To foster community and growth, Steamboat area visual artists turn to social media |

To foster community and growth, Steamboat area visual artists turn to social media

Pictured is Sue Oehme's "Pacific Patch Elevator" piece. Teddy Benson, social media manager for the fine print studio Oehme Graphics, has been spending his remote working days uploading the studios inventory to Instagram.
Courtesy photo

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS —With art galleries, shops and in-person classes closed, local artists and arts organizations are focusing on showing their work and connecting with potential clients over social media. 

Some are recalibrating the happenings in their studios onto video, where anyone can tune in. 

Usually, when Julie Anderson of Warehome Studios fires her gas-firing kiln full of her students’ pottery, she hosts a kiln opening party, in which everyone sees the newest batch of finished pieces and learns from each other’s processes and outcomes. After the most recent firing Wednesday, Anderson was alone in the studio, but the party went on via video on Facebook and Instagram, with the camera panning over close-ups of brand-new bowls, mugs, plate sets, teapots, ashtrays and flasks, each shining its own distinct design and glaze colors. 

Anderson is also looking into teaching pottery via video. While most of her students don’t have pottery wheels at home to follow along with, Anderson has been renting out the wheels that usually live in her studio.

“Becoming more comfortable with video has been an interesting process, and learning how to make money from these things is the hard part,” she said, “But at least now, I’ll have the time to figure it out.”

Over at Steamboat Creates’ social media pages, Program Director Sylvie Piquet has been hosting “Young at Art @HOME” video classes about crafts, yoga and other creative activities for all ages, since mid-March.

“I have felt grateful to have an opportunity to offer a healthy way to engage with the community while encouraging everyone to stay safe during this challenging time,” Piquet said. “While sharing online doesn’t come close to being able to share creativities in person, it feels like a relief to be able to offer some creative engagement.” 

Steamboat Creates is planning to expand its online class offerings with “Pivot Point: Creative Tools for Personal Empowerment,” which was originally scheduled to launch in September but will now go live this month. 

“Pivot Point will provide people an opportunity to connect with others, engage in creative and mindfulness exercises and develop coping and self-empowerment skills,” Piquet said.

The classes, while free to participants, will also be an opportunity for local artists and creatives who teach a class to earn income through the Arts in Society grant.

Other arts organizations are using different social media strategies to try to grow.

Teddy Benson manages social media for the fine print studio Oehme Graphics. He’s been spending his remote workdays focusing on Instagram, uploading the studio’s inventory of thousands of pieces of artwork into Instagram stories — reels of photos and videos that are available for 24 hours — organized by artist.

“This is a more interactive, highly trafficked platform than an actual website,” Benson said. “It allows the viewer to leap between an art piece to that artist’s page to other galleries they work with.”

Benson noted he hasn’t seen galleries or studios utilize Instagram stories and story highlights this way before. 

“We want to open up a conversation with viewers,” Benson said. “We’re always available to answer questions about the price (of a piece) but also how that piece was made or information about the artist.” 

Several weeks ago, the Instagram page was getting an estimated eight pageviews per week; now, the page is fetching 150 views weekly. 

At Pine Moon Fine Art Gallery, gallerist Dani Steeves also has been working on growing the gallery’s online presence, focused on promoting its individual artists. One series explores the studios of the gallery’s artists in photos; another highlights their individual pieces. There’s also a virtual video tour of the gallery, which will be updated monthly.

“We want to stay connected to all of our clients and especially those who are used to coming to the gallery — to not only see the new artwork and how the gallery transforms but to talk and connect to the individual artists,” Steeves said. 

How artists can best use social media

“Social media may be intimidating to some people but right now, there are so many people looking to connect. The biggest response we have seen is through video. If you are a local artist, consider offering an on-line class or workshop or Facebook live stream. Or, share a video of what you are working on and a link to your website where people can purchase your work. If you are a musician, post a video of you playing your favorite song. If you want to reach the younger generation, post a video on TikTok.

“It’s important to remember that while many people are facing financial hardship right now, there are just as many members of our community who are looking to help and support those in need. Help them find you and find work they can purchase. Local artists can also send information to Steamboat Creates, and if the content fits, we will share on our social media. As a community, we need to come together to support one another any way we can.” — Sylvie Piquet, Steamboat Creates

Benson notes he’s seen individual artists post more actively on their own social media accounts during the past few weeks of isolation, so there’s more new content for viewers to explore across the platform.

“I’m excited to see how this evolves,” he said. 

Julia Ben-Asher is a contributing writer for Steamboat Pilot & Today.

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