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Web Marketing Boosts Artist Development in Rising Sun

Nearly three years have passed since a Rural Entrepreneurial Support grant from the Indiana Office of Community & Rural Affairs (OCRA) helped Rising Sun, Indiana, establish itself as a blossoming artists’ colony.  During the 18 month program, 150 students attended the Rising Sun Art Academy, an “artist in residence” program was launched in the local school to provide resources for art enrichment in the classroom, and over 300 adult learners from throughout the nation attended workshops lead by local instructors and national figures such as Eric Maisel and Becky Anderson.

What’s even more impressive is that the programs started by the grant are continuing 18 months after the OCRA grant cycle ended.

Entering its second year following the conclusion of the grant, the Rising Sun / Ohio County Tourism Commission has secured additional funding to continue the youth and school programs started by the initial OCRA grant.  Professional development workshops, 10 of which have been held in the past 18 months, have become nationally renowned and self-sustaining.  “With the exception of a nominal level of promotional support from Tourism, these programs have become self-sustaining,” explains Sherry Timms, Executive Director of the Tourism Commission.

What has helped Rising Sun to develop and promote its programs has been its use of Web 2.0 technologies.  A dedicated website, http://www.artsinrisingsun.com, was launched to provide broader access to the content of the training programs and seminars offered over the course of the OCRA grant program.  In the year after the site was launched, it logged nearly 6400 visitors, of which over 1100 accessed videos and PDFs of the seminars and workshops.  “What we were trying to do was make it possible to extend the benefits of the OCRA grant indefinitely,” explains Brett Stowell, Project Manager for the web initiative at Bretzel Enterprises.  “It seemed to us that we could help artists everywhere and build the brand equity of Rising Sun at the same time by sharing our materials with the greater community of artists.”

“Now we are engaging in a number of web marketing initiatives,” explains Timms.  So far results have been favorable.  Nearly as many event registrations were received from email marketing as by direct mail for the 2009 fall workshop series.  “The only difference,” explains Stowell, “is that a registration from a direct mail campaign costs our customer over eight times what a registration from a web campaign costs.”  Once the response data is mined and direct mail lists optimized, Stowell expects the artist development programs to be completely self-sufficient.  “We started the first artist development program in Southeastern Indiana, and we are excited that three years in it is nearly self-sufficient” notes Timms.

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