Tuesday, May 26, 2009

SNAG Conference in Philly: Part 1

My trip to Philly for the 40th Annual SNAG (Society of North American Goldsmiths) Conference was awesome. I wish I was better at articulating...I hope I can correctly convey my thoughts and feelings about the conference to you (but these posts are going to be incredibly long)! I should let you know that SNAG appointed 3 official bloggers for the conference (which I found to be pretty funny for a few reasons) and I am not one of them. So, let that be a warning:)I am an unofficial SNAG blogger! If you want to hear about the conference from an offical SNAG blogger, visit the blogs of:

Okay...here is what happened and my thoughts on DAY 1 of the Conference.
I was awarded a travel grant from ASU to attend the conference so the whole trip was paid for. I have always wanted to go to the conference but was never able to because of the cost, so I am very grateful for the opportunity to attend my first SNAG conference this year. Because of the grant I was able to talk two of my friends and fellow grads/alumni into going with me as the hotel room was paid for (thanks ASU!). So, we all jumped on a red eye flight, leaving Phoenix at 11:30 at night on Tuesday night and arriving in Philladelphia at 6:30 the following morning (Wednesday). We arrived at the Lowes hotel downtown...checked in and somehow ended up on the VIP Club floor of the hotel...very posh (no idea how that happened)! This was the view from our room. Then we ran into Betsy Douglas (another fellow ASU metals alum from about 25 years ago) and Ken Bova (metals professor in Montana, and the nicest guy ever!) We meandered our way over to the Reading Terminal Market and sat down for breakfast at "Down Home Diner" serving scrapple and scram (YUM!). Ken Bova told lots of great stories and seemed to be just a really awesome guy. He told us, "Before you know it, you are going to be sitting on this side of the table telling stories of your own...you are the future of this field." Whoa...that is crazy to think about.
That afternoon was the Professional Develpment Seminar. I have to admit, this was one of the things I was most looking forward to. After just having done a smiliar workshop at ASU, I really wanted to see how the Seminar at the Snag conference compared. Also, this is a topic currently captivating my interests as this time next year I will be exiting the realm of academia and forced into the real world. The first part of the seminar was speaker, Marla Johnson Norris, CEO of Aristotle Design. Marla discussed having a website presence, content design, search engine optimization, and other technical things about being on the web. She also (very basically) discussed social networking sites like blogs, twitter, flickr, facebook etc. While much of the information was useful, I felt like the seminar could have been much more productive. She spent a LOT of time talking about the technical ways to make sure people can find your website, but then also discussed how to set up a facebook page. Perhaps the audience was too wide a demographic? Speaking to young people about how to set up a facebook page seems like a waste of time, as is speaking to an older generation about the technical ins and outs of website design. Obviously I am making huge generalizations...there are plenty of young people (maybe) who dont know how to use facebook, and plenty of old people who understand the web. I just thought the time could have been better used by discussing branding, marketing, and delving further into how to make these online sites work for you, rather than just telling us that they exist. Obviously this was my first time at SNAG, so maybe these topics were convered at a previous confernce? Anyway, Marla was a great speaker...really kept her audience captive and had tons of energy and I really enjoyed her presentation, and there was definetly information that I took away from it that I did not know before. The Professional Development workshop we just had at ASU, given by Megan Auman was a little more helpful to me, but was also more directed at students (which is what I am and where my perspective comes from.) It was also a more broad view of professional development skills, rather than a more technical narrow one. I guess it is hard to discuss professional development when your audience ranges from well established artists who have been working in the field for 40 years, to students just embarking on their journey. Maybe the Professional Development Seminar at SNAG will someday evolve into two parts...one for those more established, and one for those who are just emerging.
The second part of the seminar was much more interesting to me than the first. Titled, "Galleries in an age of Digital Commerce," there was a panel of gallery owners, moderated by PDS organizers Andy Cooperman, Don Freidlich, Ken Bova, and Harriet Estel Berman. The lineup:
Karen Lorene – Facere Gallery – Seattle
Patti Bleicher – Gallery Loupe – Mont Clair, NJ
Whitney Couch – Object Fetish – Online Gallery
Sienna Patti – Sienna Gallery – Lenox, MA
Beth Ann Gerstein – Society of Arts and Crafts, Boston
Ruth Snyderman – The Works Gallery, Philadelphia

Gallery owners were asked tough questions like, “What does a brick and mortar gallery offer that an online one cannot?” The answer? The consensus seemed to be that galleries offer a place for people to see and touch the work in person. Galleries also attract a differnt type of customer. They also act as an agent/manager/career developer/marketer for the artist. The question was then raised, "How can a gallery representing say, 100 artists or more, possibly develop the careers of each of those artists?" Not a clear answer given for that one. Also brought into heated debate, the issue of galleries earning 50 percent (and sometimes more)...what are they doing to deserve their cut? Through most of this discussion there was lots of fidgeting, sighing, and eye rolling...mostly due to gallery owners not agreeing with one another and also being frustrated by the auidence (the artists). I very much enjoyed the responses from Sienna Patti of Sienna Gallery, and Karen Lorene of Facere Gallery. Sienna was honest and confident...Karen was honest and blunt. The dialog was eye opening but not unexpected. I wish there had been more discussion with the audience, but there just wasn't time.
That night was the opening reception for the conference, and also (one of my favorite activities) a pin swap. The pin swap at SNAG was crazy huge...totally overwhelming. If I hadnt been the the YUMA symposium for the last 6 years I would have been hiding in a corner gasping for breath. There were soooo many people! I have a hard time forcing conversation...there were so many people that I really wanted to meet, but was too chicken to introduce myself to. Next year I will be much more brave. I totally missed out on meeting lots of people. I was able to meet and swap pins with lots of awesome people though. Here are some of the pins I traded for (see the rest of my pins here).( above pin by Betsy Douglas)

(below pin by Lilyana Beckic)
(below pin by Emiko Oye)
Summary of DAY 1...awesome! I had no expectations because I had never been to a snag conference before. I feel like it is one of those things that you get out what you put in. There were so many things and people there to be inspired by. I plan on going back again next year if possible.
Stay tuned for days 2, 3, and 4.


Kathleen said...

Thanks for the great rundown of the first day, I got into Philly too late for the professional practice seminar, it's nice to here the prospective of another student.
It was nice to meet you!