Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Finding guidance online through artworld jungle

The Times
Neil Johnson 11:08 p.m. CDT September 2, 2015

There are your artists and there are your arts patrons.

Different kinds of people. But don’t they, when you really think about it, need each other, depend on each other?

Getting these people together is a job. Sometimes it seems like these two kinds of people wander around in the dark and, every once in a while, bump into each other. These encounters can become good and healthy relationships, but there’s got to be a better way.

To use another metaphor, it’s a jungle out there in the art-world. I’ve been in it for a few decades, but sometimes even I need a hand to hold in both my wanderings and my more definite journeys. I hit dead-ends and get lost sometimes and have to backtrack to find another path to where I would like to go.

In this jungle, artists and arts patrons both need navigation guidance. The GoogleNet is a good place to start. There is a solid veteran place of assistance in the intertubes of northwest Louisiana and I have also found a new source of guidance, or at least a good place to find advice and support in this sometimes-confusing world.

Today, we are so spoiled by the Internet. No, that’s not the right word. We have been both freed and enslaved.

The Internet is even more revolutionary than the printing press. But I digress. Let’s get back to the arts in northwest Louisiana and the artists and arts patrons wandering around bumping into each other. There are helpers who can lend us a compass and a map to guide us through the jungle.

First, there are the Shreveport Regional Arts Council and the Bossier Arts Council and their tools for arts hand-holding and guidance. Go. Visit their websites. If you never have, you may be surprised, even astounded, about how much information you can find there.

The names of their two sites are easy to remember: and Shreve. Bossier. Arts. Organizations. Shrevearts and Bossierarts have founts of information from and about these two organizations.

The SRAC website used to have a listing of a wide array of area artists and samples of their work. I thought it was gone, but found that it is only gone from the SRAC site. SRAC has given it its own address: So. Many. Artists. Note that it has a page where artists can apply to be included.

If that is not enough, there is another source of information for both artists and arts patrons on line. It’s called “Works In Progress” and its website is This is largely the year-old child and an ambitious venture of artist and community activist, Debbie Lynn Hollis. It’s stated mission is to provide financial, educational and business resources directly to creative professionals who live/work in north Louisiana

Hollis said, “This site is the ultimate culmination of business, economic development and the cultural economy in north Louisiana.”

One of the really cool things residing within the above website is something called the “Creative Marketplace.” It is a pilot program co-sponsored by Works In Progress Louisiana and the North Louisiana Art Gallery. Its stated purpose is “to encourage greater collaboration between the creative industries and the wider business community in north Louisiana.” Whoa! That’s what I’m talking about!

Here’s a crucial factor in this whole thing. Artist Michael Moore has been patiently building a website for artists for years. He called it the Northwest Louisiana Artist Gallery. He has now done two things with it. He has put it under the umbrella of the Works In Progress/Creative Marketplace and he has also decided to broaden the range to all of north Louisiana, the step-sibling of south Louisiana that south Louisiana avoids learning about or even talking about most of the time. So we must toot our own horn. Louder.

Dig into the Creative Marketplace site and click on the link to the “North Louisiana Art Gallery.” There, you will find a way-cool presentation to learn about north Louisiana (mostly northwest Louisiana, but heading east) artists along with samples of their work. It’s actually fun to explore. There is also a sign-up page for artists wanting to be included.

Websites are complex things, especially these sites. Building sites like these are not for the faint-of-heart. They are very difficult and extremely time-consuming to make them effective. But the hardest part is maintaining them so they stay relevant. It is far too easy to let a website go for too long to where visitors wonder why they are still up. But these sites are so important because they put artists and patrons a click or two away from each other.

Another difficult factor with websites is driving visitors to them. That, dear readers, is what I am trying to do with this column. So you now have an assignment:

Go. Log on. Visit them. The addresses are right there in the paragraphs above.

Arts patrons, these sites are extremely brief introductions to the many fine visual artists working hard in the piney woods of Louisiana. If you are looking for visual art and something punches your buttons, by all means, I strongly encourage you to follow up. Contact the artist and arrange a portfolio viewing or studio tour.

Artists, note who does their artist page right and who does not. If your portfolio is years out of date, update it. If you want to be in the artist site, contact the web master. And artists, be polite to your visiting patrons. Offer them a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. They may have brought a checkbook.

Neil Johnson is a photographer and host at Booth #62/64 at the upcoming Red River Revel. He can be reached at

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