Older than MySpace: A Museum-Made Social Media Website Receives a Reboot

Lightning Talk
Jehra Patrick, Walker Art Center, USA

Long before Facebook and Twitter, mnartists.org was a social media website. Even more interestingly, it was a social media site conceived and produced by an art museum. More than 13 years on - and several advancements in social media later -- Mn Artists has both sustained its user base and recently received a full makeover, from pixel to page. How does a niche social media site maintain relevancy? How are museums serving local communities beyond their brick-and-mortar spaces? Can a website rebuild serve to also reboot a community?

In a lively, fast-paced presentation, Mn Artists Program Director, Jehra Patrick, will share the new platform’s relaunch story: how, after three years of canvasing community needs and interests, and developed through partnerships with like-minded institutions (including IMA Lab), the rebuild project is working not only to relaunch a digital platform, but to revitalize cultural conversations and individual artists' practices by re-investing in a real community of artists through a combination of outreach, professional development tools, and a commitment to in-depth editorial coverage of cultural work. Patrick's presentation will share highlights from the platform's rebuild process as well as the goals and challenges involved in ongoing cultivation of a diverse and geographically spread constituency.

A joint project of the McKnight Foundation and the Walker Art Center, this decade-old digital community of artists re-launched in November 2014 with a full complement of new tools to inform, promote, and connect Midwestern art and artists, cultural organizations and audiences well into the future. Armed with a newly redesigned website and a variety of artist-friendly online tools for presentation of their work, expanded editorial offerings and robust offline programming, mnartists.org is poised to bring the artists, critical coverage, and events that distinguish the Midwestern cultural scene to a wider audience for years to come.

This talk acknowledges previous field research, including:

Smith Bautista, S. (2013) Museums in the Digital Age: Changing Meanings of Place, Community, and Culture
Dowden, R. (2003) Mnartists.org's 10 Tips For Building Online Communities