When I moved to the Yukon, a friend gave me a tip, “Join the ArtsNet internet mailing list. It’s the information pipeline for the arts community.”
I quickly understood what she meant. With the “Daily Digest” version of the ArtsNet listserv arriving in my email inbox once a day, I promptly had zero-cost access to a large community of artists in the Yukon sharing information about arts sector job opportunities, upcoming shows, items for sale, needs within the community, stories from tours, collaborators sought, house-sits, and the occasional joke or political rant.
I often chortle at mailing list postings. This morning a cheerful post appeared:
“Hurray for the brave, and thank you for your donations! Still looking for at least 15 pairs of old, unwanted, and clean (please) underwear. Undies will be used as props for a performance piece this weekend at Ramshackle’s Theatre In The Bush. Please don’t be shy. I would donate my own, but I only keep a limited stock.”
How delightful — a message seeking underwear for a performance in the bush.
The mailing list is also comforting when I’m out of the territory. It’s a great reminder of the strength, generosity and humour of the Yukon arts scene.
From near and afar, I have wondered about the real faces and real people behind the mailing list. So, I sent them an email.
ArtsNet President Michele Emslie, and Secretary-Treasurer Scott Wilson have been involved with the organization since it’s early days in 1998.
“At the time, [we gathered] primarily just to talk about our presenting seasons and to coordinate our dates,” Emslie says. “The group then morphed into whatever was required of us at the time. We decided to pool our marketing resources and created ArtsNet, the magazine. We also became political advocates for the arts and culture communities – especially during election times.”
Emslie feels the role of advocacy is still important for ArtsNet.
Indeed, her favourite listserv postings discuss, “real issues that affect the cultural community in intriguing, interesting and passionate ways.” Emslie also enjoys, “the good critiques that sometimes appear.”
However she finds that the intriguing, interesting, passionate posts are dwindling. Perhaps these enlightening posts are more rare because members tend to use the list for pressing, practical artistic needs.
“This is [your] list and is a tool that can create connectedness between all of us,” Emslie reminds ArtsNet users. “Many of us who work in the cultural sector do so in isolation. This list helps us to network and keep each other informed about what we are doing, thinking, working on, etc.”
The concept initially came from Wilson, the sole administrator of the list.
“I suggested setting up a listserv to improve communications among the arts community,” he says.
The list began on Yahoo Groups in March of 2001. Today, about 1,300 subscribers receive the list and an average of 420 messages are posted a month.
“The ArtsNet listserv had a reasonable start with about 75 subscribers and was stable at that number for several months,” says Wilson. “The content and discussions seemed to catch on with the community and by November 2010 we had 850 subscribers and were averaging about 330 posts per month. We hit 1,000 subscribers in May of 2011.”
And these subscribers are dedicated to the mailing list. “Artsnet is part of my daily routine life! I read it twice a day, morning and night,” says Gwaandak Theatre General Manager Marjolène Gauthier. “ArtsNet is a really helpful tool in our community. It’s a powerful marketing tool and it’s a community in itself.” An anonymous, out-of-territory artist and subscriber told me, “I use ArtsNet for all my info about what’s going on in Whitehorse that I might possibly want to participate in culturally. Almost exclusively.”
Perhaps the wide appeal of the list is its accessible format.
“The ArtsNet list is open, anyone who is subscribed can post, and the listserv is not moderated,” he says. “The list is self-policing and has a remarkably tolerant group of subscribers.”
That said, Wilson’s least favourite part of administering the list is dealing with people who post inappropriate content. Luckily it’s not a huge part of the gig.
“For the number of subscribers and amount of traffic, inappropriate posts have been remarkably rare.”
So, I’ll resist making any inappropriate jokes about clean underwear, and will continue to gather information and insights from my Yukon arts colleagues through the Daily Digest.
For more information about the ArtsNet mailing list, and ArtsNet magazine go to www.ArtsNet.ca.