ArtGirlRising Founder on Digital Community Building During a Crisis

by Jamaica Gayle | Apr 27, 2020

Photo courtesy of Nadirah Zakariya
Malaysia

ArtGirlRising

Around the world, female artists are drastically underrepresented in museums, galleries and auction houses. ArtGirlRising is a small business with a mission to change that, raising awareness through t-shirt sales, poster campaigns and social media.

The onset of the COVID-19 crisis has brought on new challenges.

For the t-shirt portion of the business, ArtGirlRising has had to make some difficult decisions. “Our ethical, Fair Wear approved t-shirt manufacturer can still ship t-shirts, our screen printer can still print our t-shirts, and I now take care of wrapping and packing the t-shirts from home,” shares Founder Liezel Strauss. 

“The biggest problem at the moment is that the post office here no longer ships to most international destinations, so we have a choice, to wait until the borders open again, not sell at all, or to ship with a courier – we chose the latter,” she adds. 

Even though the courier costs are three times as high as usual shipping costs they continue to ship internationally, and will do so as long as they can afford to absorb these costs. Strauss emphasizes that “it is important to keep spreading the word and continue getting visibility about the under-representation of women artists and connecting women around the world with this message. It creates community in a way.”

The team at ArtGirlRising also recognizes that for many people right now, purchasing a t-shirt is not a priority. In lieu of pushing sales, they are pivoting to focus on spreading the word about women artists. The best way to reach customers during this new normal? Digital tools. 

“At the end of March we launched a series of online classes (presented by industry leaders) for artists to help them move their art practice online through tips on social media, the business side of art, community building and homeschooling tips. We have been adding classes every couple of weeks and will continue to do so,” Strauss says.

The digital series, ArtGirlsWFH, is presented through the video conferencing system, Zoom. Consistent with their objective and belief that creatives be paid for their work, class participants are charged an affordable price to allow class facilitators to be compensated for live classes and recorded session sales via Paypal or Transferwise. “We started using Google Forms to ask for feedback from the people who attended our classes or bought the recordings. It has been an excellent tool and we will definitely use it again moving forward,” she notes. 

Before the pandemic, ‘business as usual’ for ArtGirlRising was utilizing Instagram as a mechanism for marketing, communication and community outreach. Today, this is only one of many methods.

“We will continue to provide our community with good content and info about women artists on Instagram.” In addition to sharing motivational messages, every other day @artgirlrising features a woman artist, alongside her bio and art. In the coming weeks, they will also begin arranging approachable, informative virtual studio visits via Instagram Live to inspire other artists.

Their digital community-building efforts do not stop there. Free ArtGirlRising social hangouts ‘Art + Chill’ via Zoom allow artists and the art community to virtually connect once or twice a week. Strauss explains that “some people draw, some people paint and some just hang out and feel less isolated and more connected. It is a very easy going, kind and welcoming place to connect. Further, the team is offering WhatsApp calls to anyone who feels lonely, isolated or just wants to chat.”

While there are many segments of ArtGirlRising’s collective goals, today, the priority is supporting their audience and continuing to be a voice for their cause through various social channels.

“Community is our primary concern and making sure all those incredible women artists out there that follow us stay sane, connected and hopefully continue to make beautiful work that the world can see again once all this ends,” Strauss highlights. “For now we take it day by day and stay grateful that we are healthy, have an Internet connection, a community and support.”

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