This article is by Brian Sherwin, regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. Brian Sherwin is an art critic, blogger, curator, artist and writer based near Chicago, Illinois. He has been published in Hi Fructose Magazine, Illinois Times, and other publications, and linked to by publications such as The Huffington Post, The Boston Globe, Juxtapoz Magazine, Deutsche Bank ArtMag, ARTLURKER, Myartspace, Blabbermouth, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Conservative Punk, Modern Art Obsession, Citizen LA, Shark Forum, Two Coats of Paint, Vandalog, COMPANY and Art Fag City. Disclaimer: This author's views are entirely his/her own and may not reflect the views of BoldBrush, Inc.. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.
I worked for a social art site -- Myartspace (MAS). I was their Senior Editor for several years -- and a founding member of their Management Team. Social networking sites, in general, can be very helpful for gaining exposure online -- and Myartspace did help artists receive recognition. However, I have always said that one must be careful in how they spread themselves out online, if you will. An online empire can vanish over night -- along with a portion of your online presence. The social art site you know and love today may not be here tomorrow -- consider that when planning your art marketing efforts.
The owners of Myartspace recently decided to pull the plug on the project -- which means they pulled the plug on any artist who put in hours of work building a presence on MAS. We all know that a website can close. Unfortunately, Myartspace did not warn their membership -- they technically were not obligated to offer a warning due to their terms of service (TOS) agreement. Fair enough. That said, the decision to close abruptly has angered more than a few artists and fans of the Myartspace community -- so much so that some artists have contacted me with questions (for several years I was kind of like the Tom *think Myspace* of Myartspace.com -- a 'figurehead' of the community).
I can understand why people who enjoyed Myartspace are angry even though I know the TOS agreement made it very clear that the site could be taken down without warning -- that is a standard of TOS agreements in general. Imagine the surprise of waking up to discover that you lost all of your art contacts on a social networking site that you had invested time in. In addition to that, imagine losing images of your art -- that you assumed would continue to be safely hosted -- that can't be replaced. Again, I understand the frustration -- the anger -- but I also realize that there is a lesson to be learned from the closing of Myartspace.
The lesson is a cruelly simple one -- if you are going to market your art online, make sure to keep physical records of your art contacts and images. In other words, keep a dossier of important art-related contacts written down in a notebook -- keep photographs of your art that you can use to upload later if data is lost. Learn this lesson -- some of the Myartspace members who have contacted me have lost several years worth of contacts (fellow artists, art collectors, art dealers and so on) and images -- all because they failed to keep their own records.
The owners of the art sites we love often have the best intentions -- they want to give something back to the art community in general. That said, when the journey is over -- it is over... a website can close for a variety of reasons at any time -- and you don't want to be left empty handed. Myartspace.com had over 80,000 members -- that is a lot of empty hands if the majority of those members failed to keep data/records offsite.
In addition to keeping physical records -- I'm certain that some of those artists are kicking themselves in the head for not having their own website (especially one with a unique domain name) and newsletter. The closing of Myartspace teaches us why it is so important to have more control over our art marketing efforts online. Point blank -- you really can't blame the owners of Myartspace for doing what they felt they had to do. I'm not blaming the artists for the position they are in -- however, one could suggest that they should have sought to establish a unique presence online -- or at least widened the scope of their online art marketing efforts.
Keep in mind that you can experience the same career setback with social networking websites that appear to be 'alive and well' on face value. Take Myspace for example -- I once had a group of 50,000+ artists on there. It was extremely useful, at the time, for spurring debate and sharing ideas about art. I had Facebook as well -- but at that time it was restricted to college students. I wanted a wider audience -- so I thought Myspace was the place to be. My how times change...
The art group I had on Myspace is useless today -- the profiles of the members who were once active in the group are just reminders of the past... digital tombstones of a bygone era in social networking. The art group I managed on Myspace suffered from the mass exodus to Facebook after Facebook opened its doors to the general public. The irony being that Facebook is doing some of the same things Myspace did that resulted in pushing people away. Another BIG social networking empire may be on the horizon. You just never know.
I use Facebook knowing that in the future their online empire may eventually crumble. Point blank -- you can't always rely on your online presence. That is why I keep a physical notebook of important contacts that I've made. I do the same with other social networking websites -- and I strongly urge that YOU do the same. The closing of Myartspace has been a hard lesson for many -- learn from it. I know I have.
In closing, I must admit that I will miss Myartspace.com. I was a key player in helping to establish the website -- and I can tell you that everyone behind the site made personal and professional sacrifices to help spearhead the project. It was one of the first social art sites of its kind to build partnerships with international art fairs such as SCOPE Art Show and Aqua Art Miami. It was also one of the first social art sites to place focus on brick and mortar exhibit spaces -- having had exhibits in Manhattan and at one point a gallery in Palo Alto. It offered an annual free to enter $16,000 art scholarship competition for college art students worldwide. I learned a lot from those experiences -- and from the artists, art dealers and organizers I met while working as Senior Editor. Goodbye Myartspace.
Take care, Stay true,