My blog has moved. See you there!

I’ve had lots of fun posting to Tumblr over the last few months. But the time has come to move on. From today you can find my blog at Thanks for following so far and see you there.


Image: (CC) Dru Bloomfield

Event mad and still an empty database

So many arts and cultural organisations spend an enormous amount of time organising events, from once off gigs to mammoth festivals. Event management, as we all know, is high on hand holding, needs infinite patience, tons of cash and lots of willing participants. There is nothing more humiliating than spending months organising an event where no one shows up. It’s like being in your worst nightmare, naked and exposed.  

As someone who has organised events of evey kind, it’s very important to get the most from your audience, now that you have them there. Make sure your hard work pays off. Think about the cost of acquisition for that one visitor to your museum, gallery or gig. Business folk look at this cost all the time but cultural and nonprofits seldom do. It costs you a great deal of money, time and effort every time a person walks through your door. Know how much that acquisition costs.

Think about your goals for each event and prioritise them:

1. Audience building

2. Profile building

3. Reengaging past participants

Once you have decided on the order of your goals, then you need to formulate what you want your audience to do next - after they participate in the event. This is the key to keeping your audience in the marketing loop. You need ways to gather as much information as possible about each participant and bring them back to the conversation again. Otherwise, you are working really hard organising events and not profiting from them in the long run. Now make sure nobody walks away again without learning more about them.

Stay focused on your goals. Think about the whole marketing loop; your events, website, blogs, email newsletters, Facebook, Twitter, LinkdIn and YouTube. Make sure to connect your real world activities with your online presence. Give your audience places to talk to you, to comment and to leave reviews and testimonials. Events are wonderful, time consuming and exciting. Make sure you gain the most from them.

Image: (cc) Michael Clesle

The number one cardinal sin of social media

Heather Mansfield wrote a post last week documenting the 10 common mistakes made by nonprofits on social media. Heather lists everything from not adding social icons to your website to not blogging, among others. However, there is one mistake Heather did not list. That is not owning your own audience. Owning your own audience goes back to the very basics of any business development strategy both online and offline. If you don’t own your own audience how do you expect to grow your audience and your business?

Here’s my reply to Heather’s post:

"I think the biggest failing with nonprofits and cultural organisations, is not owning their own audience. Facebook, Twitter and social media networks are fantastic to grow your reach and connect with your audience. But if you don’t own your audience and your audience is based on other services outside your own database; then organizations are not harnessing the potential for social media enough. Gather email addresses everywhere, get to know your audience. Think of each relationship as a long ball game and converse rather than broadcast. Social media is a real boon to the nonprofit sector in terms of time and budget. Owning your audience and building a strategy around the customer journey is the key to success here. The cart before the horse so to speak. Thanks for your post."

When utilising social media think about how you will own your audience, how will you get the most from each interaction. Don’t forget about the real world either. In the past week I have attended two events, a play and a really fine exhibition. In both cases, not one email address was gathered or any testimonials recorded. The play had a full house on the night I attended and the exhibition sold quite a number of pieces. Golden opportunities for continued conversation were lost. In each case, audience members were eager to attend. Any information about these participants were lost at a time easiest to engage with them - at the event.

For nonprofits and all business and cultural organisations, think about linking up your online and offline activities. Own your own audience and don’t continue to make the number one cardinal sin a reality for you.

Image: (CC) owaief89

Promoting the Arts online. Part 3

Here is the final part of my VAI presentation, promoting your work online, devised for Visual Arts Ireland and Belfast Exposed. This  section looks at online platforms and ways to automate and optomise your online activities.

I hope you enjoyed my presentation and thanks for all your comments so far. I am constantly looking for new case studies and organisations to research. So get in touch and we can share learning and best practice. If you would like an in-depth online strategy review for your organisation, then drop me a line at

Promoting the Arts online. Part 2

Part two of my presentation, promoting your work online devised for the VAI and Belfast Exposed. This segment focuses on social media platforms, how to get the best return for your time, along with some fantastic Arts case studies. Thanks for all your comments over on Arts Professional Ireland. Final part tomorrow.

Here is part one of my presentation, promoting your work online, devised for Visual Arts Ireland and Belfast Exposed. This presentation specifically teaches arts and cultural organisations and professional artists how to promodete their practice and grow their profile effectively online. By looking at your the customer journey and the marketing loop, and by integrating all your touch points online; you can build a very effective, measurable, online strategy. Watch your tribe grow!

This presentation was part of the Visual Arts Ireland professional development series, recorded in Belfast Exposed, April 2011. My thanks to Monica for the invitation. Enjoy.

Findings: mobility and exchange in the visual arts

The seminar on mobility and exchange in the visual arts, organised by the VAI and Ards Art Centre last Wednesday, was a really informative and positive day. A range of speakers talked about the possibilities for collaboration, exchange, learning and participation when artists are empowered and encouraged to interact on local, national and international contexts.

Image Niamh Kirk

Heather Parker, Craft Development Officer at Ards Borough Council, first spoke about the Sustainable Craft Network, a Leonardo Lifelong project, involving partners from Ireland, Finland, Northern Ireland and Italy with lead partner Louth CraftMark. It was really impressive to see how this project has positively impacted the development of craft in the Borough and how much learning has been achieved. Some tips for forming great partnerships include:

·     find the right partner

·     make sure there is great cooperation between partners

·     there will always be a lazy partner


Peter Mutschler, Co-director and curator of PS² project space in Belfast, spoke about his involvement in the Rhyzom project, funded by the Culture Programme. Peter had much to share about the positive nature of collaboration, public engagement, public participation and public ownership. He stressed it is important for an artist to connect locally, nationally and internationally and how a local presence can have a global reach. In his presentation, Peter made reference to his work in Ballykilner and Belfast and how these initiatives have local knowledge with a global perspective. Peter’s work is fascinating, especially in bringing non-white cube spaces to locations where they can be used as a space for dialogue and exchange with local communities. More about Peter’s work here.

Adam Knights, Arts Manager with Visiting Arts UK, spoke about initiatives led by Visiting Artists. Visiting Artists aims to strengthen intercultural understanding through the arts. The 1mile² project is a great example of how this works. A local or international artist is invited to live, work and forge connections with thinkers, artists, scientists, leaders and individuals in an area no bigger than one square mile. In Belfast, the Golden Thread Gallery has participated in this initiative, with a project called Bring down the walls. Find more information about 1mile² here.


image (c) Rayna Nadeem

Another Visiting Artists initiative, Artist to Artist, funds six UK artists to host six international artists for a two week stay. No outcome is necessary; just the friendship, and the exchange of ideas and experience that comes from two people spending time together. If you are based in the UK or Northern Ireland this programme opens again for applications in March 2012.

Christoph Jankowski, European Information Manager at Visiting Arts, discussed the EU Cultural Programme and explained the activities funded under the EU Culture Programme, they are the mobility of artists, the circulation of works and intercultural dialogue. 36 countries participate in the Culture Programme with 50% of project costs funded by the EU and 50% by the project partners.

There is an interdisciplinary approach to programme funding with projects supported in visual and performing arts, heritage and literature. Christoph explained that it can often be difficult for an individual artist to get involved at the project development stage as the Culture Programme focuses on arts organisations, County Councils and libraries as lead drivers of these projects. The administrative load to apply, manage and complete a project is very demanding and needs the expertise of an organisation.

The success rate for UK funding is 75%, with more arts organisations encouraged to apply. Projects funded by the EU Culture Programme in Northern Ireland include Interface, the Beat initiative, Belfast Festival at Queens and PS2. The deadline for the Cultural Programme is October 1st.


Maria McKinney, Untitled  work in progress, 2009, Mannequin, matches, cocktail umbrellas, Styrofoam balls & shopping trolley, Dimensions variable. RHA Gallery Dublin


Deirdre Robb, Visual Arts Officer, Arts Council Northern Ireland dispelled some myths about Arts Council funding and talked about current visual art funding streams. Applications for Support for the individual artists are considered under three headings; 1. The Artist, 2. The Proposal and 3. Potential. Ten points are awarded under each heading. Under this scheme 10% of funded artists are young, emerging artists. The funding priority, at the moment, is contemporary arts practice, particularly looking at the level of innovation and potential in the proposal. Deirdre stressed the importance of budgeting, matching income and expenditure, and project management in each application. Make sure to include a timeline with deadlines; beginning, middle and end.

The artist career enhancement scheme is aimed at mid career, professional, artists with a fund of £5000. The artist needs to demonstrate that he/she “has the capacity to develop significantly over the period of the award” and find a gallery to work in partnership with them over a one year period. Other places for funding include NICVA, and the association of charitable foundations.

Visual artist Maria McKinney spoke about her career development to date and how residencies have positively impacted on her career and professional development. Maria showed examples of work that came from these opportunities and stressed the importance of thinking time; time away from production. It was very interesting to hear how Maria has strategically planned her career development; from networking to choosing studio space, and to applying for residencies at a time when she had completed a body of work. Maria also talked about the importance of surrounding yourself with a network of artists and peers who can give advice and encouragement, particularly if you are an emerging artist.  Maria’s talk was very impressive and demonstrated with the right attitude and a willingness to partake in opportunities both at home and abroad, your development as an artist can be enriched.  

Firsty? a collective of over 200 artists from Northern Ireland, emerged from last year’s Common Room lecture. Artists Ina Hamilton, Andy Hamilton and Lee Boyd spoke about the importance of connections in the arts, how partnerships and collaboration are integral to their practice. From an initial meeting of three artists in a pub in Bangor, the collective has now grown to over 200 members in six months.

Facebook has been an integral part of the formation and success of Firsty? Group members can share ideas and events, share practice, advice and mentorship; all can participate using Facebook to keep up to date. Refreshingly, Firsty? has only two rules; everyone must play nice and you get out what you put in. A culture of innovation, participation and mentorship is actively fostered, giving all members can curate shows, host events and to showcase their work. Firsty? has a cross disciplinary approach, artists from every genre is accepted as well as experts in other fields. Cross pollination of ideas and interactions are actively encouraged. You can find more about Firsty? here.


For the last talk of the day, I presented Promoting your work online, a quick survey on how to maximise the potential for networking, partnerships, and exchange worldwide. During my talk, I focused on the customer journey, adding benefit to those who follow you and the marketing loop, to connect all parts of your online strategy together. In terms of saving time, automation is crucial, so utilising platforms like Tweetdeck is a real advantage to any artist or arts organisation.

I was surprised to see that only three participants had Twitter accounts and there was a reluctance overall to engage with this platform. Many felt that Twitter was superficial and not the best way to deal with negative comments or interactions. While I an understand this fear, I explained that dealing with negative comments in the real world is no different online and Twitter is a great service to actively engage with your audience.

It seems that arts organisations and artists have a way to go to fully embrace online media to promote and engage with artists and the wider community. It is unfortunate that many organizations do not accept web links to portfolios, images and biographies as part of their application process. I hope this will change in the not to distant future.  

Mobility and Exchange in the Visual & Applied Arts

Visual Arts Ireland

I’m giving a session on online promotion as part of “Mobility and Exchange in the Visual & Applied Arts” a Visual Arts Ireland seminar in the Ards Art Centre. You can sign up here. It’s going to be a fun and inspiring day.

Speakers include:

Artists involved in the Sustainable Craft Network, Ards; Deirdre Robb / Visual Arts Officer, Arts Council Northern Ireland; Adam Knights / Arts Projects Manager, Visiting Arts U.K; Christoph Jankowski / European Information Manager at Visiting Arts, UK Cultural Contact Point for the European Commission’s Culture programme; Visual artist Maria McKinney, who participated on the Banff Residency, Peter Mutschler / Co-director and curator of PS² project space in Belfast and initiator of urban art projects and Mary Carty, Curator and CEO of The event will be chaired by Laura Graham visual artist and Visual Artists Northern Ireland contact point.

This seminar will highlight examples of current international projects such as the Leonardo Lifelong Programme ‘Sustainable Craft networks’, which Ards Borough Council and its Creative Peninsula network are involved in and similar Visual Art projects funded through the European Cultural Programme fund.  It will discuss: the experience of visual and applied artists who have engaged in projects funded through these programmes; examine the benefits of collaboration; sharing of knowledge and mobility for visual and applied artists at European level.

9:30 Coffee & Registration     
 10:00 Intro to the day - Laura Graham (Chair / Visual Artist and Visual Artists Ireland Northern contact point)
 10:05 Heather Parker, Craft Development Officer, Ards Borough Council
 10:30 Peter Mutschler / Co-director and curator of PS² project space in Belfast and initiator of urban art projects. Discussing Rhyzom and international collaborations that PS2 have been involved in
 11:00 BREAK     
 11:20 Christoph Jankowski European Information Manager at Visiting Arts, UK Cultural Contact Point for the European Commission’s Culture programme & Adam Knights Arts Projects Manager/ Visiting Arts   
 12:00 Maria McKinney, Visual Artists and recipient of the Banff Residency Award from ACNI
 12:30 LUNCH     
13:30 Deirdre Robb, Visual Arts Officer / Arts Council Northern Ireland    
 14:00 Open floor discussion & Summing up      
 Break Out  / Elective Talks     

 14:30 Mary Carty/ Spoiltchild Design discusses connecting with creative peers over the internet   

Firstys -  Artists Group, Bangor discussing the development of their group and Networking Internationally    

There will be questions and answers taken after each speaker

Bringing creative practices online


I’ve been thinking a lot about practice, specifically artistic practice and how artists can integrate their arts practice online. An individual’s arts practice is as varied as shells on the beach, but it usually follows processes like information gathering, formation of ideas, crystallisation of the idea, making, refining and tweaking until the end product appears. After this there is usually a period of reflection and evaluation until the process begins again. Arts practice is mercurial in nature, it is hard to grasp and harder to define but it is always interesting.

Being an artist is often a lonely profession and our individual arts practice is hidden away until we finally exhibit. Luckily, there are millions of ways to share this individual process with the world.

So may people wish they had the confidence to make or author something but never get around to it. Following the creative paths of others is very enriching; following the process from idea to finished piece is absolutely fascinating. By opening up your practice online you instantly engage with a new audience and build connections in the real world by building a community of friends who share a common interest.

Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and LinkedIn are great places to share this process. And with a little time and effort you can build a whole new audience for your work. LinkedIn is a perfect place to link business and art. The entrepreneur who has just opened a new office may well buy your next finished piece or even commission a new one. Could that artist be you? Could bringing your practice online enhance your arts practice?

Image (CC) Lord Biro

Promoting your work online - Belfast training


I’m giving a training day in Belfast next week with the VAI on promoting your work online. This course will teach artists and arts organisations how to grow your profile, build your network and promote your work online. I’m delighted to be back in Belfast again as it is always great to catch up with such a lively arts scene.

You can sign up here.

Course: Promoting your work online

Where: Belfast Exposed, the Exchange Place, 23 Donegall Street, Belfast, BT1 2FF

  Date: Apr 14, 2011

 What is it?

This coursse will teach you how to grow your profile, build your network and promote your work online. By using social media tools like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Flickr effectively, you can grow your audience and position yourself as an expert in your field. I will use case studies and practical walk throughs to help you get the most from your time online. Time will also be given to set up and test promotional platforms during the session. To finish the day, I will help you develop an easy to use marketing plan to take with you.

Topics I will cover:

Social media trends


Creating an easy to use marketing plan

If you would like to join us on the day here are a few questions to consider:

1. How would you describe your experience and confidence online, beginner, intermediate, advanced?

2. Do you have a Website, Twitter, Facebook, Blog, Flickr, LinkedIn account? Please list all that apply to you.

3. What do you want to achieve from this course?

4. Do you work with any voluntary or national arts organisations/collectives/etc?

5. What are the barriers holding you back form communicating online?

Hope to see you there on the day.


Image (C) Aaron Schmidt