Interview with Artist Alison Snowball

This is the second in new series of 11 artist interviews I conducted earlier this year I’ve titled “a new space; artists and social media”. You can learn more about this project at

Alison Snowball is an artist based in Toronto. I met Snowball in 2010 while we were both conducting gallery space projects in the Parkdale neighbourhood and had recently seen mention of her Chalk Form Census ( and TWEETHIS: An Art History Paper in 361 Tweets ( on Facebook. This was only one of two interviews in the project conducted in person.

Interview with Artist Eric Oglander

This is the first in new series of 11 artist interviews I conducted earlier this year I’ve titled “a new space; artists and social media”. You can learn more about this project at

(there is some sound degradation in parts due to audio feedback. my apologies for this).

Oglander is an emerging artist who recently moved to Brooklyn, New York and in many ways represents the fulfilment of the promise of instant fame and recognition that social media holds for many artists. His project, Craigslist Mirrors (, was started in late 2013 and almost immediately found by renowned art critic Jerry Saltz ( who posted links to it on his Twitter and Facebook accounts.

The Mona Lisa by DaVinci

Great art is 99% media and 1% substance

If you think about some of your favourite art you then you might note that you have probably actually never seen the work in person.

Take the DaVinci’s Mona Lisa, for example. You know what this painting is, I know what this painting is and we can discuss this painting with a reasonable amount of familiarity – but chances are, like me, you’ve never seen the actual, physical painting.

The Mona Lisa by DaVinci

The Mona Lisa by DaVinci

In a more contemporary timeline, think about Damien Hirst’s Dead Shark or  even his Spot Paintings. Love them or hate them, these works transcend their physical location through the media’s reproduction of them. They are well know outside of contemporary art circles now and they will be part of art history classes for many generations to come. Am I saying that controversial work is media friendly? Not exactly, because no one would of cared about these controversial art works if they were not intrinsically “media friendly” already.

This is not an aspect of great art that is isolated in the last century – it is an enduring characteristic of art history for all peoples since the very beginning of time. Cave paintings were seen and reproduced by different artists of that era. Manuscripts and their illustrations were hand-copied by monks throughout many centuries. That Mona Lisa painting was copied by artists as a drawings, prints & paintings so patrons in many cities throughout Europe could view the work without having to travel. Damien Hirst’s Dead Shark appeared in hundreds of magazine and newspapers, and countless websites and blogs.

A work that is easy to reproduce does not become great work because of this characteristic, but it is an essential ingredient for whatever elusive formula for greatness is out there. A work can be a masterpiece, a subtle and delicate work that defies proper documentation or description (and isn’t that the point of art, many would argue) but if it’s not easily reproducible as a quick sketch then it won’t be immortalized by media. It’s stays mostly substance and less media. In this sense society’s most common experience of art history is essentially that of a collection of rock stars who appeal directly the masses both commercially and aesthetically.

This has led me to wonder if when we see and identify with a reproduction of a work of art, if in fact we are mislabeling our experience of what we are seeing – this reproduction is no longer a reproduction but a stand alone work of art on it’s own. There is not one Mona Lisa or Dead Shark – there are millions of them.

Side note: This insight was supposed to be a blog post four years ago, but I didn’t have a blog. So I started this blog and decided I needed a few other posts to put this into context – and now here we are.

Translating arts pr into french – bon and bad for organizations

No matter how you hard you try, your translated-to-french press release will always offend someone.

I don’t speak french but I have been comfortable in positions where I was responsible for sending out press releases in both french and english. There are several tricks and pitfalls that must be kept in mind if you and your english organization would like to compose a public communication in french. I’ve attempted to talk about some of the ones I’ve experienced in a simple list format below. Much of these are simple observations from working in Montreal and Ottawa with translators on arts-based PR campaigns, and a faithful paraphrasing of many, many bilingual friends and family discussing the very same issues.

General Benefits:

  1. A website with french and english will generally attract 20 – 30% more traffic as you have just opened up your information to about 1/3 of the world.
  2. People who speak french – even those who are english who speak french – appreciate this effort greatly.
  3. There are many concepts and expressions about art and culture that only exists in french… I don’t know what they are, but I know they exist.
  4. As an organization, you will make yourself much more attractive to funding agencies across Canada that have designated resources specifically for the promotion of french in culture and arts programming.
  5. Internationally, countries and people being multilingual is quite common and not a big deal – bilingual communications it can raise the profile of your organization if managed correctly and earnestly.

General Pitfalls:

  1. If you need to send your text out to be translated, it’s expensive to have it done at a professional level and difficult to find a service that is willing and able to handle a specialized area such as an arts press release.
  2. Expect to pay between 30 cents to a dollar a word, and give two to three weeks for the job to get done.
  3. Only expect to find out if the translator is any good at arts releases after the job is done and you send it out – you’ll get plenty of feedback if it’s not very good, believe me.
  4. Any french in print in Canada becomes political and there is nothing you can do about becoming a pawn in a class struggle you have no idea of or perhaps even care about.

Some further musings on french translation issues for arts and culture in Canada:

When I would send out a french press release and an english press release there was two things that were certain to happen – 1) There would always (and I do mean for every french PR we sent out) be complaints about the french grammer in the translation and 2) there would never be complaints about the english grammer.

Read More

Ten quick tips for posting art PR via web and email

10. Remember to always add the physical address of your event at the bottom of the posted PR even if the address is somewhere else in the site or the template design.

This makes it easy for others to copy and paste the complete info and also the eye tends to look at the bottom for all even details, so this is a great opportunity for location branding.

9. Add social media links to your community presences on Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, etc, even if they are just text links. Many people prefer information from you this way instead.

8. Highlight in bold the names of the organization or entity presenting the event and the name(s) of the artist(s).

7. Put a quote in. If you want to make a claim (i.e. this is the best and most original art show ever) then it tends to write and resonate better as a quote from the artist, curator or director. Media and people look for “an expert” or notable in this part – the quote should never be the first or second paragraph. If it is the fourth paragraph then your press release is probably too long.

6. All crucial information (who, what, where, when, why) needs to be in plain old HTML text – not flash or a graphic. There is no arguing this point if you would like any kind of internet search to find you.

5. Use an image you don’t mind being posted and shared on other websites and blogs. Attribution, not copyright, is the new currency for artists in social media. Publish your work in the commons or perish in your walled garden.

4. 500 words is a decent size and optimal for searches and sharing. If you can, make sure the title of your release is in a <h2>header tag, usually size 2,3 or 4 </h2> and *not* bold. Search engines look for the official titles of your event in these tags.

3. If you are sending out an email then make sure you have a web page version as well that links up.  It’s ok if the email is very basic and / or without an image as long as long as it has a link to more info. Also, make sure you have your full website address in the release. It also provides a place to link to for people who want to share your image – this is the essence of social media marketing for arts and culture. It is very surprising how many PR emails I have seen without these links.

2. Add a social bookmarking link or button if you can i.e. addthis or shareit. You want people to be able to list your information on websites like digg and delicious instantly. Plus, it is a another direct path for people to share your info to social media galleries.

1. Purely social media PR works really well for events and over the long-term, but for the art world especially it is important to at least have a modest print presence as well for a show that runs more than a day. For example, of Facebook event guests who confirm attendance you can usually depend on around 20% actually showing up. The event info then tends to get “buried” in the stream of event announcements and attendance drops off considerably.

I welcome any other tips and suggestions for our industry, these were just on the top of my mind this morning  – don’t forget to submit your PR / subscribe to 🙂