A recent New York Times article on an arts competition, Art Takes Times Square, raises interesting thoughts about being an artist in today’s digital world. The contest sponsored by ArtistsWanted.org, enlists creative types to upload their work (for a fee) for the opportunity to win some spectacular cash prizes as well as notoriety. Winners are determined through an online voting process culminating with a larger than life presentation of their artwork in New York City’s popular Times Square billboards.
The internet has spawned many money making businesses and it seems the pairing of technology with the art world is no different than any other industry. Computers have made networking and outreach more likely that what had previously been a close-knit, who-you-know inner circle process before.
Renée Phillips, owner and advocate of artists of Manhattan Arts International, recently asked on Facebook, “Is fame for artists now a competitive sport in which artists can beg for and get the most votes?”
I think the internet wields great opportunity, albeit a good and bad side to progress. Look at online banking. While ATM access to cash at every corner is a good thing, it’s not so good to be charged fees to get at your own dough. Email, as convenient as it is, has impacted the United States Post Office tremendously. Stamp sales are down and junk mail is a common annoyance no matter what spam filter is utilized.
Public libraries while embracing new technologies, have had to deal with accommodating all formats of publications from the traditional hard copies of books, music and movies to e-copies and digital formats of the same materials. They do this in order to cover the entire member population which includes people who don’t use computers to those who can’t live without them.
The NYT’s article mentions a favorite site I frequent, Behance, whose founder Scott Belsky, is also renowned for his national bestselling book, Making Ideas Happen. Social networking and its derivatives, online arts submission, is a hard nut to crack. While I agree with Phillips about the America Idol business model of democratic voting and how the general public may not necessarily be qualified for best art recognition, sites that feature art contests are quickly saturating the market.
It’s up to individuals to weigh the price of admission to each contest that presents itself. Researching the organization, and who the judges are, should be pertinent criteria for submissions. By no means are some prizes small potatoes. Take One Life, an international photography competition. What could be more inherent with a call for submissions, than to tell your story in your own words and photos?
Be informed and familiarize yourself with what the basis is for any call for submission. Arts are not unlike any other business. There is a profit to be made with quality art, whether it’s from commissioning an original to sponsoring a contest that potentially will draw an audience of millions.
Social media isn’t the enemy. It is a beast that can be tamed to suit the creator. My submissions didn’t win and I didn’t clobber people over the head with my artwork. That aspect may be the objectionable point Renée made. Would you do that with your work? Would you beg for votes to win recognition? How many times would you keep hitting send, before it felt like stalking? Has American Idol made a judge out of everyone?
How do you like your art? In a museum or online? Are digital technologies chopping away at an industry that prides itself on privilege?