The Local Life: Art is one thing that definitely works in Beaufort

September 26, 2011 

Doubt has a place in the artistic process. Sure, it's well within the gradient of negativity, up there with excuses and baloney. But when an artist is in the middle of a new design for a painting or a set for a play, a moment of doubt might be the time to "shift gears, so the next pathway opens," suggested Cheryl Mansson, the soul collager in Seabrook.

Doubt also is apparent in the tourism money debate that has been happening. The uncertainty is about who should get funds to market Beaufort as a destination, even as the funds are assigned, and about the efficacy of those dollars. A city councilman was quoted in these pages earlier this month, wondering, "Someone asks for $5,000, they get $1,500, how does a group take that money and make it work?"

The answer is in our name: ARTworks, i.e. not ARTquits. Art works as a tourism draw because marketeers need content. For example, every day as the transmedia publicity leader for ARTworks, I personally work with no fewer than three electronic devices to deliver tweets about concerts, posts about plays, newsletters with artist opportunities, videos by the Art Guy, Facebook likes galore, "spotted on Bay Street" blogs, brochures in visitor centers across the state, and an essay about arts education in Beaufort out on the stands nationwide right now in the Oxford American.

Since individual artists and arts organizations are the DNA of all this Frankenstein publicity, it's good to know how they "make it work," in the words of the calm, cool and positive Tim Gunn. (Is it possible that both I and the city councilman are "Project Runway" fans? Yes!)

Jennifer Kassing-Bradley, the artist who owns Coastal Art Supply, has been working on a theory: Learn to love your mark. Over the years she has noticed that artists can doubt what they are creating, no matter their age or experience.

"Two ladies will be sitting next to each other working on a similar painting. Neither woman will be completely happy or 'in love' with what they make," Jennifer described. "But each loves the other's work -- 'I wish I could paint like you,' one will say, and the other will reply, 'No, I wish I could paint like you.'<2009>"

Artists, she explained, can become too familiar with their own marks, yet easily find excitement in someone else's marks: "Don't let the romance die," Jennifer recommends. "This issue has more to do with familiarity than lack of skill. Learning to love your mark is an important part of a long career."

Beaufort's art scene has piles of stories and careers and imagery to share: Epicat's tags, Benton Lutz's "Jardin Dèclassè," the displays and well-designed promo posters in all the windows downtown, and the sight of visitors strolling the city and beholding our local cultural ways. To this mix we need to add improved Wi-Fi coverage so that these strolling tourists can share a snapshot when the beauty strikes, attracting all their friends back home and across the interwebs too. Shared info from mobile devices soon will exceed traditional editorial content as the top prize for market-- though the opportunity to write and read articles, I should add here, is an asset that transcends the PR industry.

These factors are a big workload. Wallowing in proposals encourages doubt and straining with budgets is wearying. When Art Beyond Tradition painter Mary Jane Martin lacks energy, she returns to the basics.

"I put aside what I was doing that was new in concept or technique, and return to what I know, drawing a still life, using transparent watercolors," she said. "I let my mind wander through the things and eventually, by nurturing my mind and soul, a new surge of energy and 'what if's' begin to form and I am back running smoothly."

Old and new, art-making and nose-grinding, that is the creative synergy of making it -- and $1,500 -- work.

Lisa Annelouise Rentz is the transmedia publicity leader for ARTworks. She is the author of the "Beaufort SC 365" arts and travel app, as well as short stories published in literary journals nationwide and abroad.

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