C/VA Editor's Note: We endorse this opportunity and encourage all Comox Valley and Island artists to participate in this project. We are happy to help our members get set up. (Not a member yet? Join today.)
At first glance, technology, fine art and outdoor experiences seem an unlikely pairing. But for Victoria entrepreneur Jenny Farkas, it’s a combination she thinks will transform the online art scene.
“I set out to create a better way to show and sell art online, and provide a broader marketplace for the many thousands of local artists,” she explains. “But I’m thrilled my platform may also serve a higher purpose: to deepen attachment to this amazing place where we live.”
Next month, Farkas will launch a free app called artfinds.me that features artworks about Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands. Each art piece is geotagged to the source of inspiration, allowing users to see through the eyes of talented painters, illustrators and art photographers.
“Visual artists are incredible storytellers. The artfinds.me app lets users discover stunning pieces about our unique landscapes, ecosystems, species and communities, and experience them in-situ. That’s why I call it an art show that goes where you go,” adds Farkas.
She says the geotagging component could very well be a game-changer in an industry that hasn’t yet figured out how to thrive online. Currently very few people view art on their devices, and art is the worst-selling product on the internet.
Farkas contends this is because art requires an emotional connection. Recent studies back this up: most people buy art in person, and especially on holiday when they are relaxed and open to new experiences. For these reasons, this summer artfinds.me will be marketed primarily to the hundreds of thousands of tourists who come here to see exactly the kind of local stories artists are expressing.
“Our app weaves art into the fabric of everyday adventures. It reveals art that is right around you, wherever you roam. And it gives you the option of shipping home a stunning momento: a top quality, affordable art print.”
The team behind artfinds.me is entirely Island-based, in keeping with the hyper-local focus of the site. Taiji Brand Group, a leading branding and communications firm in Cowichan, is in charge of promotion, and is currently prepping this summer’s marketing campaign. Farkas is Taiji’s Senior Content Director, and has been with the company for 20 years.
Art reproduction specialist Terry Zlot of Victoria’s The Print Lab is in charge of producing, packaging and shipping prints on fine art paper and canvas.
Of course, the other partners in this enterprise are visual artists. Farkas is actively reaching out to them through arts councils and social media ads. She’s determined to sign up 250 artists before the May long-weekend launch, and is almost halfway to her goal.
“It’s really starting to snowball: we’re signing up 3 or 4 artists a day now,” says Farkas. “Artists are telling us they have been waiting for a site like this for a long time. They love that it’s free to use, that we handle marketing and sales, and that they get 80% of revenues.”
This enthusiastic uptake reinforces a key finding in her early concept research. Farkas interviewed several hundred local artists, most of whom identified self-promotion as their number one issue.
“They told me they’re overwhelmed by the effort it takes to market and sell their work,” Farkas reports. “So we’re offering to take that job off their hands and promote their stunning visual stories.”
Mayne Island artist Terrill Welch says she is thrilled to have Jenny and her capable team in charge of getting her work out to a broader audience, and handling print sales. It gives her more time to focus on making art.
“ArtFinds.Me is a great way to connect our deep understanding of this place with art-loving audiences,” adds Welch. “And I appreciate Jenny’s strong buy-local ethic.”
For Calum Matthews, Director of Destination Development with Tourism Vancouver Island, artfinds.me solves a different problem.
“We’ve been wanting to better integrate the visual arts community into a visitor’s experience on Vancouver Island. Until now there hasn’t been a central hub for local artists, making them hard to market as a group to visitors.”
When Farkas met with Matthews recently, he told her about an epic summer vacation spent here when he was a kid. At the end of the family trip, his parents bought a painting of their favourite local beach, and hung it above the fireplace back home in Ontario. After years spent reliving the memories through the work of art, Matthews eventually moved to Vancouver Island, not far from that same beach.
“I like to say a single piece of art changed the entire trajectory of my life,” says Matthews.
For a sneak peek of the site (before the app launch), visit www.artfinds.me. Local artists interested in showcasing their place-inspired work can contact Farkas at [email protected] or submit samples at www.join.artfinds.me.