Web gives art higher profile
By Craig Welsh. Special to the The Telegram
May 1, 1998. Copyright © 1998, The Telegram. Reprinted with permission. The Telegram can be reached on the web at
For Lt.-Gov. Max House, another day
often equals another ribbon-cutting ceremony.
However, instead of using a pair
of scissors to cut one ribbon recently, he
pressed a button on a computer keyboard.
Next thing you know, a pair of scissors
darted across the screen and
snipped some red pixels shaped like a
ribbon, to a flourish of trumpet music
from a computer speaker. With that the
Art Gallery of Newfoundland and
Labrador's (AGNL) Permanent
Collection became available for public
viewing on the World Wide Web.
The latest addition to world of digital
art galleries is a joint project of
Schoolnet, the Heritage Web Project
and the AGNL. It features more than
400 images from 30 Newfoundland
artists, along with biographies of the
artists and commentary on some of the
The Web site features images artists
such as Christopher Pratt, Mary Pratt,
David Blackwood and Gerald Squires.
Artist Anne Meredith Barry, also featured
on the site, was impressed with
what she saw.
"I think this is fantastic. I'm really happy about this, as I'm sure most artists are about their work being viewed in schools and by people across the country," she said.
Barry and fellow artist Pam Hall were
both on the board of the AGNL several
years ago and both advocated the creation
of some sort of outreach program
from the gallery to the people of the
"We started off sending exhibitions around, but that's just too expensive. However, funding for technology is more readily available and that seemed to be the perfect answer," Barry said.
Caroline Stone, exhibition/education
curator for the AGNL, agrees that technology
can be a useful tool in promoting the arts.
"Even though this is only a small proportion of the images in the permanent collection, about 10 per cent hopefully it will inspire people to come and visit the gallery itself," she said.
However, the AGNL site is only one
of several local art galleries on-line. The
Emma Butler, Spurrell and Baird galleries
also have a presence on the
Internet all three can be found via the
WordPlay bookstore Web site run by
owner Jim Baird.
Since establishing the site in 1995,
Baird has added to it with hundreds of
images from artists in Newfoundland
and the mainland. While Baird recognizes
the importance of exposing art to
more people, his reasons are more commercial than the AGNL's.
"It's a marketing tool. It's one more addition to our venue and it provides information," he said.
"For example, normally, we'd have to send slides of images to the mainland but now customers can look at it on-line and have some idea of what the image looks like as opposed to being totally blind."
But how effective World Wide Web
galleries are at selling paintings is
While Baird has sold paintings
because of the Internet exposure, Emma
Butler can only recall one or two occasions
in the last year when people purchased
artwork because they viewed it
"I didn't really expect it to be honest,"
she said. "Buying art is such a personal thing - intimate even."
Artist Scott Goudie says while he's
happy to have his artwork on-line, he
can't recall hearing of anyone walking
into a gallery and buying one of his
paintings because they saw it on a Web
"We haven't had any cases where that has happened. But what it does do is get the imagery out there for people who ordinarily wouldn't go to a gallery," he said.
It seems many local artists are overcoming
their hesitation about the
Internet and there are more and more
sites where their artwork can be viewed.
Initial reservations about the quality of
their images on-line and the possibility
that they could be "stolen" and used for
commercial purposes are no longer real
concerns. As Baird explained, anyone
who attempts to download an image of
an artwork from the Web will receive a
"These images are basically low-resolution scans. They have to be or they would take too long to download to people's computers. Because of this, any attempt to print them off would fail," he said.
Those who visit Web galleries, however,
will see high-quality images on
their screens - provided a good quality
computer is being used. That being said,
most people agree that nothing beats the
experience of viewing art in person.
"The AGNL site is fabulous," Barry
said. "Of course, nothing will ever give you the emotional reaction or the technical reaction to a piece of artwork (that) standing with your nose six inches away from the canvas (does)."
The AGNL Permanent Collection can
be found at www.schoolnet.ca/collections and
The Baird Gallery, Spurrell Gallery and
the Emma Butler Gallery can all be
found via the WordPlay Web site at www.wordplay.com.
Sidebar updated April, 2007.