Whenever there is a flash animation on the top of a web site, I hardly ever take it in. As I watched the marketing slogans cascading slowly across the splash page of the Walker Art Center's Web site, the line "Where Inspiration Meets Conversation" made me pause and think before I started clicking. What a great slogan for a blog!
The Walker is one the pioneers in the field of art and technology or digital art. Back in the very early 1990s, it was one of the first larger arts institutions to have a web site while many others in the arts field were still saying "World Wide What?" So I wasn't surprised to see a link to "Walker Blogs ." So far, there are two. one maintained by the New Media Initiatives department and the other by Community and Education Department. After some email with the webmaster, I was able to track down Reggie Prim, Community Arts Program Coordinator to learn more about the Walker Blog. So, here's my first "Bloggerview"
Why did the Walker start a blog?
I think that in my own departmental case, the head of the department wanted an extra way to tap into all the things I was doing in the community. While I jokingly say it it was a way for my boss to keep better track of me, the blog also gives me a way to share some of the interesting things I was coming across in my research on arts and community with other staff members and our audience.
How was the idea received within the organization? What did leadership think of blogs?
The idea of blogging came from the leadership. The director of the education dept said, "I've got a great idea! You should have a blog." Then, using her organizational magic wand (the use of which I have not been initiatied) she made it happen and said "Go, forth and blog!" Well, not exactly. Other staff members in my dept also have the ability to post but they don't see the value and don't want to take the time. I suppose once there is some traffic and the blog gets cited they'll come around. I try to get them to post interesting stories or links and they haven't really picked it up yet.
Since your blog is an organizational blog and not a personal one, do have any particular organizational guidelines you must follow?
I feel pretty free to post whatever is interesting that I find. Although I want to advance a more focused approach that talks about what we are doing in the department. It¹s a balance of interesting links and things about the department. The other Walker blog really focuses on the intra-departmental experience and I think that can provide readers with a look inside the organization.
What do you think the value/benefit of a blog is to your organization?
For me it¹s a window to another side of the organization. We have a pretty hefty process to get anything published at the Walker. The blog is an unfiltered view of staff concerns, interests. It allows me to advance ideas that I can later develop into larger written pieces. In the future it will also be another way to get the word out on our projects and programs.
What are some of the challenges to blogging in a nonprofit arts organization?
One of the big challenges is having your colleagues coming up to you and teasing you "Oh, you're blogging again." As if its some sort of play. But its time consuming and can be tedious. Because we don't have that much traffic yet the value isn't really appreciated yet.
Words of advice to others
Although we are just starting out, we've utilized our blog mainly to highlight links and stories of interest but I think a more powerful way of using a blog (My friend Paul Schmelzer's advice - a pretty top notch blogger himself - check him out at eyeteeth.com) is to develop and test ideas over time and to have a public record of the development of those ideas. For instance, we have published a process map titled Art and Civic Engagement: Mapping the Connections and I plan to use the blog to talk about that printed piece (a copy can be available to you by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org). Hey, thanks for the opportunity to talk about blogging
And, thank you Reggie for sharing your thoughts about blogging!