Website Hosting and Maintenance

September 19th, 2009 by Maria Braun-Perez
Logo Design Concept for the Illiana Artists.

Logo Design Concept for the Illiana Artists.

The first meeting of the Illiana Artists took place this past Monday evening. Although the website committee presented a summer-long study and proposal, the member vote was unanimous to follow through with my plans for a new logo and site redesign. My benchmark was the Website Grader Report which is a handy measurement tool for SEO and marketing effectiveness for web developers.

During the summer I redesigned my business site MBP Graphic Design and began the process of directory link submissions. I found I was able to increase my website grade from 10 percent on February 10, 2009 to a grade of 76 percent as of September 19, 2009. Increasing my current website grade to 90 percent is my goal and has become increasingly difficult as the percentage improves.

My first hurdle in website maintenance has been migrating the website to a new web hosting company. The organization’s site has gone through unusual circumstances since May 2009. Our hosting company had gone out of business and our site was down for nearly a month before we were transferred to an internal division within the company. The registrar and administrative records have become complicated with changes in name and contact information needing to be updated and has created some conflict in transferring of the site.

My biggest concern for web hosting is 24-hour customer support, help articles and an easy to navigate control panel. I decided to switch our hosting company to as I have found their service to be consistent and user-friendly. The Illiana Artists domain is set to expire on September 20, 2009 and required quick decision making in order to move the website transfer along smoothly. I am currently 4 days into the transfer process with an approval pending.

Illiana Artists Opening Reception

September 4th, 2009 by Maria Braun-Perez

Awards Presentation Video

The Illiana Artists 12th Regional Juried Exhibition took place on Friday, August 28, 2009 at the Chesterton Art Center. The exhibit runs through September 28, 2009.

Interview with Oil Painter Ben Gehrmann

September 3rd, 2009 by Maria Braun-Perez

Winner of the Sue Zmuda Memorial Award Video

Oil painter, Ben Gehrmann, discusses the inspiration behind his winning painting, Wheat Harvest in LaPorte, during the Illiana Artists 12th Regional Juried Exhibition.

Interview with Photographer Steve Bensing

September 3rd, 2009 by Maria Braun-Perez

Winner of the Bobby Berg Memorial Award Video

Photographer, Steve Bensing, discusses the inspiration behind his winning photograph, New York Chihuahua, during the Illiana Artists 12th Regional Juried Exhibion.

Lessons in Film Editing and Multimedia Design

September 3rd, 2009 by Maria Braun-Perez

Today marks the completion of my first film production and a giant leap into the world of video editing. With over thirty-five minutes of taped film, 2 DVDs and roughly sixteen hours of labor, I have produced an 8-1/2 minute recap of the Illiana Artists 12th Annual Regional Juried Exhibition. At first, I was slightly intimidated with the Adobe Premiere Pro interface but later found the application to be quite intuitive. My background in Adobe Flash animation helped me to expedite my production output while working with timelines, keyframes, transitions and audio sequences. This is, by far, the most exciting project to date. I want to explore, test and develop all types of cross-platform multimedia presentations. Hello World!

While in the process of editing film I began to think back to the day of the event and the upbeat tempo I had to endure in order to transition from one conversation to the next. I had to think fast as there was no time to prepare in the midst of an excited crowd, gathering together in a small interior gallery that seemed to have heated up to 80 plus degrees. Ideally, I would have like to set aside each interviewee and discuss with them, briefly, their work, interests, and personal histories. However, I did have the opportunity to speak individually with one of the artists and it helped to identify the areas of discussion for their particular segment of the interview.

There are many areas of consideration while taping and interviewing at a live event. The effects of background noise during the artist interviews were particularly distracting to me when I first previewed the raw footage. I was able to edit the sound and clean up some ambient noise that remarkably improved the overall quality of the audio tracks. Lighting plays an important role in the filming process and, to my surprise, the original film turned out rather dark as a result of the directional lighting having been aimed at various points along the artwork on the walls. Again, Adobe Premiere Pro worked fantastic in helping me adjust the highlight and shadow corrections.

During my next video shoot I will need to focus on the correlation between the camera, subject matter, and sound. There were a number of rough cuts made to the video sequences that where determined by file size needs and web requirements. The hardest task today, so far, has been scavenging for 4 minutes of film worthy of deleting in order to finish a job at a file size no larger than 1 MB. I had hoped to present a single video production but the file upload dialog box will not cooperate with me. As a result, I have broken down the sequences into 2 categories, awards and artist interviews.

At the start of my journey I searched high and low for a free file conversion tool at cnet and discovered FLV Crunch 1.2.1 for Mac. I was initially searching for software to convert my vob files to mpg4 for use with Adobe Premiere Pro. This program installed without error and I found the conversion tool easy to use. I recommend this download for anyone using multimedia applications and social media tools on the web. And now, “On with the Show”.

“Surrounded by Beauty Every Day”

August 19th, 2009 by Maria Braun-Perez

The Chesterton Art Center

The Chesterton Art Center

Imagine yourself surrounded in a world full of colors, shapes, lines, textures and vast imagery that are forever evolving as it reflects human experience and storytelling. Welcome to the world of art! Or as Wendy at the Chesterton Art Gallery told me today, “I get to come into work and be surrounded by beauty every day.” Wendy is one lucky woman as she works both inside the Gallery and teaches workshops in mixed media art. Wendy was a graphic artist who found her way into the world of fine arts. She is now living the artist’s dream of living, working, creating and instilling the love of art to her students and all who visit the art gallery.

Today’s trip to the gallery was a celebration and sneak preview of the accepted work to be exhibited into the Illiana Artists 12th Regional Juried Exhibit. The show opens tomorrow, Thursday, August 20 and I suspect numerous visitors will be anxiously scanning the exhibit space with anticipation of eyeing their showpiece on a wall, pedestal or the “ideal space”. Did I win an award? Who won 1st place? Will there be labels or ribbons indicating who the award winners are? Well, the art is up but winners will not be announced until the opening reception on Friday, August 28.

Helping fellow members hang the artwork today was both fun and tiring as it took approximately 4 hours to organize, distribute, measure and nail in place all 63 accepted pieces of art. This number is not a reflection of participation as there were 114 or so submissions prior to the Juror elimination. What an exhausting job it must be to decipher what the show will keep for exhibit and what to place aside when there are so many creative pieces to choose from. Some of my favorites belong to the members of the Illiana Artists with years of training and teaching experience behind them. I am in awe of the wealth of talent this community has to offer.

Hanging an art show requires ingenuity and a keen eye for space. I found a great article The Collectors Guide for professional art installation and gallery guidance. With 4 people available to hang the art we still found ourselves in a collective group questioning and deciding which piece to put in place and whether or not to move items from one wall to another as it might look better “over there”. I can’t even count the number of pieces we took down in order to re-hang. There were framed pieces of all sizes and weights so a few extra hands to measure, hold, survey, hammer and run for supplies was necessary. The name plates set the finishing touches for the show and everything came together quite nicely by the end of the day. I can’t wait for the opening tomorrow and witnessing the joy the exhibit will bring to all those who participated and are eagerly waiting the moment the gallery doors first open. It will be a busy day.

A Workshop for Advocating Your Mission

August 12th, 2009 by Maria Braun-Perez

Illiana Artists opening reception 2001.

Illiana Artists Opening Reception 2001.

An effective leader must understand the infrastructure of the group they are to lead. In order to gain a greater understanding of non-profit operations, this afternoon I attended an informative workshop presented by Lucinda Nord, VP, Public Policy of the Indiana Association of United Ways. The majority of attendees represented human service agencies that were in need of federal funding for their operations. The Illiana Artists, on the other hand, are a creative service group that generates funds from membership dues and exhibitor fees collected from art showings.

Sitting in on the workshop I realized our small art organization was not as complex as those for which my fellow learners had come to represent. My time spent at the workshop was not wasted as I learned the rules of lobbying for a specific cause and how to create a neutral environment within the organization when defining the lines of non-partisan activities. The guest speaker provided the workshop attendees with an abundance of information to stock pile their toolboxes and get to work on their next non-profit mission.

As I looked around the room, I saw people of all demographics, some of whom where involved in politics, and thought to myself, “I must be the novice among this crowd.” The speaker asked the attendees to stand up and set themselves in place at various points within the room to gage the comfort levels of the participants in advocating their mission. To my surprise, I stood among three individual in the front of the line representing those of us willing to go the distance to promote our cause. I realized at that moment I was more than just stubborn or hardheaded. In fact, I am confident and ready to reshape the events of the year ahead.

Although I will not be lobbying on behalf of the Illiana Artists to fulfill the immediate needs of the organization, today’s journey was a day worth spent as I met new people and reconnected with old friends and colleagues among the group. In the end, I am glad I did not take to heart a recommendation for browsing the library and, as a result, would have missed the engaging, learning opportunities the workshop had provided to me on this day.

A Graphic Designer In the World of Fine Arts

August 12th, 2009 by Maria Braun-Perez

Illiana Artists member juried exhibit 2001.

Illiana Artists Juried Exhibit 2001.

The motto of the Illiana Artists is “Artists Helping Artists” and that is my plan for the operating year of 2009-2010. Converting 25 plus years of traditional methods of communication over to Internet based applications will be no easy task. My journey begins with a giant tub of document folders and paperwork that now resides in my home. A request for an up-to-date membership listing led me to a hand written paper document left in my mailbox and a Word file of mailing labels both of which contained out of date information and expired membership listings.

On Friday, August 7 the first edition of the email newsletter was distributed to a handful of email addresses. Off to a good start! The postal mail was reduced to a postcard in order to save on time, printing and postage. I hope to generate a growing email list within the next month or so. I think it is important to keep members up-to-date and informed in real time when necessary.

Our website, Illiana, is sorely out of date at this time. The September 14 meeting will present an opportunity for the members to hear the Web Committee’s proposal for a new logo and website redesign. The vote will way heavily on available operating funds and an understanding of fellow members that the Illiana Artists’ current website does not present an appropriate public face for this outstanding group of artists. I will report the outcome of the member vote following the September meeting.

Our 12th Annual Regional Juried Show held at the Chesterton Art Center is right around the corner. Exhibit Committee members are currently busy coordinating entry/delivery of artwork at this time. The exhibit will run August 20 through September 28, 2009. I hope to see many fellow artists and friends at the opening reception on August 28. It will be my honor to present awards and capture the days events for the website recap. See you there!