marketing I would have laughed out loud, but then social media happened and the world became infinitely more steps closer.

Marketing is difficult enough and observing the many cultures adds to the complexity of what we do and then some. So this is another area in which I hope the new group will be able to help each other. The group is a closed group meaning that what is posted in the group should stay in the group, so it seems logical that we might want to all try to engage and help each other by sharing what works in what country or even in what State in the US.
Over here in the UK there are nuances that need to be observed even between counties that are not that far apart as the banking giant HSBC found out this week after putting Nottingham’s advertising campaign bang in the centre of Newcastle upon Tyne and the advertising for Newcastle slap bang in the middle of Nottingham. This is another way that artists can support and help each other, we can provide local insight, we don’t have to be in this alone and we are never or very rarely each other’s competition.  

So how do you break into a local market?

Now we have the cultural nuances at least on the table, breaking into a local market is the next one to take a look at. In my years of being around the art world I can honestly say that local markets have always been tougher for me. Some people find the complete opposite and struggle with other markets but do really well locally.

It was only when I started to create designs for things like restaurant menus that I found a local business 2 business market for art and graphic design, but over the next year I will be focusing more on the local market than I have done previously.

There are a lot of exciting developments in my area, we are finally getting a long promised designer shopping village and I am hoping that a gallery will find its way into the mix of designer clothes and handbag stores. I’m hoping too that there will be a decent coffee shop because if there is one thing we need in the local area it is somewhere you can find a good flat white. What I am more excited about though is the prospect that more people will come into the local community. That means that local businesses have an opportunity to take advantage, but equally I am always aware that anything like this can also impact local small businesses negatively. Hence my focus on local business over the next year ahead of its opening.

Many communities around the world engage in art related events. Art and Craft markets, art walks, community lectures and classes, it’s surprising just how many of these events get held locally yet we don’t always hear about them. The results can be disappointing for those who attend as exhibitors if there are no buyers. Sometimes events don’t do as well for the simple reason that not enough “art people” or those involved in the arts get involved in organising the events. Often that’s because as we don’t have a high profile within the local community. Getting artists involved in the planning of these kinds of events I would have imagined would be on the must do list for organisers, but apparently that’s not always the case.

As artists we can help to do something about that, we can engage with the local community and push for the arts to be higher on the agenda, or we could simply just offer some of our time and volunteer. As I said earlier, the arts seems to me to always be amongst the first of the local services to get cut because there’s not quite enough money in the local pot, which is a tad short-sighted given the benefits that the arts can bring. As for giving up time, perhaps the way to look at the time you give to any event is about not only the event but your own continuing professional development and networking, both equally important ingredients to artistic success.

We should be asking questions of local councils and authorities around their arts programs, maybe collaborating and looking at empty space on the high street to hold pop-up exhibitions and classes, none of this has to be expensive, sometimes it can be just a coalition of the willing who need to make things happen. If they don’t then there is always a risk that as budgets get cut, the arts are merely given lip service or get the occasional token gesture because someone thinks that is what they should be doing but they don’t really understand fully why. Even worse, because it’s a trendy gimmick and art should never be that.

Thankfully not every area is like that, and those areas that do get artists involved in community projects always seem to have much better arts events than those who don’t, and the areas themselves benefit significantly more. My own local area holds the occasional art event or craft market but rarely do I ever see anything about them on social media, there’s no pre-event buzz, certainly no post-event buzz and if people don’t know what’s going on in their own area they are unlikely to turn up to the events.

I could never commit to exhibiting at these events because I have seen the poor turnout, especially when you think that this is the same area eager to see a development of expensive designer shops. There’s a disconnect somewhere.

Local events are one of the best things an artist can be part of that serves not only the good of their communities but can also do wonders for an artist’s own career. Whether that’s building up your confidence around your ability to network or just meeting local people and other small businesses, or knowing that you gave something to your own community. This year I am hoping to be involved way more locally and because like many people, I probably know more people who live on opposite sides of the world than I do my closest neighbors.

Another aspect of becoming more engaged with local markets is that we often fail to talk enough to work colleagues about what it is we do. Many companies today are starting to promote lunch and learn events where people come together over lunch to learn about what teams within the organisation do, but interestingly some allow people to showcase their hobbies, skills, and outside interests. It’s an easy thing to set up and something that could lead you to even more markets are maybe just get art on the agenda.

Local community arts projects can benefit the young too. When young people are exposed to the arts they gain better observational skills, are more able to express themselves creatively, become better at communicating, and it broadens their interest. At a time when services for young people are being cut, all it takes sometimes is that coalition of the willing to come together and involve those who will see the most benefit from it to become a part of that coalition too.

The key to winning over local markets has always been to become more visible within them but there are opportunities for artists to not only become visible put to also contribute in other ways to the community too, helping both the artist and local people and let’s not forget the local economy.

Whenever I have traveled around the world I have seen pockets of outstanding arts related projects that have transformed entire areas, but I have also seen areas where the arts are at best a token gesture if they’re even present at all. As artists we have the gift of contributing to something that not only benefits us in a business sense and with our own development but also to help bring people together and bring about social cohesion. I truly believe if it can be done online through something as small as a Facebook group then surely it can be done in the offline world too.

community art projects, beechhouse media, art events,
Let me know about your local art events!

Let me know about your upcoming community events…

If you have local arts events and projects in your area and you want me to feature them, let me know! Don’t worry about the location because we do get people from all over the world visiting this site, but also because your event might just inspire similar events in other areas of the world too and it also gives the event somewhere else to be mentioned online.

The really vital thing though is that it might just give some of those regions that currently have little in the way of arts related programs running, an insight into the art of the possible that could make them start to see the arts as an important element that makes society better. Show the world what you are doing and the world might just want to do it too, and wouldn’t that be phenomenal!

About Mark…

I am an artist and blogger and live in Staffordshire, England. You can purchase my art through my Fine Art America store or my Pixels site here:  
Any art sold through Fine Art America and Pixels contributes towards to the ongoing costs of running and developing this website. You can also view my portfolio website at

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