A year ago, Julia Kaganskiy (aka @juliaxgulia) quietly began the Arts, Culture and Technology group in New York on Meetup.com. It was a simple idea: link up geeks with a love of culture. It may sound obvious in the art capital of the world but Julia was the first person to think it up and follow through.
#ArtsTech, as it is affectionally called on Twitter, has since blossomed to a group with over 800 members and monthly events that frequently sell out. As a tribute to Julia & her hard work on #ArtsTech (which she does for FREE!), artist An Xiao and I began a Kickstarter fundraiser for Julia with the plan to raise $2,000 so that she has the resources to continue to grow the group and start more ambitious projects. We’re almost there but with 5 days to go we need your help. UPDATE: At the request of Julia, and in light of the recent events in Haiti, including today’s aftershock, we have changed the focus of the fundraiser to benefit the survivors of the Haitian earthquake. All donations will go to Partners in Health. The fundraiser has been cancelled.
MAKE A DONATION NOW … Only 45 more pledges of $25 will make the fundraiser a success! Please help us reach our goal.
In order to motivate pledges, I interviewed Julia about the group and what she has in store for us.
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Hrag Vartanian: Congratulations on a year of #ArtsTech. What was the impetus for the group’s founding?
Julia Kaganskiy: After a trip to the Whitney Museum with a friend, I found myself lamenting the fact that the arts were no longer a part of my professional life as I was working at a tech start-up and I had originally gone to journalism school to write about arts and culture. My friend said, “Wait a minute. There has to be someone doing what you’re doing at museums and galleries. I’ll bet there’s someone at the Met wondering what to do with social media.”
It had never really occurred to me, I guess. That night, I came home and started researching how museums and galleries were making use of the web, what was happening at the intersection of arts and technology. I found that the space was actually quite fertile, there were some amazing initiatives under way, many in New York, but there seemed to be a disconnect between the arts world and the tech world here, which I felt was to the detriment of both communities.
The same friend suggested I start a meetup group to continue my own education and to bring these communities together. After some hesitation, I did exactly that.
I wanted to create a support system for the arts community in New York, a place where people could discuss what was happening in the digital world with emerging technologies and share knowledge, ideas, triumphs and challenges. I also wanted to bring in as many people from the arts world as possible to be part of this conversation and to get people from all facets of the cultural sector thinking about the ways digital space was impacting their work and the changes it might warrant. After seeing what had happened to industries that waited too long to adapt to a digital universe (i.e. music and journalism), I didn’t want to see the same thing happen to art
HV: What’s been the outcome of starting #ArtsTech? Any surprises?
JK: I guess the most surprising thing initially, and probably still to this day, is how much interest and enthusiasm there is for this topic. I mean, I had over a hundred people sign up in the first few weeks.
My first meetup event last January at ArtBar had about 60 or so people in attendance — I was freaking out … I had no idea what to do with that many people! And now the group’s membership is approaching the 1,000 person mark, which is incredible because who would have thought that so many people would share such a niche interest? While there are other organizations dedicated to art and technology, they approach the issue from the vantage point of new media art (Eyebeam, Rhizome, HarvestWorks). I don’t think anybody else was examining what was happening on the institutional front … how technology was affecting the arts as in industry.
I would say that the outcome has surpassed my expectations and ambitions for the group.
HV: An & I started a fundraiser for you on Kickstarter to purchase a new Digital SLR for two reasons: one, we think what you’ve done with the group is great; and two, we know this will help you develop some upcoming projects. Can you give us an inkling about what you have in store for us?
JK: Oh gosh … so many things! I have more ideas than there are months in the year, and the list is continuously growing, especially now that I have an amazing organizing committee to brainstorm with.
In the next few months we have a couple of events planned that I’m really excited about. We’re hoping to shake things up a bit during Social Media Week in February with an event showcasing how some artists are incorporating social media into their art.
In March, I’m working on putting together a two-day conference on social media for the arts with the Roger Smith Hotel and The LAB Gallery. We’re calling it SMart Camp and I’m envisioning it as something of a mini-social media bootcamp. I’m hoping this event will help artists and arts organizations develop a better sense of how to use these tools to find and connect with their communities.
Another idea I’ve been thinking about for a while is doing a project matchmaking session within the #ArtsTech community. Then there’s another, slightly tangential, project I’m working on with my roommate Karen. I don’t think we’re ready to talk about it yet, it’s still being refined. It’s largely been spurred by the time I’ve spent at the MoMA these past few months and being surrounded by so much amazing art all the time … it’s hard not to get caught up in that. The camera will help me document #ArtsTech as it grows and be used for video & slide presentations at all these events. I volunteer my time, as do all the committee members, so we can use as much help as we can get. Needless to say, the sky is the limit with the proper resources.
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