Here We Are In 2018; Part One of A Long-Winded Rambling Reflection on the Past, Present, and Future Trajectory of the Active Artists Alliance :: By Bill Thomas

January 2, 2018

We were motivated to start this vague networking project fourteen years ago when we were basically a bunch of kids from Jamestown NY, and we thought nothing cool ever happened there. We made an email list at a party, designed a logo, bought a domain name and launched a website in the Fall of 2004. It was the very beginning of the social media era, and we were essentially creating our own online social network, even though the phrase “social media” wasn’t in our vocabulary. We did start a Myspace page fairly quickly, but things like Twitter, Youtube, or smartphones didn’t even exist yet. Facebook was less than a year old, and was still a couple years away from becoming widely used. For most of us, The Active Artists Alliance was our first big collaborative project that we had worked on, and it was exciting to be a part of creating something that felt brand new.

As a group of creative individuals with almost no experience organizing anything, it took us a while to figure out what it really was that we wanted to do, or how to make any kind of decision at all. It took over a year of discussion to finally figure out how to organize our first Art / Music / Poetry showcase event at a local brewpub, but we eventually did pull it off successfully at EBC in Fredonia NY in April 2006, and it felt amazing. The following summer we were presented with the opportunity to display our artwork at some local music festivals, so a few of us chipped in the money to buy a big white heavy-duty carport tent. We began figuring out how to securely set the tent up and make it into a mobile art gallery to share our work with festival goers and meet more like-minded creative people from around our region.  

To promote these local festival appearances, and the one or two yearly shows that we would organize around this time, we would mainly use our website, our direct email list, a couple of local music forums, and physical posters that we would hang in hot spots around our county. There was one local alt-weekly newspaper who would regularly run our press releases & event posters for us and we were, of course, increasingly using social media for promotion, simply because it was becoming easier & easier to reach a much larger audience. By the Fall of 2008, everybody’s attention was focused on Facebook, and when we wanted to promote something, we could easily reach several thousand people with one post, rather than the four or five hundred people we were reaching through our website or the large amount of legwork involved with hanging posters. This was a time of transition, where we were growing our network faster than ever, building awareness, and improving our ability to organize events in the real world, but not focusing as much effort and energy into real world promotion or the online community around our website, since it had become so much more efficient to communicate and promote and reach people via Facebook. Over the decade that followed, this trend continued, for better or worse.

Now, in 2018, it still feels great to look back at the 100+ art & music events that we’ve been involved with, the creative community we’ve all become a part of, and the great things that have been have happening in our hometown region lately, BUT we can’t help feeling that we, as a non-profit artists’ collective, could be doing a better job and focusing our energy in more effective ways. We definitely need to step up our efforts to generate interesting content for our website, and to keep people informed of the shows & events that we already regularly organize. A quick look at our blog here shows that our header image is almost three years old, and we’ve only made three or four posts since 2014, even though during that time we have been doing plenty of stuff that people would probably be interested in hearing about. We know we need to do better, and we feel that the time has arrived for another transitional period for us, to not only begin working closer to our full potential, but to chart a new, revised course for the future direction of the Active Artists Alliance. Anyone who has read this far and who thinks they might be interested in helping us determine the answers to these, and other philosophical questions, should definitely reach out to us at AAAllianceWNY(at)gmail(dot)com.

(This post has already become much longer than intended, stay tuned for Part Two, which will be shared here later this week. I'm working up to something with this, I swear...)

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