Colorado artist Neil Haverstick received a 1999 Artist Fellowship in Music Composition, and was the first artist featured on the Virtual Chautauqua site. (Photo courtesy of the CCA)
Six years ago, if you asked a roomful of Colorado artists and arts administrators how many of them had modems, only one or two might have raised their hands. If you asked the question six days ago, not only would the vast majority have raised their hands, but most would probably have their own Web pages, as well.
In this fast-changing world of multimedia, microchips, megabits and websites, what is the role of the state arts agency?
One might argue that promoting the use of technology, much less training artists how to build Web pages, isn't really the job of a state arts agency. However, one of the most important functions of the Colorado Council on the Arts (CCA) and other state arts agencies is to nurture the creativity of artists and arts organizations and broaden opportunities for people to participate in the arts. This is especially true today as more and more cultural assets and experiences are being shaped by technology--leading to new art forms and new roles for artists. The CCA has addressed these challenges by integrating technology into its commitment to broadening access to, participation in and appreciation for the arts.
Technology Improves Outreach
Before the Colorado Council on the Arts could help its constituents deal with technology, it had to get its own house in order. Four years ago, the CCA began incorporating technology into its operations. Today, artists and arts organizations can download applications and guidelines from the CCA website, as well as browse the Colorado Artist Register Newsletter, with the latest information on exhibitions, workshops and other opportunities. These and other changes like desktop Internet access for staff have helped the agency reduce expenses and improved its outreach to the state's distant and geographically separated communities. Helping its arts constituents make sense of the often bewildering and ever-expanding universe of technology was CCA's next goal.
"People can't just automatically make full use of the Internet," says Fran Holden, CCA executive director. "They need guidance and support and state arts agencies play a pivotal role in providing artists access to technology they would otherwise be unable to afford." The arts council began by including technology sessions in all of its Regional Arts Dialogue conferences, providing hands-on computer labs in partnership with local universities, community colleges and libraries.
New Outlets, New Opportunities
The Web's potential for communication and bringing people together became evident in these workshops. The opportunity to capitalize on this potential followed almost immediately, as the CCA was selected as a mentor site for Open Studio, a national Internet training project supported by the Benton Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Through Open Studio, 60 Colorado artists and arts administrators have learned basic skills in online communications and electronic publishing during the last two years.
Making Colorado's arts just a mouse-click away is the purpose of the Arts to Zoo Colorado website. Begun in the pre-Web days of paper event calendars, the CCA's support and collaboration with local partners has transformed this modest beginning into an interactive marketing tool for participating organizations and a virtual meeting place and resource for the arts community and others.
Another project that pushes the boundaries of technology is Virtual Chautauqua. In Colorado, the ratio of music teachers to students is 1 to 700. The Internet, while not a substitute for live instruction, is one avenue for exposing children to a variety of musical and other performing arts experiences. Using streaming audio and video technologies, Virtual Chautauqua will focus on delivering performing arts via the Internet to rural students and people with disabilities. Thanks to a grant from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, CCA is partnering with the University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder Community Network and nine other organizations to revive this notion of chautauquas, which for 98 years brought artists, musicians and educators together to share their talent with the community.
Creative Links: The Rocky Mountain Conference on Art and Technology, convened by the CCA in February 1999, showcased the work of its Open Studio artists and provided the digital debut of one of the performing artists for Virtual Chautauqua. It also gave the Colorado arts community and others a chance to look at how far they've come, plus hear from others about what the future holds for the arts and technology.
"The impact of technology on the arts is particularly exciting and significant because it is opening new opportunities for artists, and for those who love the arts. Artists are able to use new technologies to expose their work to the world, often at just the click of a key. . . And finally, and perhaps most importantly, artists are using new technologies to engage with people and communities that have not previously had exposure to, or involvement with, the arts." --Keynote speaker Larry Irving, assistant secretary for communications and information, U.S. Department of Commerce