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, operating 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.
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.
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.
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 #middletownct) 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.
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.