Art & Online Communication: the Example of Trip Art Advisor

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For those who never miss out on the latest exhibition, the web has certainly become the most essential tool to learn about schedules & venues, get an idea of content (is this exhibition really worth visiting?) and up-to-date info on any available offer for the period when you wish to visit. But can a single website satisfy simultaneously all these needs?

Yes, it can, and it’s called Trip Art Advisor.

Freshly launched with an eye-catching graphic, this website starts from an innovative standpoint: let the museum-goers express their opinion on exhibitions instead of  the art critics. Let the review be less “niche”, less journalistic. Simone and Mara, co-founders of TAD, wanted it to be a bilateral exchange between people and art, where users can give and take information on exhibits. The name Trip (Art) Advisor comes from this.

We came across TAD for the first time through a link posted in our #svegliamuseo community, and our curiosity was immediately tickled by this initiative, and not only because it talks about art with a digital, open source – as it creates a community of people sharing the same views – and social approach. What we liked most about it was that it was created by the passion of two people, with no funding and little more than their desire to “do something”.

We then contacted Simone and Mara – whose site is now officially “friend” with #svegliamuseo (see their homepage) –  and asked them a few questions.  You will find their answers below, but in case you are left with any curiosity, don’t hesitate to get in touch with TAD admins here and here.

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The Interview

Welcome on #svegliamuseo, Simone and Mara! Thanks for agreeing to answer a few questions on Trip Art Advisor and be the first to feature in our brand-new series “Who’s already awake” – a virtual space where we will collect all the museums, web projects and cultural enterprises already positively active digitally and on social media in our country.

1. the Project

First of all, why don’t you introduce Trip Art Advisor to our readers. We have learned, by working in a web agency, about elevator pitches: if we were to ask you to describe your project in the time span of an elevator ride, what would you say? You have 6 floors to answer!

S & M: Our goal is to get TAD to be a connecting bridge between art and public, an easy way into a world still too selected. We would like it to be a tool for consultation, but also a site to “live”. A space where anyone could feel free to share his/her opinions (without any fear of “not being good enough”) on the exhibitions he/she has visited or would like to see. A tool to bring people near art in a laidback way. We welcome not only simple recommendations of an event, but also articles about works of art and exhibitions written in a personal, non-academic way.

Furthermore, we thought it should feature a section dedicated to offers. Frequently, museums and hotels collaborate with each other to offer convenient packages including overnight accommodation + exhibition tickets, but these offers are rarely advertised. Our intent is to make them known, and simplify for our readers the choice and the arrangement of  an “artistic excursion”.

2. the Idea

For what we have seen, the first reaction of anyone coming across your initiative –us included – has been: “It was my secret idea too, too bad they came first!”. Which leads to the mandatory question, as trivial as it might sound: how did you get the idea? And how did this idea transform into your excellent website?

S: The idea had actually been stuck in my head for a long while. As an art consumer and an exhibition goer, I was tired of missing out on exhibitions because they weren’t advertised enough. Apart from a very limited number of artists – those most beloved by critique and public, it isn’t easy to have up-to-date information on what to see and where. That is when I thought of filling the gap with TAD.

M: I personally felt the need to experience the digital world – by that moment I was fed up with print media, and I liked the idea of a new portal on the art world. I wanted an effective tool able to provide ready-to-use information (where is what now) , and that would not be just a lifeless agenda. And I wanted it to hold interesting notions written in the most simple way. The question I asked myself was: what would I like to find in TAD if it wasn’t mine?

3. the other exhibition websites

As they say, “The grass is always greener…”: what is your relationship with the other websites similarly dedicated to art and exhibitions?

M: We keep an eye on all of them! Some are really well made, others a little less. But there is room for everyone on the web.

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[“What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?” Vincent Van Gogh]

 4. Social Media

Let’s discuss social networks, our passion. Do you have any specific strategy for Twitter and Facebook? Have you ever thought of distinguishing the use of the different platforms?

S: We watch out for all of them. As for Facebook. Twitter and Google+, we have analyzed the different usage by their audiences: hours of use, language, themes. What we do is to post our articles on both Facebook and Twitter with a special attention to how, when and with what edge.

We also attach great importance to images: they are the ultimate protagonists, after all. We love to select them with care and in high definition. By doing this, we certainly add value to our Pinterest profile. We also have a profile on Tumblr and we recently opened one on Instagram, but this one is still a work-in-progress.

5. the App

This question comes directly from our Facebook community: have you ever considered developing an app?

S: It is our next step indeed, and we are already working on it. The idea has been there since the very beginning, but we didn’t want to hurry things. However, we did choose a layout compatible with the majority of mobile devices. And our app will soon be available.

6. the background

It is time for a more personal question, if you don’t mind, to  help us better understand what lies behind TAD: what are your career and educational backgrounds?

S: I am an art historian with a degree in Conservation of Cultural Heritage. After graduating, a job in the field being utopia (as sadly known to many), I went through a series of unpaid internships. I then started writing about art for an online magazine while also collaborating with other weekly publications. This is how I met Mara.

M: I am a journalist. My educational background has nothing to do with art, but I have worked in this field for many years as Editor in chief of the Art & Travel section of a weekly magazine, DonnaModerna.

7. the Bottom-up Approach

Trip Art Advisor is based on recommendations of photography and art exhibition all over Italy, and it is continuously updated and varied. How do you do it? I mean: how many of the events promoted on your website are recommended by your public and how many come from your own research? Which tools do you have at hand to keep yourself updated on the exhibitions taking place in so many Italian cities?

M: Our luck is that of having at disposal a strong network of contacts (made of museums, galleries and press offices) built over the years. It is this network that allows us to be constantly updated on most of the national territory. Our followers have they share too in pointing out events. Then of course we ourselves fill in the gaps (be them territorial or of content) by researching. We try to be as comprehensive as we can.

8. Multitasking

Only two people managing a website with a national coverage and its related social networks, impressive! How do you manage to do everything? How is your workload shared and organized? (alert: this section is purely to our benefit, as we as well are three people only, and some days it is hard to keep up!)

S: How we do it, you ask? Sometimes we don’t know ourselves. To be honest, we are two “war machines”, and our backgrounds – different, but complementary – allow us to share our workload successfully between the two of us.

M: The division of tasks is certainly a thing, but our basic rule is: we both do everything… while we can. When we will be able to afford it, we will certainly look for contributors.

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Dear Simone and Mara, thanks for your precious contribution. We wish you the best of luck – and “knock on wood” for Trip Art Advisor! It goes without saying, we will keep following you on all your social platforms.

And for those who would like to do the same, here’s a list of useful links:

Translated by @RoryInLA