Archive for November, 2010

No need to feel queasy with tools like Weebly!

Sunday, November 28th, 2010

By Nancy Switkes, Managing Director of The Georgetown Quintet

How much longer must we hear the stereotype that artists and musicians are lousy at promoting ourselves?

For example, Weebly, a free website tool, made it surprisingly easy to put The Georgetown Quintet on the Web, giving the public an appealing way to learn much more about us.  Check our site out at: www.georgetownquintet.com.

After performing live music concerts for the past six years, our woodwind quintet found 2010 was the year for us to bust out of our bubble to engage the larger world online. What was different about this year, in the history of this talented, daring woodwind quintet?

We finally found a consultant to help us. David Y. Todd, a PR consultant in Silver Spring, Md. (www.davidytodd.com) With his counsel, we met a slew of milestones. In nine months, The Georgetown Quintet:

  1. Fulfilled our second Arts and Humanities Council grant, commissioning a new piece for quintet + bass clarinet, and performing it for a really eclectic audience that included a group of “mentally challenged” adults from an institution, who (despite that odd clinical label) were a joy to perform with and who really “got” the music we presented
  2. Earned a great cover feature article in The Gazette
  3. Launched www.georgetownquintet.com (our Weebly-built site)
  4. Successfully pitched our group with a press kit to WPFW-FM show host of Brother Ah, who then interviewed us for two full hours on his popular evening program
  5. Got concert coverage in the Washington Afro American newspaper
  6. Secured an autumn concert booking at BlackRock Center for the Arts that we’d been working on for two years
  7. Received a positive review on Patch.com, and
  8. Raised $1,500 in private donations to fund a concert before another diverse and enthusiastic audience of nearly 100 people in Northeast Washington, DC

Whew!!

David Todd’s class in PR 101 for small entrepreneurs and organizations is a helpful launching pad. He’s a personable guy who knows the news business, tight writing, art, religion, history, politics and more. He has surprised me by understanding some really obscure music references.

On our shoestring budget, I hired David for brief conversations in which he helped me produce press releases,cover letters and emails. He saw the bigger picture for our group from the perspective of journalists, funders and
audiences; I tended to see it from within the ensemble. When it appeared we were going to get a booking at BlackRock in late 2010, I knew the time had come to act on getting the website I’d been postponing.

I started by taking David’s advice to set up a professional-looking email address: tgquintet@gmail. Then on his advice I played around with Weebly.com (–a free Web site design and hosting service – no fee, no obligation). I figured out basics of how to pick out a nice-looking template and where to place text.

Pre-writing the script was a preliminary “must” before going online.! Then, after another couple of hours, I learned how to insert photos and use
the built-in option for headings. The look of Weebly’s screen makes it easy and fun.

Full disclosure: it took a computer-savvy friend another few hours to add some fancy extras such as sample audio from performances and maps to events. But I’m confident that anyone who can read this, can launch a Weebly site.

The main thing is to write the online content for your whole site before you begin. And then be willing to put in some hours playing around with it.! Get a friend to help. That makes it a lot more fun.

Several important points of what we learned:

  1. Write your online content with a word processing program, then print it out. Work out your aesthetic choices of font style and size in THAT program, before you input the portions of text into the Weebly templates.
  2. You can put a text box inside another text box. That makes it easier to manipulate the look to get different headlines, subtitles and a skinny box to the left of a wider box.
  3. I liked that Weebly in its various templates gave us a lot of choices to pick from. We’d already come up with our logo from a graphic designer last year. It was easy to upload that into the Weebly banner. I like the color scheme we went with. You don’t have to obsessively tinker by trying every shade of blue…There are good color combinations already preset to choose from.

If you have been dragging your feet about launching a website, have some fun exploring Weebly.com. It’s so easy that any artist can use it and have success!

Out and about — again!

Monday, November 8th, 2010

Another snapshot from my weekend, taken with the Hipstamatic app on my iPhone. Where in Montgomery County am I?

Take a guess — comment below, send a reply to @creativemoco or comment on this blog post link on our Facebook wall. Unfortunately, we don’t have anything to give you, but we can send good vibes your way. And let’s just be honest — isn’t that a lot better? :)

UPDATE: Kyle S. got it right on our Facebook wall! I was at Story/Stereo at The Writer’s Center, featuring readings by Emerging Writer Fellowship recipients Doreen Baingana and Alison Pelegrin and a set by musician Devin Ocampo. Unfortunately this was the last Story/Stereo event of the fall, but it will be returning in the spring. Check out video on The Writer’s Center’s YouTube channel and find other Writer’s Center events on their calendar.

PhotoKids Snap the Mall to Test Laptops for Children in Third World Countries

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

Today, ten young MoCo photographers (ages 6 to 13) are hitting the National Mall for an afternoon of experimentation and art making. Led by artist Joanne Miller, these student photographers are not only hoping to get some great photos on this spectacular Autumn day, but they’re also helping to test a photography application on special “XO” laptops that will be given to children in third world countries by the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) nonprofit organization.

Click here to see the photographs as they are being made right now

What’s particularly poignant about today’s exercise is that these young photographers were participants in a summer program called “PhotoKids” that AHCMC and Housing Opportunities Commission’s (HOC) developed in 2009. With grant funds from AHCMC and Sovereign Bank, Joanne was hired to provide a ten-week summer program that took the children on a journey of discovery–about art, about nature, about themselves.

Once a week, Joanne and the kids visited nature sites: Roosevelt Island, Butler’s Orchard, Brookside Gardens and Great Falls to name a few. Living in a subsidized public housing community in Gaithersburg, most of the children had never been to a farm or a national park. Their wonder at the wildness of rivers, fragility of frogs and beauty of flowers is evident in the stunning photographs they took. Joanne supplied all the cameras and at the end of the summer, each child received a photo album and a CD of their photographs. Exhibition of the children’s photographs were held at the Family Resource Center where they lived and at the Executive Office Building (EOB) in Rockville.

Now PhotoKids is back again! This time taking on the National Mall and helping other children connect to the big, wide world.  After photographing iconic sites at the Mall, the children are uploading their photo to the XO computers—that’s actually a part of the software testing being done today.  The children’s feedback will help the program designers improve the software for use by children around the world. On site with Joanne to help out with technical difficulties is Mike Lee of Sugar Labs, DC, a developer of activities for OLPC.

Programs like PhotoKids are incredibly effective in helping children develop into the kind of people you want to have in your life.  They’re interesting and interested, they’re empathetic, they persevere, they’re fearless and  they think creatively about problems.  Not just art problems, but the problems of the world, and right now with oil slicks in the Gulf, war in Afghanistan and the problem of affordable health care, shouldn’t we be teaching our kids how to tackle really tough problems?

Thank you Joanne Miller, HOC and One Laptop Per Child for unleashing PhotoKids on the world today!!! Click here to see what you can do.

To find out more about One Laptop Per Child click here.