I don’t talk about it much publicly, but work has been slow lately. Terribly slow. Income dropped in 2008, for the first time since I started working on my own (though honestly, the drop wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be). And 2009 looks to be worse.
But against all that, I’m upbeat about it. Certainly I have my moments of doubt when things get kind of scary, but I also know that God provides. He’s done it before and I know he’ll do it again. I’m not sitting back and waiting for cash to fall from heaven, but part of my faith involves relying on God. In reality I’m always reliant on God, but it’s times like this when it becomes so much more obvious. In the mean time I’ll tighten my belt, perhaps wean myself from Cherry Pepsi, and struggle through.
Maybe I’m a bit naive, but I think times like this can be an opportunity. A time of unemployment launched me on this freelance journey in the first place. And while work has been slow I’ve been working on other projects, such as the Billy Graham blog, Start Seeing Art, and my 2006 novel Turn Left at the Blacktop, among others (By the way, I printed off a 158-page copy of the novel today so my wife could read it and give me her assessment).
I’m confident that hard times like this can refocus us, can present new opportunities, can be good for us. Sometimes, frankly, it does suck. But recession or economic depression are not the end of the world.
My local public art side project, Start Seeing Art, is now accepting sponsorship. It’s basically advertising—rotating banners in the sidebar—but I hate to use the word “advertising” because the site doesn’t justify the eyeballs to use that word. We get minimal traffic thanks to our extreme niche, so it’s more of a generous subsidy than a mutual exchange. If you or anyone you know would be interested in supporting public art by sponsoring Start Seeing Art, please send ’em to the support page.
The sponsorship banners are $25 per month (cheap!), with a maximum of five banners each month. So even if I sell all available space I won’t be getting rich ($125/month). More than anything this is an effort to bring some kind of revenue, any revenue, into the site. I’ve been running the site since November 2007 and we’ve mapped 371 works of local public art. That’s a lot of work. And a lot of gas. In that time we’ve made a whopping $20.36 from the Google ads (I think we’re too niche and too local for Google ads to be of much use). If the sponsorship banners sell I’ll probably drop the Google ads.
I’ll keep exploring other ways to make the site work. Grants are the most likely option, but it gets complicated since I’m not a nonprofit—unfortunately not making a profit doesn’t make you a nonprofit, as the joke goes. Hopefully we’ll figure something out and I can justify the time I put into the site.
On Saturday I posted the Downtown St. Paul Art Map on Start Seeing Art. It’s a free, printable, 7-page PDF map that features outdoor sculptures and murals in the downtown area.
I’m intentionally putting it out just before the Republican National Convention comes to town. Hopefully it will draw some attention to some of the amazing public artwork we have in the Twin Cities. The map itself isn’t very pretty (I’m no designer, and I didn’t even try to be), but it does include 85 works of art and pictures of each one (OK, 84 pictures. One sculpture is supposed to be placed any day now and I don’t have a picture of it).
Continue reading Start Seeing Art’s Downtown St. Paul Art Map →
This week my little side project/hobby, Start Seeing Art, posted its 300th work of public art. No wonder I can’t write a book, I’m too busy with art.
The project’s been a lot of fun. I get to check out cool artwork in the city and I usually bring my daughter along to climb on the sculptures (her most recent favorite is the one she called a “sculpture boat” even though it looked nothing like a boat).
While I do have Google ads on the site, it hasn’t been much of a money maker (maybe $10?). And I don’t expect it to be, at least not yet. It’s really too niche of a site for Google to work well and I need more traffic to attract my own ads. So in the mean time I’m just doing it as cheaply as possible. That means using WordPress and a couple plugins to make it work, though it doesn’t function as cleanly as I’d like. I also haven’t bothered with a real logo or a slick design. I’d love to make a lot of changes, but I can’t justify the time or the money. It’s a real bootstrap project, and for now I’m just putting the time into content. I think the content makes all the difference. When you have 300 works of art it suddenly becomes a lot more useful.
So we’ll see where it goes. Though currently I’m having a hard time keeping up with all the photos I’ve taken. I guess it’s better to load up on photos in the summer when it’s nice, and then when it’s not photo weather I can post them all to the site.
Last week I was all excited to announce that Start Seeing Art had mapped 100 works of public art across the Twin Cities (if ‘across’ means primarily in St. Paul). But in the past week alone we’ve added 25 more works of art. Along the way we’ve identified some previously unknown artwork, explored local history and started branching out into Minneapolis (including work by John Grider, one of City Pages 2007 Artists of the Year).
Continue reading Busy Week at Start Seeing Art →