The funding will be used to develop a new GCAC endeavor titled “$MART ART, Shared Workspace.”
Garrett County Board of Commissioners Chairman Paul Edwards applauded the grant award.
“The commissioners were excited to support GCAC in their $MART ART, Shared Workspace grant application,” he said. “We are pleased to continue to assist the organization with its goal of enriching the community through a variety of arts experiences. This funding award will go a long way in keeping the arts community active across the entire county.”
With the recent expansion of broadband internet access in Garrett County and an increased need for a more creative workforce, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the GCAC designed a plan to help demonstrate to the local community how to best use these increased technological opportunities.
In applying for the grant, the GCAC envisioned “$MART ART, Shared Workspace,” an ADA-accessible community workspace equipped with various digital and traditional tools, with services to assist rural art entrepreneurs in navigating the growing digital-based economy.
“This project is both a timely response to the COVID-19 pandemic and an informed organizational effort to respond to the local need for resources to help overcome the lack of online skills or resources,” said Kathy Beachler, executive director of the GCAC, who led the grant application team. “In our program, the arts council will provide vital educational and professional development services while creating new employment opportunities for artists and professionals in a resource capacity.”
The GCAC’s strategic plan for the next decade is to expand rural entrepreneurship opportunities, increase education access and youth engagement and expand a creative workforce, according to Beachler.
Local artist Mark Stutzman, president of Engage Mountain Maryland, offered his organization’s congratulations.
“Community-based initiatives that encourage and support our local community are so valuable to our economy and way of life,” he said. “It’s so nice to see ideas like this put in place to move Garrett County forward. Kudos to the Garrett County Arts Council for bringing this exciting shared workspace to life.”
Development of the $MART ART, Shared Workspace program started in May, along with the GCAC’s planning for SEYMOUR, the annual juried fine art and traditional craft show presented in partnership with Simon Pearce Glassworks during the Autumn Glory Festival.
The arts council had long presented the Heritage Craft Festival during Autumn Glory as a vendor event held at the Southern Middle and Broad Ford Elementary schools. But in light of so many other Autumn Glory craft shows being developed over the years, the GCAC branched out with the new SEYMOUR fine arts endeavor in 2018. The council teamed up with Simon Pearce to present the fine arts show and sale at the glassmaking facility in Mtn. Lake Park, and the event was deemed to be highly successful.
“To combine the talents and works of Garrett County artists with the inherent artistry of Simon Pearce glassmakers proved to be a great fit,” Beachler said.
When the pandemic hit, organizers agreed that holding SEYMOUR in person was too risky. The GCAC and Simon Pearce-led SEYMOUR Planning Committee set to work to change this year’s in-person arts show into an online experience, complete with a marketplace and digital performance space for music and literature. Surveys were distributed to previous and prospective participants to gauge interest and give input.
Of the artists and community members surveyed, 95% indicated they now had access to reliable broadband service, and 89% indicated they would like to participate in an online and virtual marketplace, but only 63% had ever been involved in such an endeavor.
The team then developed the website SEYMOURart.org, which was launched during Autumn Glory 2020 and experienced great success. A “Holiday Edition” of SEYMOURart.org with new artists is online now.
Through this collaborative experience, Beachler said staff and committee members realized how valuable this project could be ultimately, offering digital and traditional tools and services to rural art entrepreneurs to help them flourish in the global online economy. Through this work, the $MART ART, Shared Workspace was formulated, and the application was prepared for the Maryland Agriculture Education and Rural Development Assistance Fund grant.
“We are proud to support the Garrett County Arts Council and their pursuit to bring the arts to Garrett County,” said Jay Benson, Simon Pearce CEO. “As a maker of handcrafted glass, all of us at Simon Pearce deeply value celebrating the arts in our local community, and we are glad to know Garrett County Art Council’s wonderful work will continue into next year.”
With the funding received, the GCAC and partners will work to provide the services requested by artists in the surveys. The plan is to offer web marketing assistance, teaching artists how to produce effective product photographs, how to market their work through social media and website design, and how to create effective video segments. The funding will also be used to create effective instruction to artists on writing their biographical information and their artist statements.
The “nuts and bolts” of online selling requires knowledge of secure packaging and shipping, as well as proper curbside pickup options, information which will also be offered to artists through the $MART ART, Shared Workspace program. Print marketing assistance will be provided, including how to best design and print business cards, post cards and brochures.
Another aspect of the program will involve monthly artist conversations around professional development topics, allowing artists the opportunity to talk with one another, ask questions and exchange valuable information.
Additional services that may be developed with the program will address other needs expressed by survey respondents, such as access to spaces for studios, meetings, classrooms and performances; photo/video equipment and software; and framing equipment and education.
Beachler said further plans for these initiatives will get underway in 2021. She also noted that the GCAC hopes to build additional partnerships and exchange programs in the future with other rural arts councils and rural arts and entertainment districts across Maryland.
In collaboration with the town councils, the GCAC currently manages two Arts & Entertainment Districts, one in Grantsville and the other in Oakland. The $MART ART program will be incorporated in each district in a variety of ways.
“The Town of Oakland has developed a fruitful working relationship with the GCAC, and in fact has collaborated with the organization to achieve the designation of a Maryland State Arts Council Arts & Entertainment District in the town,” Mayor Jay Moyer said. “As the elected leadership of Oakland, we wish to see the A&E District and its parent organization, the GCAC, continue to grow and flourish. The $MART ART, Shared Workspace will not only further the goals of the GCAC to expand rural entrepreneurship opportunities, increase education access and youth engagement and build on a creative workforce, but it should strengthen our town’s ability to support our residents and business owners in further growth and success.”