When Non-Profit Art and Commerce – SLAM!

As a member of an Arts Commission in a small artistically vibrant city, and an audience member at local art events, I often see artists taking on more marketing and selling. With reduced funding sources, artists and arts organizations must use new and more creative ways to gain the support of their community. Besides applying for grants and sponsorships, arts organizations must seek individuals and businesses receptive to their mission and willing to support their art. Knowledge of funding sources and research into potential audiences have critical impact on management and decisions about artistic projects.

ArtFarm has a wide set of theater offerings, including Summer Shakespeare, their teen circus Circophony, and educational program Circus for a Fragile Planet – and an extensive audience, diversely skilled performers, and multiple networks of potential funders.

The Shakespeare Slam is one of ArtFarm’s most popular events. Blending entertainment and fundraising, The Shakespeare Slam is a benefit performance for the organization’s many programs. Participation in the event is open to all, and is an opportunity for supporters to contribute creatively as well as financially.

Slam participants perform short pieces of Shakespeare literature in innovative ways, raising pledges for donations from “Patrons” for Art Farm. Prizes are awarded for pledges raised, and applause awarded for performances by all participants – youth, students, adult, amateur or professional.

ArtFarm also engages key members of the community by using a local children’s museum, KidCity, as the venue for the event. Local restaurants are also given the opportunity to contribute – and market their products – by donating signature dishes to be served to the attendees. The event is billed as an opportunity for community members to enjoy the company of friends, offerings of local food establishments, and entertainment for a good cause.

Art Farm’s mission of social activism and community involvement is enhanced by Shakespeare Slam. By involving its donors in a personal way, Art Farm strengthens its ties with its fundraising base and extends its network to include that of the Slam performers. The Slam has also become, like the events ArtFarm produces, a landmark seasonal event for the Middletown community.

ArtFarm has found ways to practice their activism and create meaningful performances by diversifying their artistic offerings and appealing to many different audiences. The Shakespeare Slam is a great merge of their art and fundraising.

November 2016


Illuminated Windows

Julia O’Halloran Faraci



Projection artist Marc Pettersen initiated the Illuminated Windows project to, as the Middletown Press’s feature article said, “illuminate Middletown’s downtown.”


Call for Artists was released through the Illuminated Windows website on April 13. Powered by Weebly, the site  also features mockups and sketches, artist bios, and FAQs giving detailed instructions to potential artists.





The video below, Illuminated Windows Sculpt Day 1, was published on MAC650’s YouTube just afterwards, on April 15.


lan_chis_header_14 (1)

In a partnership with two restaurants on Main Street,  the Vietnamese restaurant  Lan Chi’s, and, across the street, the Mexican restaurant Iguanas Ranas iguanas, the Illuminated Windows project will feature a large figure in each restaurant window that symbolizes each cuisine, making them focal features on Main Street and attracting visitors to the North End.

A giant dragon, five feet long, will pulse with color in Lan Chi’s window. Flashing its bright scales, the dragon will – breathe fire!  Across the street, a  four-foot figure of a frog will squat in Iguanas Rana’s window. Strumming a little guitar, it too will be animated by projected lights.


For the window of Lan Chi, paper artist Ben Parker has created a paper dragon. Practicing an art called “geometric origami”, he created the five-foot body from an uncut piece of paper, with the head, flame and legs from additional paper.

Visual artist Jeanette Andriulli, who is featured in the Sculpt Day 1 video above,  is creating a guitar-strumming rana  for Iguanas Ranas.  Andriulli’s background is as a production designer and artistic director on films, with a particular interest in horror.

Pettersen is casting small models of the figures from Quik-Dry cement. The miniature frogs and dragons will be sold to the public. Artists are invited to paint the creatures, which will be displayed at the exhibit opening on May 6th at a reception at MAC650.


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Frog and Dragon figures, cast by Marc Petterson, with origami dragon by Ben Parker.                  Photos by Julia Faraci

Two pieces will be chosen to be projected onto the sculptures in the restaurant windows – the giant guitar-strumming frog in Iguana Rana’s window, the imposing origami dragon in Lan Chi’s. Pettersen will use Adobe Afteraffects to create a looped video to animate the images of the selected figures onto the sculptures.



Experimentation with projection mapping by Marc Pettersen, posted to Facebook page Illuminated Windows Reception and Call to Artists!

Pettersen has been working with projection for some time. In 2013, he collaborated on “Projected World Experience” exhibit, which surrounded visitors with video and sound in a Middletown alley at the “Middletown Remix” arts festival.

“Projected World Experience” photo courtesy of  Marc Petterson

As Vice-President of MAC650, he is active in facilitating and leading events there, including open studios and figure drawing workshops.



Pettersen has primarily used social media for networking and connecting with other artists. When he was new to Connecticut, he used MeetUp frequently to promote events and find people who were interested in workshops. Through MeetUp groups, he found organizations like Hygienic Arts; through Google Apps, he found MakeHaven and the Grove in New Haven.



Ben Parker, the artist who created the dragon, uses a variety of social media to curate, exhibit and demonstrate his work. His website BRDParker.com includes a gallery of his origami, a detailed discussion of his philosphy, and links to the publisher of his bookSix Simple Twists.  He discovered Flicker (brdparker) in 2007, and uses it to display his work from wedding invitations, to Trashion Fashion show, to recreations of building (Chicago’s Hancock Building, among others).  He recently started to use Instagram (brdparker), and his artist Facebook page is BRDParker.



As Jeanette Andriulli, the creator of the frog, is also a blogger and writer, she has an active social media presence. She has several websites including her website for her production work at https://jeanette.allyou.net/2250893/film and a blog @rtful Pursuit; she also blogs for MAC650, the artist living space in Middletown, which is the home base for the Illuminated Windows project.




MAC650 and the artists who live and work there are a great part of what keeps the North End vital. Art lovers are attracted to the bright airy space for exhibits and readings and events. The Illuminated Windows reception on May 6th, with the exhibit of painted dragons and frogs accompanied by other works by the participating artists, will be a highlight of Spring arts in Middletown.

The North End thrums with life. Scents of pho and enchiladas and cupcakes waft from restaurants. Scenes of families and friends in bright spring clothing will color the warm evenings. Sounds of laughter and conversation and music will float from the Buttonwood and Eli Cannon’s and local bars.

And amid dancing lights,  a dragon will breathe fire, and a frog will strum a guitar.

Oddfellows Playhouse

logoby Julia O’Halloran Faraci

Its vibrantly magenta-headed History web page proclaims “Oddfellows Playhouse was founded in 1975  as a community-based, multi-cultural theater program designed to include children from all backgrounds.” Throughout its 40+ year history, Oddfellows has been all of that – and more – having  a lifelong effect on thousands of young people in Middletown and beyond.

Today, young people from  “Little Fellows” of 3 and 4, through elementary and middle-school students, and on through high schoolers, explore themselves and their world through the practice and play of theater and circus.

littles 2  bow

Through their participation in Oddfellows, young actors learn different forms of performance craft – acting, movement, circus, improvisation – and practice, perseverance and teamwork. An atmosphere of tolerance and acceptance is nurtured, and differences are respected and celebrated.

The Teen Rep company has performed plays from every genre from ancient Greek and Shakespeare to American and world classics to original and experimental plays.


Oddfellows directs its social media toward three main groups – to families (young people and their parents), to community members and potential audiences, and to Oddfellows alums, an especially large group considering the many children who have participated in programs over the years.

Jean Ann Wertz, Operations Manager

Jean Ann Wertz, Oddfellows Operations Manager, finds Facebook the most powerful platform to capture the attention of her wide ranging audience. Families are the prime audience – parents of the young performers currently attending Oddfellows as well as potential students. Since Facebook is used by adults as well as young people in OP’s target audience, she finds that it is a particularly effective means of contact to families.




Wertz used Facebook’s “Boost” to promote the Spring production of Photo-Two-WebCoE-240x300Shakespeare’s “Comedy of Errors”. A Broadway World article was posted, resulting in 114 likes and 24 shares – and national attention. Oddfellows can almost always count on coverage from the Hartford Courant  and the Middletown Press – these are popular and Wertz will post links to these articles.

She will also post links to items of interest to young actors and their families: workshop announcements , articles about youth theater, and Oddfellows history.

Twitter  is used too. Timely information, like snow closings, registration reminders, and show blurbs are tweeted – and so are #tbt, announcements of Oddfellows playwright awards, and rehearsal and performance photos of current productions.

wizSpring is a busy time for Oddfellows. After the March production, auditions start for the Spring production and applications are coming in for campers and counselors for the Children’s Circus.

Announcements for registration on the Oddfellows website and Facebook page are accompanied by attractive and bright photos of happy, active, and engaged children.

Registration can be completed easily on a form on the Oddfellows website, and paid through PayPal.

As part of Oddfellows’ mission to serve all children regardless of ability to pay, the Playhouse has financial aid available to any child who otherwise would be unable to attend.


open house

Program registration is open – look what fun you will have with us!

The Children’s Circus is the highlight of the summer for many Middletown families. Every year, hundreds of children spend five weeks learning to juggle, dance, clown, walk on stilts, tumble, and ride unicycles from circus artists – many of whom were circus kids themselves. On the last Friday of the program, they gather in the schoolyard of a Middletown school, and with costumes,handmade props, giant puppets, and colorful sets, they put on the greatest show in Middletown.

3Uni  FireRing   ThreeAcrobats

pyramid     MaAndPa
MountRushmore1 cows

All photos by Kisha McWilliams Michael from “Headin’ West”:  2015 Children’s Circus (oddfellows.org)

On its webpage, The Oddfellows Circus link has information about the program, which is full-time for the first time in 2016. Since registration is through Kids Arts, the site links to a fillable form through the City’s website.

And because of Oddfellows’ mission to serve all City children, no matter their families’ ability to pay, fundraising is critical. The website’s Donations page links to a JustGive site.


The Oddfellows Alumni Facebook page is used by the many adult children who were Oddfellows Playhouse and Circus kids. Alumni keep track of each other’s life journeys and share memories.

Wertz also keeps in touch with Playhouse alums by sharing articles and news. Recent posts have included “Running Away to Join Circus Theatre” by Gary M. Kramer, published on American Theatre magazine’s website, community announcements,  current photos of Oddfellows kids, and of course, TBTs.


Engaging photos and vibrant design draw users into the website and Facebook pages of Oddfellows Playhouse. The organization reaffirms its long commitment to bringing the arts to the Middletown community with its outreach, communication and service to families.

Photos from Oddfellows.org, Facebook and Instagram pages.

Videos from Youtube.



by Julia O’Halloran Faraci

The excitement is building for the live and local Middletown Music Festival. Hosting 29 bands on two stages, the Festival, fast approaching on the weekend of August 5-7, promises to be one of the hot events of Middletown’s Summer 2016.

Bands. Food trucks. Vendors. Funding. And – of course – Audiences.

Many things need to be brought together each year for the Festival to work. Musician, singer/songwriter, artist, poet, arts and entertainment writer, blogger, activist, radio host, producer, J-Cherry (aka Jennifer Shafer Wood) uses social media to make music, arts, and activism accessible to the Middletown community and beyond.

The producer recently shared her new Festival trailer on social media.943816_498277387030076_3172598954257564915_n The J-Cherry presence spans many platforms, linked through her blog.

Facebook is one of her most effective means of getting the word out. Middletown Music Festival has its own page. The producer will often use “Boost” to bump publicity through the J-Cherry Facebook page, though though she must keep an eye on her Paypal account as the feature can rack up charges quickly. Shares and comments through posts on her personal Facebook page to her many friends can be most effective.




“People love pictures” and J. Cherry serves up lots of them, along with videos and recordings.  Animals and kids are the most popular visuals. She keeps a GoogleDoc document loaded with blurbs and links that make it easy for her to share posts at intervals before events.

Dotty the Donation Festie Piggy Bank


Through her blog, J-Cherry keeps her audience on top of new additions to the band lineup, and to links to the websites and social media of the the Festival’s acts. By creating partnerships, she extends the reach of her publicity for the event – and the online presence of the artists as well.



Besides the Middletown Music Festival, J-Cherry has her fingers in a range of artistic and activist pies.

BmH_4I0IIAA6ZtmHer band, J-Cherry and the Strawberries, play their blues-rock music at a variety of festivals and venues, including SWAN Day, The Buttonwood Tree, the Performance Hub, and of course, the Middletown Music Festival.






The band recorded their debut album, “In The Belly of The Beast”, in 2014, financed in part by a Kickstarter campaign. J-Cherry and the Strawberries are on Youtube, Reverbnation and CDbaby.


J-Cherry and her husband Timothy Sparks founded the popular “Anything Goes” open mic at The Buttonwood Tree. Though they have handed off those duties to others, they continue their support of Buttonwood through blog posts.

B6r9dULIAAA1ytzCurrently, they also showcase local talent by hosting Voice of the City on Wesleyan radio station WESU 88.1 Middletown.  Featuring “live and local Connecticut arts and music” in a “bi-weekly show featuring the areas finest artists and musicians of every genre”, the show further extends J-Cherry’s audience as well as networking for future events. 



The couple also expressed their commitment to the Sanders presidential campaign by welcoming canvassers to use their home as a base.

J-Cherry’s active Twitter presence attracts like-minded people locally and nationally. Many of her recent tweets are directed toward her passion for activism and politics.



J-Cherry’s GooglePlus page , which has over 190 views, shares her music through links to recordings on Soundcloud. In addition to sharing her own recordings and appearances, she publicizes other local bands and events, from the Monster Mash at Wild Bill’s to the WESU Record Fair. Her blog posts in support of causes from education to water justice to politics have also gained her a following.


Branding her productions and activities through her logos makes the J-Cherry name a distinctive entity. From the Middletown Music Festival to her band’s appearance at Swan Day to WESU’s page for her radio show, to her Instagram, all are tagged with a link to the J-Cherry Presents website.




J-Cherry’s long involvement in Middletown arts and her journalistic experience have given her a knowledge of the community, an affinity for creating partnerships, and expertise in publicity.


Images and videos from the social media of J-Cherry.

The Buttonwood Tree

by Julia O’Halloran Faraci

A cornerstone of Middletown’s cultural life, The Buttonwood Tree opened in 1989 as a bookstore and performance space. The following year, Buttonwood’s founders,
poet Susan Allison and her husband Stephan Allison, with the backing of the Middletown Commission on the Arts, turned the bookstore into a non-profit arts organization that is an artistic focus of the City’s North End to this day.
Today, opergreat-make-believeating under the auspices of non-profit North End Arts Rising (NEAR), The Buttonwood Tree is a gathering place for a wide range of audiences – art lovers who visit to enjoy the exhibits, dancers and drummers at drum circles, budding performers for open mic, comedy aficionados for stand-up and improv, and music lovers from out of town and within for folk, jazz, rock, and alternative music.


There’s even opportunity to #feelthebern !



Buttonwood is run by Anne-Marie Cannata McEwen and a team of dedicated volunteers who do everything from sweeping the floors to hosting events to doing publicity. Mary Lou Cooke, a work-study student from Middlesex Community College majoring in graphic arts, creates much of Buttonwood’s social media presence.

The Buttonwood Tree has a visually inviting WordPress website (theme: AccessPress Ray) topped with a scrolling banner, prominent sponsor bar and plenty of graphics.


Master Class with  Danny Green Trio


The DeChamplains







Buttons on the home page for special events – workshops, festivals, and performances -feature engaging and attractive photos with teasers that link to pages with even more visuals, event descriptions and artist websites.


Laughter Yoga with Mylene Poitras

Regular events, which include healthy life workshops like laughter yoga, meditation and tai chi, and performances including comed, improv, and open mics, also draw the viewer in with a range of graphics, stills, and action photos.

Tai Chi with Mike McEwen


Buttonwood uses the Woocommerce plug-in for ticket sales, which is free for non-profits, and allows users to pay for tickets through PayPal.



Event announcements are integrated with ticketing and the Events calendar plug-in (Modern Tribe). The Seamless Donations (David Gerwitz) facilitates making donations by PayPal or credit card. Donors also have the option to support Buttonwood through its Generosity/Indiegogo campaign.
Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter pages are accessible directly from the website through FeedThemSocial by SlickRemix. Mary Lou likes Instagram for its immediacy; she will often post a photo of their outdoor sandwich blackboard (“the board”) on the day of an event.


Hashtags (#(artistname) #openmic #anythinggoesopenmic #rightnow #middletowncpostponet) will attract audiences looking for something to do that night. Instagram can also be a quick way to make an audience aware of up-to-the-moment news, like cancellations .

Pictures and videos can be forwarded to followers; Buttonwood measures the effectiveness of their Instagram posts by the likes and comments.

Instragram can also be used as a tool to direct visuals to a “wish list” of audiences and supporters with similar interests to attract from organizations and people that Buttonwood follows.

Hi Hanna! Volunteer Hanna Holcomb


An engaging caption can entice site visitors to comment, making a successful post. Action photos of events, videos, even behind-the-scenes photos of volunteers generate site activity.





Buttonwood creates an intimate space where artists and performers make connections, where new and seasoned performers have a voice. Its website and social media presence create an exciting welcome to entice audiences and artists.


Green Street Teaching and Learning Center

by Julia O’Halloran Faraci

greenstreet building

Green Street Teaching and Learning Center is one of Middletown’s cornerstone arts organizations. Opened in the North End in 2005 as the Green Street Arts Center (GSAC), it is a collaboration between the City, the North End Action Team (NEAT) and Wesleyan University. In 2015, GSAC’s tenth year, it combined with the Project to Increase Mastery of Mathematics and Science (PIMMS), encompassing the mission of the organization to work with children and teachers in art, science, and math.

Green Street provides a wide range of services to the Middletown community as part of its mission. Many children from the North End neighborhood and beyond attend after-school classes in the arts, sciences, and math. The Wesleyan Bound program opens up
possibilities of college to middle-school children. Homeschool students meet for classes and activities. Green Street To Go provides a traveling program to provide arts participation to the community; ConnectBook3-169x300.pngicut Valley Hospital and Ädelbrook Behavioral & Developmental Services are also served. The mission also includes professional development for teachers and artists including arts integration workshops and statewide Science Safety Workshops.

As part of Wesleyan’s Center for Community Partnerships, Green Street Teaching and Learning Center (Green Street TLC), shares Wesleyan’s web platform, Cascade; however Green Street uses an embedded WordPress site for its blog. The Director, Sara MacSorley, is the administrator of Green Street’s social media presence.

MacSorley says that Facebook is the most effective platform for her audience, which includes mostly parents of Green Street’s students, the Wesleyan community, and artists. Static pages provide basic information such as schedules and upcoming programs. She uses the Administrator “Insights” page to review the impacts of posts. She noted that videos are particularly popular, garnering “engagement” post clicks of likes, comments, and shares; links are also popular and photos, especially of the children at programs. She also monitors “likes” and “unlikes” by date. MacSorley notes active times when families start their day in the morning, peaking before bedtime. She will sometimes schedule her material to be posted during peak times.

MacSorley commented that she follows a “70-30” rule for Green Street’s posts. Seventy percent of the time, her posts are “fun”, “engaging”, “interesting”. Only thirty percent of the time will she ask for anything or do any fundraising.

GSTLCThe social media presence for a non-profit should strongly feature a logo, photos, and other branding.  They must provide clear direction for their web presence, in order to protect their reputation and their branding. Shares and posts must be carefully monitored. Posts from the Mayor, Wesleyan, NEAT, are shared; anything that could be construed as political is not.

Green Street uses Twitter for events and for classes that need to be publicized for signup. Tweets are directed to the Middletown Press, to Middletown Youth Services, and other Wesleyan groups; Tweets from those groups are retweeted. Again, knowledge of the audience is important; Twitter is popular with middle-school kids, as it’s a way to get around the cost of texting.

Lists are used for Green Street’s varied audiences; often appearing in Green Street’s “trending” feed is “science communicators”, which includes teachers, national science writers, and college and university writers. Freelancers in particular up visibility because they tend to promote each other. @Sci_Art, in particular, sponsors live chats on Sundays. MacSorley curates her multiple Twitter accounts with Tweetdeck.

To a lesser extent, the organization uses its blog to publish accounts of classes and events, especially featuring photos of students participating in the programs.

Building readership of the organization’s Facebook and Twitter accounts is key to announce and publicize Green Street events and to build community involvement.

Middletown – Arts in the River City

Photo by David P. Bauer




The town where the residents don’t hate the traffic on Route 9 nearly enough, because a stop at the only two red lights on the state road, less than a mile from each other, gives commuters the chance to glance at the sunrise over the river, the fog veiling the river, the Arrigoni Bridge rising majestically over the river. The town where murals and artwork adorn restaurant windows and shop walls on Main Street. The town where residents phoning City officials ask to be placed on hold so they can hear local musicians on recordings, and visitors to City Hall can see paintings, photographs, sculpture and fabric arts by local artists when they go to pay their taxes and parking tickets.

Middletown is home to poets, writers, musicians, artists of all kinds, and a wide range of residents – natives, transplants, academics, students. It’s a diverse population – and a small world. There are many collaborations on projects and promotions.

Cooperation and camaraderie flourishes. untitledThe recently appointed Poet Laureate was not expected to be well enough for a scheduled reading at Russell Library – and poets and members of the public showed up to read her work for her. dic chion marcellaPoets, actors, children, and performers of all types are called by email and Facebook posts to recite, declaim and cause a ruckus at ArtFarm’s annual fundraiser, the Shakespeare Slam. Local musicians are called to play in the Circus Orchestra at Oddfellows Playhouse’s Children’s Circus – years after they (and their children) have “graduated” from the summer program. The Russell Library has to cancel the “dog whisperer” program – word gets out by Twitter.


Often, the need for speed necessitates promotion by social media. Artists and arts lovers from Middletown and surrounding areas are brought together through all forms of social media from email chains to Facebook and Twitter to Meetup. Most of the TBT front_12town’s arts venues promote their events through Facebook and on their websites.

The Buttonwood Tree hosts events of all kinds and welcomes music and performance lovers from all over New England. As one of the cornerstone arts organizations of Middletown, it’s tied into the nightlife of the City, especially of the North End, and hosts jazz performances, comedy groups, open mics, community groups, homeschool classes, and a myriad of other events. Though it has an extensive fan base, The Buttonwood Tree relies on free and low cost promotion and communication, and social media is an ideal ways to get their message out.

The Middletown Commission on the Arts produces Arts2Go with support from the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism, and the National Endowment for the Arts. The Arts2Go calendar is mailed to City residents, but the website lendslogo itself to a more intensive presence. The website promotes readings, performances,  exhibits and and other events in the Middletown area and further afield in Middlesex County. The site also has information for artists – a directory with resources for artists, including links to grants applications, work opportunities, and city agencies.

The arts are intrinsically bound in with the identity of Middletown. Events like Art Farm Shakespeare performances, the Oddfellows Children’s Circus, Cruise Nights and the monthly Arts Walks attract residents and tourists to the downtown area. Business and civic organizations partner with non-profits – and through cross posts on social media, help make these events successful.