The Internet: A Force for Uniting The Arts

by Mary Lowry-Buechler
The Internet Writing Journal, November 1997
The Internet has opened new territory for artists, writers and publishers alike and they are accepting that challenge by flocking to the Information Superhighway in unprecedented numbers. Like all mass movements to a new frontier, this migration did not settle easily into a utopian ready-made village. Some new arrivals found that they were one of three visitors to their website on any given month. The alluring vision of the Internet was a shaky island of confusion at best. Additionally, they found themselves alone and confronted with unfamiliar viability issues such as readership, page speed, quality, HTML, and any number of mundane problems unrelated to art.

The migration of the artists to the Internet and the use by those artists of the Web to create an online community is not a formal movement, but it is growing on a daily basis and slowly becoming a force to be reckoned with.

In 1995, a group of established writers arrived on the Internet simultaneously and changed the direction and mood of Internet poetry as it was known. They came online with a plan of action. One important aspect of that plan included links that would create a community of writers which actively encouraged growth, shared readers and encouraged collaboration between publishers and artists in ways that were impossible in the past.

Some larger entities, such as CompuServe and AOL, offered free webpages and simple how-to information in the writer's forums for artists who were interested in the Internet. The drive to get poets and artists to the Internet has been ongoing for several years and the result is an organized body of writers who collaborate and support each other by actively participating in open or private "think tanks" or information exchanges and resource sharing.

To pave the way for new arrivals and follow the writer's forums' lead, many artists and artist's groups have begun to search for ways to simplify the process for successful entry onto the Internet. To strengthen the new arrival's website by forming an informal International alliance and create a individual, local, national or international community of artists by presenting resource pages. In fact, some webpages are created exclusively for that purpose and act as an index to many different art sites and a generous guide to other resource sites.

World Wide Arts Resources http://www.wwar.com/ is one of many useful resource sites with links to over 7,500 artists and thousands of art resources. Another example of this layered indexing of links is Art Source http://www.uky.edu/Artsource/, which is a collection of networked art and architecture resources.

Representatives for local art organizations make up another important aspect of the growing trend to use the Net to unite the arts. Sacramento's poetry community is represented by Luke Breit who is the Chair of the Advocacy Committee for the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission. He also serves as President of the Board of Directors of the Sacramento Poetry Center. Luke's pages reflect the growing trend for gathering information regarding the activities and events of local artists and he does this by presenting a calendar and a resource page located at http://www.tomatoweb.com/lukesac/links.htm and the all important calendar of events located at http://www.tomatoweb.com/lukesac/calendar.htm.

On the national front, The Library of Congress, the Poetry Society of America, and many established entities have made a home on the Internet combining the best of the updates, grants, projects and links that include local links. These local links in turn link the immediate community, and finally, the individual. The individuals of the community link with each other, creating a body of artists.

This combination or unification creatively impacts artists in ways that were unheard of in the past. Today's Internet artist has access to unlimited information in a friendly, encouraging environment which supports the artist and offers a nonexclusive, non-invasive tier of links that are available to all artists to improve their craft, show their ware, reach multitudes in an instant and offer unlimited opportunities for growth.

The separation and isolation of artists has been replaced by a chain of links that gathers artists from the West Coast of California and unites them with artists in Europe and the rest of the world. A new artist is confronted with opportunities and interactions with established artists in ways that were logistically impossible prior to the migration onto the Internet.

How this plays out for the individual is debatable, but how it impacts the whole of art on this planet will be documented by collaborative efforts in music, poetry and art in general in terms of projects and movements directly related to the Internet. Clearly, this will impact the future of art as we know it.

In this linked environment readers and art lovers have responded by coming in record numbers to partake of the wider array of art available to them. Classrooms are able to access the work of any given artist at the touch of a keyboard and even interact with the artist. Artists generously offer readers an opportunity to reach another artist on the chain of new discovery, and artists of international acclaim support new and established artists to strengthen that artist's position and the community of artists in general. As a direct result of this sharing, readership and participation has grown to unheard of numbers.

The next time you hear a song, see a play, listen to a poem, read a book, or view a work of art, you are a witness to the grand results of this unprecedented Internet experiment to unite the arts.

**Mary Lowry-Buechler is a published poet, journalist, freelance writer and cartoonist living in Antelope, California. She is a sports writer and a political cartoonist for local newspapers and is the publisher of Poetic Express, a site that is dedicated to bringing quality poetry to the Internet. Poetic Express publishes professional, novice and student poets from around the world, as well as providing a creative and learning atmosphere for aspiring poets of all skill levels.

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