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The project to collect North County and San Diego artists began about two years ago with a group of "crazies" and a living room window full of Post-it notes.
"Crazies" because skeptics said it couldn't be done. Post-its because Patricia Frischer, head coordinator of the San Diego Visual Arts Network (SDVAN), thought it would be a good way to brainstorm plans for bringing art communities together.
The problem was simply complex: No one knew where to go. Whether artist seeking artist, public seeking artist, public seeking art, organization seeking art or organization seeking artist - the task was daunting. Frischer , who has an extensive background in teaching, producing and writing about art, first noticed the frustration when she moved to San Diego at the end of 1996 after 25 years in London. "It took me a long time to network," said Frischer, a painter and former art professor. "There was a disconnect among art communities with people scrambling for funding. That competition meant jealousy, not cooperation and unity."
In April 2002, she called together an ad hoc group of artists and art administrators to generate ideas.
The SDVAN founders aimed to expand the art circles of San Diego. They set to network the art communities of six locations: North County Inland, Coastal, East, Central and South San Diego and Baja Norte.
That night, Frischer and five others including Elfred Lee, president of the Portrait Society and Sandra Chanis, former president of the board of the Oceanside Museum of Art, covered the windows of Frischer's Cardiff by the Sea home with ideas written on Post-it notes about how to cultivate art in the San Diego and North County communities.
The Post-it note at the tip of the collage soon emerged: a Web site to bring artists and the community together.
Now nearing its two-year anniversary, the SDVAN Web site is hitting it off. They received about 30,000 hits last month, and residents are beginning to know why. With about 186 visual art resources in six categories and 192 visual artists currently listed on the site, the SDVAN offers calendar art events, job listings, news and an extensive artist directory, among other features.
Recent additions include a gossip page called "Raw" by Ally Bling Bling, producer of the Internet radio station Art Rocks! On recent shows the writer makes light-hearted comments about who's who within the art world and offers juicy tidbits about who has been hired or fired in art groups.
Also, the "SmART Collector," a page dedicated to detailing guides for art collectors, points potential buyers to portals of possibility.
The non-profit site has become an asset to artists and others wanting to post their information in a rapidly growing directory, free of charge. SDVAN asks for a one-time, tax-deductible donation, $5 per artist and $25 per organization, to keep the services running.
Beyond the Web site, SDVAN comprises about 30 grass-roots members who meet monthly, without commitment, at Frischer's home to develop the network
"Awhile ago people were fighting for dollars. There was a lot of animosity in the arts community." Said Ann Berchtold, found of Sandiegoartists.com and SDVAN organizer. “We’ve accomplished so much with different leaders in the arts community. This (Web site) was the first of its kind to get the people to drop that kind of talk and come together for the common good."
Dennis Batt, SDVAN member and San Diego Visual Artists Guild founder, called it revolutionary. “ The Web site is unlike any other in California,” he said, “ where artists can find a vast array of connections.”
Abstract artist Connie Cannon said, "It's necessary. I have people contacting me," she said. "I do get a lot of exposure (from the site). It's excellent - San Diego needs it." Still, togetherness is no easy task. With approximately 3000 to 5000 professional artists in the San Diego region, the original SDVAN dreamers are working hard to make art unity a reality.
"It's an uphill battle," said Frischer. "We want to inform the community about the large size and high quality of visual arts in San Diego and get rid of the inferiority complex. The general public is not aware of the richness of the visual arts community"
What: Non-profit website for news and networking
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For more information contact Patricia@SDVisualArts.net