This project will provide local artists with a platform to promote themselves, their work and their creative process to a greater local and international public. Artists will be given a camera and laptop for 3 weeks each, to record their inspirations, creative processes, challenges, successes and photos of artwork. They will be assisted in creating & managing a blog and accounts with facebook, twitter, & pinterest. Each artists’ various online activities will all be recorded on a parent website for the project, and they will be urged/taught to continue their online presence after their 3-weeks
What locality or neighborhood will your project focus on?
Describe the specific community with whom you will be working.
The project will involve visual artists working and living in Swaziland. Though aware of and experienced in using (to varying degrees) the internet, many of the artists do not have actual internet access, nor equipment like computers or cameras. However there is easy mobile internet access, as well as internet cafes (which are expensive), and internet access at the Art Centre for Yebo Artists – the missing aspect is a resource which teaches the artists how to best make use of these access points. Much of their representation as artists is still in its infancy stages with few means to make themselves or their work publicized and known on any sort of international stage. This initiative, through ArtReach, will link them to a far larger community via strong online presence and promotion.
What kinds of news, stories and other content will be created?
In Swaziland fine art is seen as exclusive and elite, and perhaps “unattainable” as a profession. By documenting their personal creative processes, their daily inspirations, challenges and successes surrounding their art (through photos, narratives, thoughts, introspection, and their general life in Swaziland) the artists will be able to demystify their work, making the world of the arts more accessible to the Swazi public. It will also broaden international awareness of the artists and art in Swaziland. Artists have played the role of of ‘common citizens with expansive voices’ in many countries around the world, and it is now time to explore the greater role that artists can play in being a mirror or window into the lives, struggles, and successes of people in contemporary Swaziland.
What technologies and digital tools do you plan to use in the trainings?
Describe the connections that you or your organization have already established that will contribute to the success of the project.
This project will partner with the established Swazi NGO called ArtReach. ArtReach aims to promote the arts, innovative skills-training and creative freedom of expression in Swaziland through various grassroots initiatives and development work . This project will be a continuation of an ongoing ArtReach project entitled Art Goes Public, promoting the engagement of the Swazi public with the arts through public performances and collaborative creations. This will take place in collaboration with Yebo Contemporary Art Gallery, whereby Yebo will provide the direct contact to various artists living and working in Swaziland to participate in the project. Visual arts partner-organisations in South Africa and Finland will also participate to promote the content created by the participating artists.
How many participants do you think will be involved in your project?
This project will train and promote a minimum of 12 local artists (at least one per month). The artists will each have 3 weeks of intensive use of equipment and attentive training in social networking and self-promotion through media. After this intensive time, ArtReach will provide a computer and camera on site for further documentation. The participants will be expected to keep their blogs updated with recent developments, thoughts, and photos, as well as final works. They will be encouraged to begin a new project or work to document during the course of their 3-week process, so as to more effectively engage with and showcase their subject matter. After their 3-weeks, they will be expected to continue updating their online portfolios, given free access to a laptop, camera and internet.
Describe which technologies, tools, and media you will focus on when training participants.
In terms of technological equipment, we will primarily focus on teaching skills of use and maintenance of professional cameras and laptops. We will then provide a “crash course” on the internet and social media in general (what is it, how it works, pros and cons, etc), and move onto instruction regarding specific websites (blog, facebook, twitter, pinterest) that they will be using. The artists will be creating and updating the accounts themselves, with continuous and accessible opportunities for assistance made available. They will also be taught the basics of photographing and photo editing. The project organizers are well versed and experienced in photography and social media, passing on this knowledge to the artists one at a time.
Describe the facilities where you will hold the workshops.
The initial workshops will take place at the ArtReach headquarters in the Art Centre at Mantenga, Ezulwini Valley. The facilities have reliable electricity access, with both ADSL and wireless internet connections available for visitors. There is no available computer for the artists to use, emphasizing the need for a laptop provided by the project. Thereafter, during their 3-week course the artists may update from their homes if possible, or bring the laptop and camera to the Art Centre to do their writing, editing and updating.
What is your current relationship with the community with whom you plan to work? What makes you the most appropriate individual or organization to implement this project?
ArtReach has worked with the Swaziland arts community and artists on a number of various projects over the last year, building a strong connection with all of them. This, coupled with Yebo Art Gallery's professional expertise and experience in the visual arts scene in Swaziland (both through its gallery, and online presence) makes us the best organisation to formally use the visual arts as a vehicle to express the lives of Swazi artists, promoting them personally and professionally. The artists are currently supportive of the idea, and would engage fully with such an opportunity. This would be an excellent project for developing our relationships with Swazi artists, as well as the longer term success of the artists and the arts in Swaziland through greater local and international exposure.
What specific challenges do you expect to face when planning and implementing your project?
A potential challenge will be the theft or damage of any equipment given to the artists for use at home. This will have to be addressed by ensuring that there are 2 laptops and cameras (this has the double benefit of perhaps allowing more than 1 artist to be utilizing them at once). Artists will have to sign an agreement beforehand regarding use and potential loss/damage of the equipment. Another consideration lies in Swaziland's international reputation for denying the basic right of ‘freedom of expression’. While this project aims to address these issues, this must be done with care and intention. The artists will attend a mandatory forum with the project coordinators to discuss how best to approach this potentially difficult situation, in an honest, expressive, safe and effective way.
How will you measure and evaluate the project’s impact, specifically: your primary participants, the wider regional community, or the global digital community?
The impact of the project will be immediately visible by the number of people following the artist/project on their blog, facebook, twitter and pinterest. This information will be useful in discovering the ‘reach’ of each particular artist, and the project as a whole. The content of each particular artist will be followed and evaluated so as to provide continuous feedback and suggestions, both during and after. All the content created will be cataloged for both current and future record (personal and professional), and will also be the content for a larger parent-website for the project and its participants. This being said, direct feedback from both the participating artists and the audience/viewers will be the most defining indicator on the actual impact of the project.
If your project were to be selected as a Rising Voices grantee, what would be the general timeline of project activities in 2013?
We would begin our planning sessions in May/June 2013, with the purpose of beginning the first round of activities by July 2013. From July, the project would run for 12 months (highlighting 1 to 2 artists each month). This time frame allows for intensive and sustained representation and promotion of all formally represented Yebo! Artists and more. Each month, the artist(s) would go through an introductory session (1-2 days) with the project coordinators of Q&A, basic technological training and guidelines, etc. The end of the month would consist of a formal conclusion and debrief with each artist of 1-2 days – what went well, what did not, how will this continue, what can be done, etc.
Each month will add to the development template of the approach to take up with the next artist. Artists will be aware several months in advance that they will be participating in this project. The project has strong potential to continue,given that ArtReach will have the necessary equipment & expertise.
Detail a specific budget of up to $4,000 USD for operating costs.
2 x PC Laptops @ $600 = $ 1200
2 x Small Digital Cameras @ $300 = $600
Internet Access @ $50 per month = $600
Mobile Airtime @ $50 per month = $600
Travel (artists) @ $30 per month = $360
Coordinator Expenses @ $50 per month = $600
Besides the microgrant funding, what other resources and support are you seeking for your project to ensure its success?
Rising Voices can assist by providing information and learning tools for beginners using and benefiting from an online presence and social networking. You can also help by promoting the artists blogs, websites, entries, photos and other content through your own online platforms and channels, creating more traffic and expanded attention to the artists, their work, and the project as a whole.