Archive for January, 2012

January 11, 2012

Why the Arts Should be Funded (Toronto, we’re lagging – still…)

New Study:  Toronto Falls Far Behind large Canadian Cities in Municipal Arts Investment
Release from the Toronto Arts Council

Hill Strategies Research released a report today, Municipal Cultural Investment in Five Large Canadian Cities, comparing funding in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal.
Investment by Toronto City Council ranks lowest by a wide margin: per capita investment in each city is, from highest to lowest:

Montreal: $55
Vancouver: $47
Calgary: $42
Ottawa: $28
Toronto: $19

“Throughout major international cultural centres, municipal arts funding is key to maintaining a thriving creative city, attractive to residents and tourists alike.  We are at the tipping point; this study clearly demonstrates that Toronto risks losing its position as Canada’s go-to city for arts and culture.” noted Claire Hopkinson, Executive Director of Toronto Arts Council.

The impact of cultural investment is felt throughout Toronto’s economy, much of which is dependent upon a vibrant arts sector.  The arts and culture industry contributes $9 billion to Toronto’s local economy and supports 130,000 jobs.

In May 2011, Toronto City Council affirmed the critical importance of arts and culture funding when it unanimously endorsed the Creative Capital Gains report.  The report recommends increasing Toronto’s arts funding to $25 per capita.

In contradiction of this unanimous decision, the 2012 City Operating Budget, approved by Budget Committee yesterday, recommends a reduction in Toronto’s arts and culture grants by $2 million and additional reductions to the city’s department of Economic Development and Culture.   Given that every dollar invested by the city in grants to arts organizations in Toronto leverages an additional $17 in funding from other sources this will have the direct effect of reducing investment in Toronto by $25 million.

“It is hard to exaggerate the impact of such a cut.  Of course artists and arts organizations will be affected, but so too will every Toronto resident who benefits from access to arts programming as well as Toronto’s tourism industry, its restaurants, hotels, taxis and retail sectors” said John McKellar, Chair of Toronto Arts Council.

Toronto’s Executive Committee, chaired by the Mayor, will review the Budget Committee’s recommended budget on Thursday, January 12, following which it will go to the full City Council on January 17 for final approval.

For more information, please contact: Susan Wright, 416-392-6802 x211;

On that note but in the opposite way – an article from the Guardian – Why Should We Fund the Arts?

BUDGET DAY TOMORROW! Let’s see what’s happened because of or despite hundreds and thousands of people writing, calling, giving deputations in person, signing petitions, you name it.


January 10, 2012

A Triple QR Code Post


A while back I posted about what exactly QR codes were and how to use them – I was thinking more about them the other day and how to use them in marketing endeavours for my clients and for my business, so I thought I’d repost. Sure enough yesterday morning I came across a post on QR codes on Rebecca Coleman‘s blog, and that night a piece in the Globe and Mail.

I think we`re now at the point where QR codes are ubiquitous – more than enough companies are using them so that they are no longer mysterious. So let`s get on with it.

I present to you – a lot of information on QR Codes.

What’s a QR Code?

What’s a QR Code – Part Two

How to Use QR Codes

Ten Steps for a Successful QR Code Campaign


January 8, 2012

Sunday Roundup – January 8

First Roundup of the new year and it occurred to me that some articles didn`t make the round-up due to holidays etc so I’ll include them in here.

Next Stage Theatre Festival – we have promo video! – go check out the promos. Then go check out a show. Next Stage is THE place to be in January, don’t miss out.

What’s Your Policy on Social Media? – an excellent question.

Top Ten Posts of 2011 and Ones I really Liked – because a list always bears repeating.

SWF Seeks Basic Website – the New Year opened with a bang and this post which broke the record for pre-lunchtime views

Learning Code and 95 Twetheses  – follow-up post about building a website and how Martin Luther was the original Tweeter

Apparently it’s Your Year – interesting article on the artist as entrepreneur

NEWSFLASH:NSTF Ticket Sales – See photo above. I repeat – it’s the place to be in January.

As a bonus posting – Native Earth is looking for a Co-Artistic Associate. Check it out.

All right – off to the tent and three shows today.

January 7, 2012

NEWSFLASH: Ticket Sales, Next Stage Theatre Festival

from Gideon Arthurs, Executive Director, Toronto Fringe, Facebook status update on January 6, 2012

Just home from another day at Next Stage – I love this city, and I love the artists in this city.

Day 1: best ever sales day;

Day 2: even better;

Day 3: blew days 1 & 2 out of the water.

Get your tickets now for the Next Stage Festival, presented by The Toronto Fringe– we are literally running out of seats to sell.

You heard it folks, from a man who has access to the actuals  – go get your tickets.

January 6, 2012

Aparently it’s Your Year…

Interesting article from on how 2012 will be ther year of the artist-entreprenuer and why. Reductions in costs, increases in techbological ability – apparently it’s a great time to be an artist. Or is it? What does the idea that “anyone can do it” do to the idea of art in general?  Read more…


Equally interesting article from the Times about the joy of being quiet. This struck me – In barely one generation we’ve moved from exulting in the time-saving devices that have so expanded our lives to trying to get away from them — often in order to make more time. The more ways we have to connect, the more many of us seem desperate to unplug. It’s well timed as I saw a play last night called Modern Love in which the main character decries the fact that she has “661 Facebook friends and nobody to go to a movie with IRL”. (I’m paraphrasing). Food for thought. And now I want to read Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows.


And of course Next Stage is up and running at Factory Theatre. Ticket sales are brisk, hot toddies are hot and everyone you want ot know in the know is in the tent in real life. Apparently on Day One three shows sold out hours before opening and two more on Day Two. I’ve booked all my tickets to see all the shows and I can’t wait. So in case you thought, “oh, nobody goes to theatre in January” – I advise you to  get your tickets and your seat in the (heated) beer tent as soon as you can. We do art in the winter. WE ARE CANADIAN.


January 4, 2012

Learning Code and 95 Twetheses

are we all back in our places with bright shining faces? Are we ready to go? No? I quote Bridget Jones’ Diary:

“It seems wrong and unfair that Christmas, with its stressful and unmanageable financial and emotional challenges, should be first forced upon one wholly against one’s will, then rudely snatched away just when one is starting to get into it. Was really beginning to enjoy the feeling that normal service was suspended and it was ok to lie in bed as long as you want, put anything you fancy into your mouth, and drink alcohol whenever it should chance to pass your way, even in the mornings. Now suddenly we are all supposed to snap into self-discipline like lean teenage greyhounds.” – Bridget Jones

ANYWAY, here we are and let’s get to it.

Yesterday’s post SWF Seeks Basic Website hit a before noon all time high in terms of views and comments so not only is it worth relinking up there, but we have an additional link from the super-talented Avery Swartz. Interestingly enough the bulk of comments and shared were from fabulous women, and so it seems wholly appropriate to give you Ladies Learning Code.

A reminder that ticket sales are going strong for the Next Stage Theatre Festival – have you got yours? Not sure what to see? Here’s a PSA of a few promo videos sent my way, as well as a complete listing of all shows onstage for the next two weeks!
I zoomed by Factory  today and the heated beer tent? IS UP. Next Stage opens tomorrow night – hope to see you there!

Oh, you crazy kids with your tweets and your posts and your likes and your virals. We are so old school – 16th century to be precise. Great article in the Economist about social media and how Martin Luther and the Reformation started with  pamphlets as paper tweets. And for those who say “photo or it didn’t happen” – there it is. That’s a 16th century twitpic. You can’t see the caption but it’s probably something like @Luther: hammering it home! #Reformation #95theses

Click on it to read more. Or click on the video within the article to listen to a nice British man reading you the article.  He’s quite soothing. And thanks to Andrew Dollar for telling me about it.

ETA 9:26 a.m.: Broken link for a few minutes there for Ladies Learning Code -all fixed up!

January 3, 2012

SWF Seeks Basic Website – must be attractive, clean and open to sharing…

In the past year or so, I’ve been asked a particular question,or had people ask people to ask me a question, or people tell people to ask me a question to ask other people. I hear it  by phone, in person, via Twitter and Facebook:

Does anyone know how much it costs to set up a basic website?

I have yet to answer or hear anyone else answer this question with a figure as end-of-disussion. So I pondered a bit and thought for the New Year it would be a lovely start to answer this  question by turning to colleague and local expert Avery Swartz. The answer is in here, but there’s so much more to think about.

I love working with Avery – she’s responsible for the banner at the top of this page, my business cards, my font choices, my ads in print and online. She’s awesome. So off I went and asked her. read on and be illuminated!

What exactly is a basic website – what does that phrase mean to a designer?
I like to think of websites in terms of functionality.  What do you want your website to DO?  Note: a website’s functionality shouldn’t be confused with its purpose.  The purpose of a website is to sell something, offer information about a company, give directions to an event, etc.  The functionality of a website is HOW you achieve your website’s purpose.  

For me, as a website designer and developer (I both design and build websites), a BASIC website is one that has very very limited functionality.  We’re talking about words and pictures, and that’s it.  Very few webpages (under 5), and nothing changes often (i.e. – no updates needed).  That kind of website is sometimes referred to as a “brochure website”, since its main purpose is to offer information.  There will probably be an “about” page, a “contact” page, and maybe one or two more webpages.

Also, if a client comes to me asking for a “basic website”, it means that all the content for the website (the text, the images, the client’s logo or any other graphic elements needed) will be supplied.  If I need to design a logo, any special graphics, do any photoshop work on your pictures, or help you with your copy, then it’s not “basic” any more.

So how much does a basic website cost? 

If you work with me, it’s going to be about $1000 (or less for arts groups and charities).  You can also find a student or a web designer who is just starting out, and they might charge you $300-$500.

What in your experience does that mean to a client?
Usually, a client thinks the same thing as me for a “basic website”.  Text, images, and just a few webpages.

But, if a client does have a different idea of what a “basic website” is, then it’s usually because they think a “basic website” includes more functionality.  Any time you want something beyond text, pictures, and a handful of webpages (that all have the same layout), then you’ve stepped outside the realm of “basic”.

Extra functionality can include: more than just a few webpages, the ability to update the website yourself, blog integration, e-commerce or online shopping, photo galleries, video, any kind of user interaction (forums, the ability to comment, membership areas), anything that requires enhanced security and encryption, websites that look great on mobile devices as well as desktop computers, social media integration, etc etc etc.

More often than not, when a client comes to me asking for a “basic website”, I help them understand that they probably want more than just the basics.  Most of the fun stuff on the internet can be found in the extra functionality I listed above.  And of course, all that can drive the price up.  But, I’m guessing that your company/business/show probably isn’t “basic”, so you probably don’t really want your website to be either.

If a client is just starting out and is working on a shoestring, are there free or inexpensive ways for them to create their own site?
Absolutely.  But don’t necessarily expect it to be painless.  There’s a reason why people like me are in business.  The DIY options for websites have come a long way in the last 10 years, but there is always at least a small technical hurdle or two.  If you’re not internet savvy, you might find you’re in over your head.  But, there’s no reason not to try, and you might find you can make something pretty good-looking just by rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands dirty.

You can definitely set up your own website through  You can even have your own domain name.  My suggestion with WordPress though – keep it simple.  Choose a really clean theme (aka template), and exercise restraint.  Wordpress is pretty powerful, and I’ve seen people go nuts trying to “enhance” their website, and it ends up looking like a giant mess.

If you’re a visual artist, you really need to have a account.  If you put in the time to make it really nice, you can even have that as your website.  Consider getting a Behance Pro account.  It will make your Behance profile into a portfolio website, without the logos and branding from Behance.  No one will be the wiser, and it looks great.  Check out these examples:

You can do the same thing with Cargo:

If you make something handmade, there’s no excuse for you to not be on Etsy.  Even if you have your own website, you should still be on Etsy.  There are people who are actively looking for handmade goods, searching on that website, who would never find you otherwise.  It’s worth the slight fee it costs to put your products up.

And finally, more and more people are making Facebook pages for their businesses, and skipping a professional website altogether.  I don’t recommend this, mostly because Facebook business pages aren’t search engine-optimized (i.e. – it’s going to be harder to find your Facebook page on Google than it is to find your business website), but I don’t think there’s any harm in doing both (a website plus a Facebook page for your business).

Oh, one more note.  Don’t try and build a website using some silly program on your computer.  Microsoft Word is for writing a letter or a grant application – it’s not for building a website.  Even iWeb, the program on your Mac, is a mess.  It writes bad code that isn’t cross–browser compatible (i.e. It’s not going to look good in every web browser that people use).  If you’re going to try the DIY route, go with something mainstream, contemporary, and web-based.

is there anything a client forgets or might not think about including in their basic website that are essential?
The basics are the basics.  Good, clean layout. Readability.  Easy to navigate. Contact information up front (no one wants to search for your phone number or your address).  When in doubt, keep things simple.

So for the sake of comparison – is my website basic?
Nope! You have lots of fun extra functionality. Blogging (and everything that goes with that, including comments), the ability to update the site yourself, social media integration, contact form, and a flexible mobile version.

 I know WordPress did most of that for you. So there are DIY options for people that want even more than a “basic” website.

Any other thoughts?
Whether you’re using a DIY website option, or working with a web designer, make sure your website accurately reflects your business and your level of professionalism.  Just like it’s simply unacceptable in this day and age to not have a website for your business, it’s also unacceptable for that website to look like junk.  Think of how you behave when you’re online.  If you check out a website for a shop, or a restaurant, or a newspaper, do you judge the business by the way their website looks or behaves?  Of course you do.  We all do.  So just remember that people are judging you too.  Sometimes you get what you pay for.

I think people often confuse the idea of a “basic website” with a “clean website”. Basic = very little functionally. Clean = good design. Clean does not necessarily mean basic. There are oodles of very attractive (and very complex) websites out there that are clean, but definitely not basic.
Think of Twitter. Google. Apple. All very clean (design), but definitely not basic (functionality).
Somehow people have a kooky idea that clean design is easy, so it should be cheap. Clean design is NOT easy. It’s often the most difficult thing to do, because it requires great vision, clarity, and restraint. If clean design was easy, there wouldn’t be so much crap out there.
What are you up to next?
I’m returning to work after 9 months of maternity leave, so I’m ready to take on new clients and new projects.  I’m always working on professional development, and studying up on the latest web trends.  Right now I’m kind of obsessed with “responsive web design”, which is a technique for making websites look fantastic on mobile devices AND desktop computers (without sacrificing one for the other)

Thanks Avery! I repeat – you are awesome.

About Avery – Avery Swartz is a Toronto-based award-winning web designer.  A self-described design geek, she helps to demystify the web for small business owners, charities, and arts organizations.  Avery believes that designing websites should be an enjoyable experience for everyone involved.  She offers a friendly, casual approach and promises to use as little technical mumbo-jumbo as possible.  You can contact Avery and view her portfolio online at

When she’s not making websites, Avery writes the blog Stuff Avery Likes, featuring news and info on design, travel, internet trends, and living in Leslieville with her husband, dog, and baby girl.  Check it out at

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