NFASP's two events in the North West in collaboration with AXIS saw lively discussions of how artists' studio groups and their individual members can develop a powerful web presence.
The FREE sessions, led by NFASP Director Val Millington and Sheila McGregor, Chief Executive of AXIS, were held in Manchester on 1 June and Lancaster on 11 June and looked at:
• What makes for an effective advocacy message?
• How to demonstrate public benefit?
• And what tools and techniques can help you develop a website or make an existing one even better and how this can add value to your studio group?
The first event in Manchester included an enlightening talk by Charlotte Dawson, Communications Officer of Creative Lanchashire on how artists' studio groups can target local authorities with an effective online presence, social media such as Facebook and Twitter and e-newsletters.
In Lancaster, Sara Noonan, Creative Industries Development Manager for Salford City Council, presented ‘Contents May Vary’ looking at the local government brain in relation to studio groups. Her talk explored the best ways for studio groups to understand how they fit within a local authority’s cultural strategy, who their potential audiences of their websites are, and showed example of websites that best achieve this.
At both events, Mir Jansen, Programme Manager at Yorkshire Artspace, gave details of the studio group's effective public benefit survey to create a powerful advocacy tool. She demonstrated how it has enabled YAS to raise their public profile and illustrate the valuable commitment the organisation and its artists have to the local community.
Workshops, group activity and technical sessions led to discussions, including:
• What audiences should studio groups target through their wesites and e-newsletters? How to identify your audience.
• How to project a clear identity of your group and reach those those audiences. How to maintain a strong collective identity but not override the personal aspirations of each artist.
• The importance of easy website navigation, a dynamic, updated home page, good use of images, and clear information.
• How to enhance your website beyond just listing the artists of your studios? For example, adding mission statements, future aspirations of your organisation, as well as achievements.
• How to write for the web - clear, plain language, spacing text out with headlines and sub-headings and making sure all the important information is at the beginning of the text.
• The need to make your website accessible, and the impact on website design from increasing use of mobile devices as internet access.
• Technical issues, led by Marc Fabri, Head of Technical Development at AXIS and Kara Chatten, Head of Audience Development at AXIS: how to set up a website, user-friendly content management systems (CMS), social media and cost-effective ways of getting your message across online. How to link and direct traffic to your site. What information should you have on a social media platform as opposed to a website, and how do you link them?
• With the advent of more sophisticated social media platforms that operate like a website, is it necessary to have a website at all?
A Guidance Note for NFASP members drawn from the two events is available in the Resources section: Developing an Artists' Studio website, NFASP Guidance 2010.
Attendees at the two events included Sheila McGregor, Chief Executive of AXIS, Kara Chatten East Street Arts (ESA), Yorkshire Artspace, Grand Union, Neoartists, Chapel Studios, Luneside studios, Green Close Studios, Green Door Studios, Hot Bed Press, WASPS in Edinburgh, Woodend Artists, OK Studios, AWOL Studios and S1 Artspace. Also there were local independent artists, academics from Cumbria University, and arts development and creative industry development officers from Lancashire and Wyre Borough councils.
There was general praise for the events, with the participants finding the opportunity to meet with other groups within their area highly beneficial, as well as the information on public benefit, the perspective of the local authority cultural officer, and the technical aspects of maintaining a cohesive website and social media.
Both events were supported by the Artists' Professional Development Network (APD).