Turning Virtual Pals Into Real Life Friends

September 12, 2011

By Ann Marie Miller
Executive Director
Art Pride

Just two weeks ago, the Art Pride NJ Foundation greeted three talented artists from north, central and southern New Jersey. They walked into our office space with art that ranged from glittering glass mosaics to colorfully painted bas relief wall hangings to mixed media paintings and assemblages. Believe it or not, we found these new artist /friends via Facebook!

The artists, their work, family and friends, Art Pride staff, and local community members gathered at an opening reception for Art Pride’s Second Annual Facebook Friends Gallery exhibit at the Lyceum Hall Center for the Arts in Burlington, NJ on August 18. Until the artists dropped off their work, they existed in our universe as “likers” of Art Pride’s Facebook page. Staff created a Facebook “event” and invited all of our over 1,500 Facebook friends to submit digital images for a gallery exhibit at space in our historic headquarters donated by our landlord, the great City of Burlington. Work was selected considering how it would fit together and complement each other in our brightly lit gallery space. In other words, we curated the exhibit which felt entirely appropriate for a Facebook event. We also had great interest in gathering artists from diverse regions of New Jersey and selected Sumukha Ravishankar from Short Hills, Aylin Green from Lambertville, and Molly Sanger Carpenter from Salem, NJ.

The real life art work surpassed all digital expectations and the result was an eclectic and completely engaging exhibit that runs at Lyceum Hall until September 25.

Aylin Green

Molly Sanger

Sumukha Ravishankar

All non-profit and for-profit groups using Facebook face the same challenges of translating social media friends and likers into real life supporters. As Claire Diaz Ortiz says in her newly released book , Twitter for Good—Change the World One Tweet at a Time, “I explained that while researching my new book, I took a long, hard look at fundraising on social media and came to a new, startling conclusion: it’s not about the money. As I asserted, the real ROI (return on investment) of fundraising on new media is the relationships.” And while, at first glance, you may think our Facebook Friends Gallery exhibit is not about fundraising, it clearly is about developing relationships.

One of our featured artists, Sumukha Ravishankar said, “Making friends in the virtual world, especially with other artists, is easy and fun, but the best part is to actually meet them outside of the internet. Art Pride NJ gave me this opportunity, and I truly appreciate it.”

Art Pride launched this event last year to develop and deepen relationships and on its second anniversary, interested artists and opening night reception attendees doubled. We can’t wait until next year for another fun event born from our deepening relationship with social media.

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Ann Marie Miller is the Executive Director of Art Pride, the premier arts advocacy organization in New Jersey, and a regular contributor to the Dodge blog.