Is there an art to blogging?
It was not a question I considered too closely until this past fall. A local art gallery, Most Wanted Fine Art, invited me to participate in a project involving art and eyewear: #ArtisticVisionPgh. I was asked to use my blogging skills to promote the project, a task I thought would be a rather routine exercise in blogging as a PR tool.
I was wrong.
Instead, I found that my interviews with the participating artists generated a new level of advocacy around the project - advocating to the artists about the Affordable Care Act, exploring the barriers to vision health resources in closer detail and assessing the toll "artistic vision" takes on the health of the community. We wrapped up that project by bringing in a statewide health advocacy group, the Pennsylvania Health Access Network, which is now holding monthly "Health Care Happy Hours" at the gallery to help artists connect with health insurance and more.
It was a smashing success, so much that Most Wanted Fine Art invited me to join their Resident Artists Project for 2015 and spend an entire year focused on the art of blogging. They want me to explore how art intersects with advocacy through blogging. I've tried to find other examples of bloggers participating in Artistic Residency programs, but I might be the first. I am very probably the first LGBTQ blogger to do so. If not, please correct me.
I dipped my toes into the water by devoting November (National Blog Posting Month or NaBloPoMo) to the question - is there an art to blogging? That's what led me to compile a blogging listicle "Ten Things I Learned About the Art of Blogging." Because, listicle.
My actual project is two-fold.
First, I'll be using a blog Q&A format to explore the lived experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer ((LGBTQ) residents in Western Pennsylvania. The Q&A format allows me to use my blog and my privilege as a white, cisgender lesbian to amplify voices that are often not heard from in either mainstream or LGBTQ media.
Through the Residency program, I can team up with other queer artists to illustrate aspects of my project and publish a zine which we also hope to distribute personally to every elected member of the Pennsylvania General Assembly representing the 26 counties. We've also committed to partnering with community groups to reach out to marginalized groups within our community including the trans community, queer people of color and LGBTQ elders. My goal is that 75% of the Q&A posts will be from people outside of Pittsburgh who have not been previously interviewed for my blog in other contexts.
The second component of the residency devotes November 2015 to an exhibit of the artwork of other bloggers in this region, bloggers from all walks of life. I have friends and acquaintances who paint, take photographs, dance and play the trumpet. The entire month will highlight their work and open the gallery for salon type gatherings to invite all bloggers to nurture their artistic side. It will be the ultimate NaBloPoMo with a Pittsburgh twist.
My personal contribution will be the Queerig 2.0 - an exploration of blogging reviews and giveaways. Hint - I'm plan to paint a Keurig 2.0 bright pink. With glitter. Stay tuned ...
In the end, I hope to have several tangible outcomes that raise awareness about the lives of LGBTQ folks in Western Pennsylvania, as well as the art of blogging. We believe the blog format is particular well suited to amplifying the voices of marginalized members within the LGBTQ community via a first person Q&A series which also lends itself well to curated content accessible to the entire community. Most Wanted Fine Art co-owners, Nina and Jason Sauer, are incredibly encouraging as well as dedicated to community art.
If you live in Western Pennsylvania and have an interest in participating in the Q&A series, you can fill out this form and I'll follow up with you in February.
While I do not *feel* like an artist, I welcome this opportunity to explore my creativity and passion in a (sort of) new medium. It is invigorating to have a chance to use my tenth year of blogging to pursue something entirely fresh and new. I hope the experience and the outcomes will have a positive impact on my communities. In sum, I have shifted my thinking from skepticism about my identity as an artist to a more general comfort level with using art to advocate for my vision and my community. I don't think I'll ever say "I'm an artist" when asked about my vocation, but I can feel myself embracing my creative work as something that has value for the world.
What say you -- is there an art to blogging?