Saturday, April 17, 2010

Like WOW -- training and promoting Wyoming's art and artists

Negotiated the foggy summit between Cheyenne and Laramie yesterday. This time of year brings fog and snow and rain and hail and any number of interesting weather conditions. It also brings lots of arts events.

On Friday, Works of Wyoming (WOW) in Laramie was hosting its first-ever Starving Artists' seminars. It included sessions on "Photographing Your Work," Developing an Arts Web Site" and "Promoting Yourself as an Artist." I dropped in just in time for the latter, taught by digital artist and graphic designer Chuck Egnaczak, who once taught in the University of Wyoming art department and now is at the University of Tampa.

I was the only writer in a classroom full of artists. But every topic covered by Chuck applied to writers as well.

Some notes from my journal:

"Building a personal brand is critical."

"Self-promotion is the most important thing you can do."

"Before you put up a web site, establish its purpose. Design it as a focused strategic ad for you."

"Testimonials are the most efficient way of selling in the U.S."

"Design your own multimedia CV to promote your work."

I thought about my web presence as a writer. I have a blog that's mostly about politics. I have a web site that's moribund. I have established a fan page on Facebook but haven't activated it yet.

Time to rethink all this. Most successful writers I know have their names on their web sites and blogs. I don't, having opted for a more thematic approach in hummingbirdminds. That's in keeping with creative blog titles that match the blogger. "Left in the West" to match Montanan Matt Singer's leftie slant. "Big Square State" to denote the home of some very active Colorado prog-bloggers. "Red State" is a conservative blogger's site and comes from a red state much like my own. And so on.

Again, most successful fiction writers I know keep politics off of their sites -- or keep it to a minimum. This is mostly true of my moribund web site. It features samples of my short fiction. Also essays on a variety of topics: literary tourism, ADHD, mental health and politics. My blog, on the other hand, focuses on my stand as a progressive in a red state. It's a pretty good brand, but I really haven't used it to further my writing career.

By the way, "brand" is a common term in the West. A public walkway that connects the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens with the Old West Museum features imprints of brands from local cattle ranches. If you're a rancher, that brand covers all aspects of your life, from the ranch itself to your family's identity to the cattle you raise. Having a brand is not only important -- it's crucial.

When you say "brand" here, pardner, you better mean it.

Mr. Egnaczak spent a lot of his time on this very subject. I've been thinking about it ever since.

The WOW's Starving Artists' seminars covered three days. It drew artists from around the state. WOW's Sarah Dahlberg says that there will be others. Meanwhile, Works of Wyoming's brochure lists a full slate of activities. Next up is "Works (for and by) Fabulous Women."

Works of Wyoming is calling for artists for our Fabulous Women Show. If you make artwork for or about women (women's issues, tribute to a woman in your life, etc.) or you are a woman and make art, you are eligible to participate in our show. Work can be in any media. Applications can be found online at and should be submitted to by Friday, April 30. There will be a $15 entry fee for works chosen.

Our show is also open to spoken-word artists and musicians if your work is for, about, or by ve minutes to perform or read a piece. Titles, lyrics or descriptions of pieces must be submitted by Friday, April 30, to be eligible.

The gallery opening will be held on Friday, May 14, 6 p.m.

Another big WOW event happening May 14 -- I'll be on hand at 3 p.m. talking about Wyoming Arts Council programs for individual artists.

I encourage my fellow writers in Cheyenne and Laramie to enter a piece for the "Fabulous Women" opening night event. I may do the same.

Not only is it important for artists and writers to get their work out into the public domain. We need to support these homegrown efforts to promote Wyoming's creative folks. WOW sells local art in its gift shop. Offices are in the old civic center building -- new uses for attractive old buildings.

Local art. Local artists. Local writers. Local business.

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