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Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2008

Internet Art

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In a world where people do everything online, from paying parking tickets to buying shoes, it makes sense that we would begin experiencing art that way, too. In January, interactive marketing company Data Dog launched ArtMailMilwaukee.com, which delivers a piece of local art to your inbox each week. The artwork is presented on a gray and white background intended to mimic the experience of a gallery, and a jury of prominent Milwaukeeans chooses the artists. Sure, it’s an advertising vehicle, but that part is subtle. The art takes center stage here. Johnathan Crawford, who founded the project, explained why he’s so passionate about ArtMail.

Where did you get the idea for ArtMail?
I’d always been frustrated because I missed so many Gallery Nights. I love art, and I’m in the e-mail business. I was thinking about how frustrated we all are about getting so much e-mail that we have to respond to and I thought, “Hey, this is a great idea. We’ll just push a piece of art out once a week, and that’s all it would be.” It’s like the milk man delivering your milk. People can say, “Oh, I think I’ll take a break from my horrid job, and see what the art looks like.” And if people don’t like it, they can comment. They can leave comments about the artwork with us, or they can actually e-mail the artist, and often the artists will e-mail them back. So there’s a little community going on.

There is an advertising model for this. I’m not going to try to say I’m doing this for free, because it would go out of business. But every time we involve an advertiser, we want it to be something that is cool and of interest to people. We want the advertising to try and bring some kind of additional value to our list members, so people start to realize that not only is it just the art, but here are some kind of cool places to do business with.

What’s in it for the artists? The exposure, right?
Right. Artists are great at creating art, but they’re lousy marketers. One of them even confessed that to me. And I said, “Well, I’m a marketer and I love art, so maybe we can make this work together.”

Have you been surprised by the quality of art in Milwaukee? 
Oh, yeah. I specifically told my staff not to tell me what art is coming every week because I wanted to be surprised. And I really have been stunned by the quality of the art that’s coming. It really is very, very good. So far everybody likes it, and our list is growing. We continue to promote it. We’re actually seeking larger sponsors to help underwrite and promote it.

Are you an artist?
I was in high school, and somewhat in college, but I didn’t pursue it. I pursued broadcasting, and design and advertising. Those are kind of the business side of art, I guess. I’m not a graphic designer, I’m more of a copywriter, but all of the arts intersect. Whether it’s architecture, interior design, music, food—we’re big foodies at Data Dog. We hope to get additional sponsors that are the eclectic, cool restaurants that push food prep to an art [form]. We think everything intersects together.

Start receiving art in your e-mail by signing up at artmailmilwaukee.com.

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