Earlier this month, I was able to fit in Day Four of the "Garden a Day" stroll at a residence in the Old Point in Beaufort. Gardening is the slowest of the fine arts, and for 19 years now the Beaufort Garden Club has offered these five days as "a gift to the people of Beaufort."
I got to the yard on East Street at about 10 a.m., and the browsers (many wearing vivacious hats, of course) were happily discussing taxonomy and still talking about painter Sandra Baggette's garden from a previous day. She had planted some plein air artists among her flowers. On East Street, the artist-gardener connection included Ulrike Poppeliers, a new art quilter in town and a master gardener, on hand to talk shop, and painter Rebecca Davenport, who told a good story about her neighbor Dorothy McDaniel's "sky room," a garden downtown the size of two parking spots.
The tour ended at noon, and by 1 p.m. rain was pouring. This improved my day. Back under my own roof, I turned on St. Helena Island-based artist Jan Spencer's album "Home Again." Mellow and jazzy and real, it was perfect for the Lowcountry steam bath.
I got Jan's CD at the marketing workshop for artists she attended at ARTworks. I moderated a two-hour conversation about the dilemmas of blogs and the challenges social media ("Choose your poison, and post as much content as you can stand," I advised). I am arranging this series in order to help artists make social media work for them, rather than the other way around. We had a lot to discuss: being a content provider, never using ALL CAPS, making art and putting it where people can find it. It was a great discussion. Following the relaxing garden tour (it's so good to look at some lush 3-D rather than a flat screen), I decided to ask the artists what they are growing.
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"I am a process-oriented artist," Susanne Carmack said. She's a multimedia artist based in Okatie. "I make marks with a lot of tools, digging, scraping, throwing paint, using my hands. I don't preconceive a work of art. I build it by letting each mark I make tell me what to do next. Theoretically, I am growing my imagery bit by bit, as one famous artist said, forming a path by going down it. This is all done intuitively with a lot of trusting of the process. So you might say I am always growing my imagery." She added that she is growing her Facebook friends and online presence with a Tumblr blog.
Wendy Goller, who is the featured artist at the Beaufort Art Association until June 22, answered the question with, "I am growing my online business and my reputation as an artist." These thoughtful comments are exactly the effect I was looking for in introducing this marketing series -- a bigger reputation for individuals and a synergy that grows Beaufort's national arts reputation.
"As an artist, I'm growing my joy in what I'm creating," said Kathy Oda, who is a fused-glass artist based in Beaufort. "I used to agonize over every facet of what I do, and it was reaching the point of analysis paralysis. Now when I go out to my studio, it's with a sense of fun and anticipation of how I can push the boundaries of what I'm doing. I'm having a ball! If I push too hard and a piece cracks, then I just think of how many magnets I can make out that piece."
Moving on gracefully is good advice for many arts marketing circumstances. Jan Spencer, who also is working on her post doctorate in arts and community, captures that forward motion in her lyrics for "Home Again": "Not going to stress anymore/showing up for my destiny/and though it's been quite a while/ I've learned to trust in this style."
Lisa Annelouise Rentz is the transmedia publicity leader for ARTworks, the arts council of Beaufort, Port Royal and the Sea Islands. Lisa@beaufortcountyarts.com.