Artists as Techies: 2005 in Review
By Justin Sondak in Arts & Entertainment on Dec 29, 2005 2:28PM
One major drawback to having an endless array of cultural offerings at our front yard is that any attempt to condense our experiences into a year-end summary or “Best Of” list necessarily falls short. Not a huge loss since Top 10 lists are so passe. [Note to our editors: this doesn’t apply to you, we’re sure any lists you publish will be awesome!] Instead we turn our attention to an overriding theme of ’05: the marriage of arts and technology in Chicago.
Podcasting our World
Podcasting, a.k.a. putting an MP3 on your website for mass downloading, was this year’s unavoidable buzzworld and an idea that took with savvy arts marketers and critics. From Talk Theater’s news headline round up to The House Theatre’s production chronicles to the Bad At Sports critical showcase, podcasts allow us to capture newsworthy and frivolous moments that would previously have been lost in the ether.
Podcasts exploded into the mainstream when business and media outlets recognized a powerful new way to connect with their customers. Millennium Park caught the wave this summer, rolling out a Pod-friendly guided tour appealing to art and history buffs alike. Broadway in Chicago’s news and promo podcast debuted over the summer, a heap of cotton candy in the iTunes menu that helps us appreciate Wicked, Cats, and Spamalot.
Art & Theater Bloggers: A Real Look Behind the Scenes
Artists have learned to stop worrying and start embracing the internet, as more marketing efforts migrate to the blogosphere. Utilizing the same readily available programs everyone and their siblings have mastered for personal publishing, local companies are parting the curtain and inviting us into our studios, hoping we’ll return on opening night. We loved how the Infamous Commonwealth Theatre synthesized rehearsal and production details with Kentucky history and heritage to promote their ambitious Kentucky Cycle. Visual arts blogs are proliferating slower, but we’ve enjoyed sampling the work at A Comedy of Errors.
Fresh off its first leadership change in eight years, The League of Chicago Theaters turned its attention towards enhanced marketing and business partnerships. Integral to this is a retooled website featuring a sophisticated search engine of member performances, a search engine so effective it was promptly co-opted by this guy.
Not to be outdone by high-tech thespians, the See Chicago Dance website launched in late summer to promote Chicagoland’s web of professional dance performances via a comprehensive calendar, company profiles, and special offers. A marketing tool funded by area foundations to more effectively promote an underappreciated art form, the site invites free postings from venues and companies to smooth the patron’s experience. Their site still doesn’t allow advanced searches, but we applaud this first step and wish them success in drawing the butts to the seats.
Chicago Gallery News continues to impress us, tossing hundreds of art spaces into the virtual food processor, then sorting gallery openings and neighborhood scenes into something coherent.
Visit Us At…
Less earth shattering but a step in the right direction, many of our favorite cultural institutions redesigned their websites. Programmers armed with new and better programming scripts and infrastructure and teamed with talented designers have assembled more attractive, more sophisticated web magic for The Art Institute, The Museum of Contemporary Photography, The Spertus Institute, Gallery 37, The Chicago Architecture Foundation, and many, many others.
2006 promises a new round of breakneck changes that will render this list of innovations quaint. We’re look forward to reporting them. Happy New Year everybody!