Creating networked community and presence for the non-profit arts from 1992 to 2002, Arts Wire, a program of the New York Foundation for the Arts, (NYFA) was a social media platform and Internet presence provider that began in 1992 with a text interface and moved to the web in 1996. With eventually over 80 different online conferences, Arts Wire hosted online discussion among artists and arts workers, worked with artists and arts organizations to provide Internet presence, produced Arts Wire Current (later NYFA Current) an influential weekly electronic newsletter about issues in the arts, and worked to expand diversity and collaboration in an art-centered Internet environment.
In 1988, in the days before the World Wide Web, a group of artists and arts workers got together at Orcas Island to discuss new ways of supporting artists. Many ideas came out of this conference, which was organized by the New York Foundation for the Arts, and the participants wanted to keep talking.
It was Seattle-based artist and arts administrator Anne Focke who came up with the idea of Arts Wire. Arts Wire began to take shape after a meeting with NYFA Director Ted Berger and others.
Anne's vision encompassed a virtual place for the arts of all kinds. Even in this era before the World Wide Web, there was excitement about bringing together artists' communities on online systems where ideas, information, and work could be shared nationally (and perhaps eventually globally) by artists and arts organizations throughout the world.
The idea of Arts Wire was shared by Ted Berger, the Executive Director of NYFA, whose broad knowledge of artists and the arts, vision that encompassed the importance of arts advocacy for the nonprofit arts, and support of Arts Wire over the years, were invaluable. NYFA Director of Programs, Penelope Dannenberg, was also involved with the development of Arts Wire from the very beginning, as was Director of Communications, David Green.
Initially led by Anne Focke and then by Michigan-based poet, Joe Matuzak, Arts Wire was run on a virtual online "office", a staff conference where from all over the country, we met to discuss our work: Barry Lasky and David Green at the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) in New York City; Joe Matuzak in Ann Arbor, MI; flutist, arts administrator Beth Kanter in Norfolk, MA; Tommer Peterson in Seattle; I (new media poet Judy Malloy) in Northern California; and Kim Adams in Detroit, MI.
Joe Matuzak, who became Arts Wire Co-Director and then Arts Wire Director in 1995, is a poet, who brought to Arts Wire a coherent technical vision, experience in both Arts Management and in technology, a broad knowledge of arts advocacy and the importance of advocacy, and a face to face networking ability. He also believed in the need for an online communications system for the arts and worked tirelessly to make Arts Wire sustainable.
The Steering Committee also "met" online. Among others, over the years they included
Jane Bello, Association of Hispanic Arts; Ted Berger, NYFA; Nancy Clarke, American
Music Center; Anna Couey, artist/networker, Steve Durland, artist/writer, High Performance; Pauline Oliveros,
composer; Randy Ross, American Indian Telecommunications; Gary Larson, National Endowment for the Arts;
artist Louis LeRoy, Association of American Cultures; Bill Pratt, Montana Arts Council and
Dan Martin, Director of the Master of Arts Management Program at Carnegie Mellon University,
which collaborated with Arts Wire beginning in 1996.
When Arts Wire was founded, I had been creating electronic literature online on Art Com Electronic Network (ACEN) on The WELL since 1986.I had also been the first editor of Leonardo Electronic News. (Now Leonardo Electronic Almanac), founded the Arts Conference on The WELL, and in Telluride worked at Deep Creek Camp, teaching MFA students in the Arts how create art online. I was an artist in residence and consultant on the document of the future at Xerox PARC. In 1993, I also began working for Arts Wire, initially brought on by network artist Anna Couey, Arts Wire's first Network Coordinator, whose network experience and community-centered approach were important in bringing Arts Wire online. I worked for Arts Wire from 1993-2004 -- in the early years helping the arts community to learn how to use modems and computers and hosting and coordinating Arts Wire conferencing. Later, I helped artists and arts organizations create and post web content, and I was editor of Arts Wire Current (that became NYFA Current) from 1996-2004.
But in 1993, I was happy to work to bring artists and arts organizations online. At that time, going online was quite difficult. It meant getting a modem, (They weren't standard with computers) then getting it to work with your computer which wasn't always easy. Then you needed a connection to get to the system and then you needed to negotiate the system using
text-based commands. Helping people get online required technical skill and a lot of time and patience. There were constant incompatibilities and technical failures, and it was *very* slow.
Until 2001, Arts Wire hosted over 80 arts discussion conferences and over 100 websites for artists
and arts organizations, and our Map included links to over 400 artists and arts organization members.
Among the conferences we hosted were
AIDSwire -- AIDS information. (maintained by Michael Tidmus)
ARTISTS -- a conference for and about artists.
ABBNET (Art Beyond Boundaries) -- for the states that sponsored the
annual ART BEYOND BOUNDARIES conference: Montana, Nebraska, North
Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming.
CENTER FOR SAFETY IN THE ARTS -- information on Art Hazards
(Maintained by Michael McCann)
INTERACTIVE, an online laboratory for focused discussion and production of interactive art founded by Anna Couey and Judy Malloy in 1993. Defining interactive art as: "involv[ing] exchange between is originator, work, and participants", the Interactive Art Conference hosted a virtual artist-in-residence program that provided artists a forum to discuss their work and their exploration of interactivity. Discussion topics covered a broad range of interactive art media, including computer mediated literature, social sculpture, art telecommunications, electronic art, artists books, public art, installation, and performance. The resulting conversations were informal, providing a snapshot in time of the approaches of new media artists to their work. Recently two interviews on the Interactive Art Conference have been published in print.
NATIVE ARTS NETWORK ASSOCIATION (NANA) -- a group of Native Arts
Organizations, from New York City to California, including Joanna Osborne
Bigfeather, American Indian Community House, NYC; Janeen Antoine,
American Indian Contemporary Arts; E. Donald Two Rivers, American Indian
Economic Development Assoc, Chicago, IL; Jennifer Baxter, Guilford Native
American Association, Greensboro, NC; Pat Petrivelli, Institute of Alaska
Native Arts; Susan Stewart, Montana Indian Contemporary Arts, Bozeman, MT --
with core involvement from Atatl in Phoenix, AZ. (Carla Roberts and Wendy
Weston-Ben) NANA was funded by the Nathan Cummings Foundation with tech help by Randy Ross.
NEA INFO -- Hosted by The National Endowment for the Arts,
NEA INFO contained a comprehensive listing of grant recipients.
NEWMUSNET. One of Arts Wire's first online Interest Groups, NewMusNet, a virtual place for information, discussion and publication of new music and issues about/for composers, performers and presenters of experimental music, began in the summer of 1992. NewMusNet was coordinated by musician/composers Pauline Oliveros, Douglas Cohen and David Mahler. Others active in NewMusNet were electronic music composer Carl Stone, musician/artsadvocate Gary O. Larson and composer/musicians, Thomas Bickley, Matthew Ross Davis, Joseph Zitt. After meeting and collaborating on NewMusnet, Bickley, Ross, and Zitt, formed Comma, an ensemble that -- using techniques including many extended uses of the voice as well as electro-acoustic environments -- recorded newly composed musical works, performance poetry, chant from various early traditions, and group improvisations.
NPN -- The National Performance Network (NPN) received funding to begin
its primary sponsors online to conduct NPN business and talk about the
field. Among the people who kept this conference lively was Mark Russell, artistic director of PS 122.
PROJECTARTNET -- created in 1993 by Aida Mancillas and Lynn Susholtz,
PROJECTARTNET was a San Diego-based community arts networking project
that brought children from schools in immigrant neighborhoods online to
create a community history.
WESTAF -- The Western State Arts Foundation is a regional arts
organization serving the Western states. On AW, they initiated
a subscriber-based online version of their job listing service ARTJOB.
In 1996, Arts Wire hosted an online component of the FOURTH NATIONAL
BLACK WRITERS CONFERENCE that was held at Medgar Evers College of the
City University of New York. The theme was "Black Literature in the 90's:
a Renaissance to End all Renaissances?" Keynote speakers for the Black Writers
Conference were Paule Marshall and Amiri Baraka. Marita Golden, Terry McMillan,
Bebe Moore Campbell, Walter Mosley, Arthur Flowers, Thulani Davis, and others
participated in a series of panels that included "Black Literature: Who
are the Readers?" and "Black Literature: The Politics of Publishing."
Texts of many of the speeches and online components for many of the panels were
available on Arts Wire.
Other conferences hosted on Arts Wire included PEOPLE FOR THE AMERICAN WAY; and LITNET.
Arts Wire also provided server space for
GENIND/NEME, Gender and Identity in New Media, a community building experimental hybrid of online conferencing,hypertextual documents, and discussion archives.
(Designed, programmed, and produced by Judy Malloy for the Invencao Conference, Sao Paulo, Brazil, August 25-29, 1999)
Arts Wire Current/NYFA Current
One of Arts Wire's initial goals was to provide current arts news that was not widely available and was vital to the work and life of Arts Wire constituents. The first Arts Wire Current editors were, when it was Hotwire, Anna Couey and Penny Boyer, followed by David Green, who renamed it Arts Wire Current. After David Green left NYFA in 1996 (to become the Director of The National Initiative for a Networked Cultural Heritage), I (Judy Malloy) became editor of Arts Wire Current, which was renamed NYFA Current in mid-November 2002.
As longterm Editor of Arts Wire Current/NYFA Current from 1996-2004, I worked to create a weekly publication that reached a large niche audience -- covering arts information not carried by the major media -- such as new music, alternative art spaces, performance art, censorship, diversity, arts advocacy, small dance and theater companies, artists' websites, and much more. In producing each issue, my editorial approach was to weave together information in a series of related themes -- focusing both on individual voices and on a coherent whole. For instance an issue with a focus on artist's housing included the following articles: "Cultural District Planned for the Brooklyn Academy of Music"; "Cultural Coalition Works to Buy Buildings in Boston"; "Artspace Housing Projects Planned in Poughkeepsie, NY and Bridgeport, CT"; "Chicago's Roentgen School to Convert to Artist Housing"; "Riverside Hotel in Reno Begins New Life as Artists Lofts"; "SF to vote on Propositions to Alleviate Dot Com Encroachment"; "Housing Planned for Endangered Artists in Seattle's Pioneer Square"; "Creating an Arts District on Mid-Market (San Francisco)"; and "Open Home: Westbeth".
One of Art Wire Current's most important roles was documenting the damage to the arts community in New York City in the aftermath of 911. Extensive coverage began in the following weeks with:
"In the Wake of the Terrorist Attack, Artists and Arts Organizations Rally to Help Those in Need; Jamaican Sculptor Michael Richards Missing; LMCC Offices Obliterated";
"Call for Artists to Work with the Families of WTC Destruction Victims";
"Reports of Arts Community Losses Accumulate as Artists and Arts Administrators Cope with the Aftermath of Disaster; Stories of Survival and of Helping Hands Bring Light in the Darkness; In Union Square,Shrines Express a Collective Grief";
"As Americans Gather Together to End Terrorist Attacks, Freedom of Expression is a Vitally Important Liberty: Bipartisan Coalition Urges Protection of America's Constitutionally Guaranteed Freedoms"; "Help for Artists and Organizations Impacted by WTC Attack"; "CERF Provides Disaster Relief to Craftspeople"; "Santa Fe Art Institute Offers Free Residencies to Artists Whose Spaces Have Been Compromised by the Terrorism"; "Michael Richards, 1963-2001".
Vitality, Diversity and Cultural Significance
The vitality, diversity, and cultural significance of its individual artist and nonprofit organization members were at the core of its Arts Wire's collective vision. Among Arts Wire members were writers, visual artists, musicians, dancers and theatre artists. Arts Wire members also included critics, arts administrators, arts funders, such as the National Endowment for the Arts and the Andy Warhol Foundation, and arts organizations -- from Out North in Anchorage, Alaska to DiverseWorks in Houston, Texas to the Frank Silvera Writers' Workshop Foundation, in New York City; from American Indian Telecommunications to Opera America. Creating a diverse cultural presence on the Internet, Arts Wire members also included the National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures, the Asian Cultural Council, the Kitchen and PS122 in New York City, as well as the Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers, the American Music Council, The Joyce Theater, and Americans for the Arts, among many others.
In summary, from 1992-2002, providing an online portal for artists, arts administrators, and arts funders from all around the country and potentially globally, Arts Wire offered a forum to share news, ideas, work, programs and core advocacy concerns.
If initially Arts Wire was ahead of its time, nevertheless, Arts Wire participation provided a confidence and experience in working online that greatly contributed to creating the rich and diverse presence of the arts in the contemporary Internet.
In an article about Director Joe Matuzak and Arts Wire, the Detroit Free Press wrote: "It could be the poster child for Internet theory 101; that's the one that says those who focus their attention on content will rule the Web. Arts Wire's pages are an overflowing cyber-font of content. Indeed, it is one of the richest sources on the Internet for information about the arts and arts education, and it earned a 1997 ComputerWorld designation as one of the 100 most effective organizations at using Internet technology."