Local arts website opens new vistas

Artists, others share event details, education options

Friday, July 9, 2010

The arts community in Southern Maryland has a new way to get the word out about events and services.

A local artist has created a website specifically for furthering communications and interaction within the community in Charles, Calvert and St. Mary's counties.

Southern Maryland Arts (www.somdarts.com) is the brainchild of Therese Thiedeman of Charles County in response to the 2008 Maryland State Arts Council's strategic planning effort. Thiedeman said the regional meeting was held to hear what suggestions the artistic community had for improving the arts, and what they wanted was better communication among the counties.

"I wanted to try and make it happen," Thiedeman said.

Thiedeman created the website primarily to help organizations keep from planning their events all on the same day, but also to allow the artists, dancers, writers and art educators of Southern Maryland to find one another.

"Its purpose really is to be a hub — a launching pad for the community," Thiedeman said.

She explained that the goal is not to replace the websites people already have, but to direct people to them.

Since the site's launch in October 2009, a number of artists already have discovered and joined the site.

Local performer Jennifer Cooper of Go-DIVA Productions in St. Mary's County was one of the website's first members.

She explained that she has found the website's calendar to be extremely useful. She can submit a list of her upcoming events and they are quickly added to the calendar, visible for everyone.

"As much exposure on the Internet as an artist can get the better. It's all about making people aware," Cooper said.

Charles County author B. Swangin Webster discovered the site through a Google search.

She was surprised to see how many local artists and literary people were in the area and decided it would be a great service for her.

Now she is a frequent user.

"I routinely go on there to find out what is going on in the Southern Maryland region," Webster said.

Each organization and artist who joins the site gets her own personal page with whatever information and pictures she chooses, providing a permanent place for other visitors to find her.

Webster said it was through the Southern Maryland Arts website that the Women's Club of Charles County initially found her. The group then asked her to speak at one of its meetings.

She also advertises her services as a writing coach on the site and already has been contacted by two people.

In addition to connecting local artists, Thiedeman said she hopes the site will be used by those who are looking for artists. The site offers a classifieds section where users can submit free requests and offers, all of them local to Southern Maryland.

But not just the classifieds are free. Thiedeman explained that the entire website is completely free for users and she'd like to keep it that way.

"I hope that artists, organizations and businesses will sign up so they can become part of this community so people can find them," Thiedeman said.