In the most recent installment of this series, we examined how artists and innovators were using the mainstream social networking tools of MySpace, Facebook and Twitter to build a creative community for themselves online. Today, we sample a few creative community-building projects that have been set up specifically for artists, by artists.
I discovered Behance through the recent Lateral Action post, The Top 10 Social Networks for Creative People, that I mentioned in part I of this series. The network is the brainchild of Scott Belsky of Behance, a company that “organizes the creative world to make ideas happen,” according to its “About Us” Web page.
Members, who must apply to Behance for an “invitation” to join the network, build multi-media portfolios displaying their work. Visitors – including recruiters, top creative firms and editors – come to Behance to see the content and find talent to hire. Collections of project portfolios are curated by the Behance staff and a rotating list of guest curators, including Alessandra Lariu of SheSays and Ann-Christine Diaz, managing editor of Creativity Magazine.
Some may balk at the fact that users must request admission to the network and the curated collections, but according to the Lateral Action post, the site gets 90 percent of its traffic from non-members—meaning that the visits are coming from potential buyers. Parris Whittingham, a power user of the network, said the content-centric focus of the network had great value to him:
“Behance allows me to connect with a vast network of creatives from all over the world. … For me, the value of Behance is that it holds users to a set of unspoken professional standards. I will not post anything on the network unless I am truly confident in the work.
“The Behance platform was clearly designed to focus on the artwork. This “less is more approach” makes Behance feel more like a boutique than a catalog or meat market. For a person that just likes to be inspired by great design, amazing talent and professional presentation, Behance compliments my needs.”
I first came into contact with America Creates through a Facebook friendship with its co-founder Sharon Sinclair. Designed to be as broad as its name implies, the America Creates site takes a broad view of creative community.
Part e-business portal, part artisan showcase, part social network and part information clearinghouse, the site offers ample free resources and free membership to community members and creative professionals who are not promoting their own work for pay on the site. Artists seeking to use the site as an e-commerce portal must submit their work to a jury; they and various arts organizations may pay a modest fee ($99/year for many categories) for membership.
What I like about AC is that it blends information exchange and business so easily. Whatever level you are at in your arts career—from a beginner seeking a technique class to a master seeking to find a new audience for his or her work—chances are you’ll find something of interest here.
Likemind has the same theme as many sites such as MeetUp.com—plan a meeting in cyberspace, then meet in person. Two things differentiate likemind from its cyber-to-real meeting site brethren—all its groups (dozens located in cities around the world) meet once a month on the same day and approximately the same local time, and its single-minded purpose is to create “an opportunity to enjoy coffee and conversation” with “people like you.”
The group’s site is fairly bare-bones, with a map of meeting locations, listings for each city, information on how to apply to host a city’s likemind meeting, and a place to submit a “global question,” which, I would guess, is thrown out to the monthly conversation groups for fodder. There is no agenda, however, and no conversational moderation.
A quick check city host bio links reveals that many of them are involved in marketing, design, strategic communication and social media creation, so for some of you, the site would truly link you to “people like you.” One or two artists or innovators could whip up a likemind group in their city and enjoy the support and structure (minimal as it is) of the worldwide fellowship, and create a real-world point of contact for creative folk in their area.
Raw Art Yahoo Group
Another recent entry into the creative community-building fray is Quinn McDonald’s Raw Art Yahoo Group, which she describes as a “creativity incubator.” In a recent post on her blog, she explains what sort of people might enjoy it:
“A Creativity Incubator is a safe place for every artist who is fanning the flame of creativity. Who refuses to make creative decisions through their checkbook so it will sell. Who wants to make creative decisions from that deep place where life takes meaning and then takes wings …
“Making meaning in your life is creative work that takes time, courage and encouragement. That is what the group will provide. This (group) is a forum … where you are encouraged to post your successes, your projects, your creative thoughts.”
I’ve joined the incubator and so far there have been a variety of interesting discussions, from reaction to Quinn’s post on the down sides to art/craft kits to feedback on posted artwork and the sharing of helpful links on journaling and art.
Quinn’s group is a powerful reminder that online creativity networks don’t have to be cutting-edge or high-tech to be useful. Yahoo Groups have been with us for a very long time (in Internet terms), but when the right mix of creative people are gathered, it matters little the tools they use to respond to each other.
Have these groups made you hungry to start your own creative community? You’re in luck–in our next installment, I provide some tips for ways to do just that!