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New Website for Veronica Thomas

Veronica was introduced to me by Boni de Laire, whose website I reconstructed in June 2014 and have maintained since then. Originally from South Africa, Veronica has lived in the States for the past 15 years. Since moving to Oregon she has been realizing her dream of becoming an artist, focusing on oil painting. When the opportunity to attend an exclusive painting workshop in Scottsdale, Arizona, arose, Veronica started looking for ways to earn some extra money to cover her travel expenses, and friends agreed to host an art salon at their home in mid-April. Mentor Boni insisted that a new website for Veronica Thomas was a must at this critical juncture, and that it be completed by the time the art salon took place so she would have an online promotional tool to work with. That’s where I entered the picture.

 

When the three of us sat down to discuss the project, I showed them the last site I had completed, www.michaelcarpenterart.com. Veronica liked it so much she went straight for a similar design using the same theme, Divi, by Elegant Themes. As with all my other clients, Veronica’s site was equipped with a full suite of plugins for search engine optimization, page loading speed, social sharing, and of course security to protect the website and its visitors.

 

One of the fun things we incorporated was a Google font with a special effect, accomplished with a css styling trick. Veronica wanted the headings to match the branding on the invitation mailers, flyers, and business cards that her daughter Chloe had developed for her. It wasn’t available as a Google font, but they wree able to find one that was so similar one can hardly tell it’s not the same. The other challenge was that Veronica wanted the header with the effect on the home page, but without the effect on all the other pages. Not only was I able to pull this off successfully, but the research and the execution went very quickly, so it wasn’t a spendy experiment either. I love how my clients push me to learn new things with their challenges! Another arrow in my quiver…

 

The one sticky part of the Divi theme seems to be the banner space. It’s a bit unpredictable how much of an image will appear in this space in a desktop browser, yet the entire image will show in a mobile browser.  I can do quite a bit of customizing, but it’s still tricky. Chloe is proficient with image editing and social media, so she was a huge help in this regard. In the end, our collaboration again resulted in a new website for Veronica Thomas in which we all take a considerable amount of pride. It was completed and launched well before her deadline, Veronica sold enough paintings at her art salon to help cover her expenses during the workshop in Scottsdale, and she is now busily absorbing all the new information she possibly can in Arizona! We will be doing the first update on her site once she returns to indicate which paintings have been sold. Meanwhile, here are screenshots of Veronica’s new website as launched on April 17, 2015. You can click these to view larger versions, and there is a link to the live website in the paragraph below.

 

veronicathomasart.com, new website for artist Veronica Thomas created and launched in April 2015 by Hannah West using a customized version of the Divi theme.
Website created for artist Veronica Thomas in April 2015 by Hannah West.
Screenshot of Veronica's Bio page, showing the difference in the heading style from the Home page
Screenshot of Veronica’s Bio page, showing the difference in the heading style

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please visit Veronica’s website and help it gain momentum with viewers online and the search engines. Her artwork is beautiful and, from children to wildlife and still life to plein air landscapes, she paints such a wide variety of subjects that it took eight portfolio categories to accommodate them all! Her site is another beautiful example of how the Divi theme can be customized for various purposes. If you would like to see examples of how I have used and customized Divi in other projects, click the links in the sidebar for fashion jewelry designer www.wendygell.com (including e-commerce shop), portfolio galleries of landscapes in oil at www.michaelcarpenterart.com, soft and lovely watercolor portfolios at www.judybuswell.com, presentations for harp strings and related products and information at markwoodstrings.com and the spectacular Mountain Glen Harps website, with one of the most amazing home pages I’ve made to date. This last one is a great way to see what’s possible with Divi.

 

If you like Divi’s flexibililty but would like to see an alternative, I have used a similar, and very popular, premium theme called Avada which I purchased at Theme Forest to create www.jacksonvillechiropracticclinic.com (very professional and takes advantage of numerous shortcodes in the design), and the gorgeous nonprofit ecommerce site www.missioncandles.com, probably the most beautiful site I’ve created yet. I enjoy working with both of these themes and though there are many themes out there I’d love to play with, I do hope to use the truly premium quality Avada again in the near future.

 

Friends take care of friends and extend the family. I’m so happy to have gotten to know Veronica and look forward to an ever-deepening friendship with her. Many grateful thanks to my dear friend and talented artist Boni dé Laire for referring Veronica to me! Please visit Boni’s website to see her amazing landscapes in oil. You will not be disappointed, they are truly spectacular and we will be adding a new painting soon!

 

New website for Michael Carpenter

One of the things I like about my work is that I’m often asked to update or create a new website for an artist who has just moved into my area. It’s a great way to make new friends and keep a finger on the pulse of the arts. Creating a new website for Michael Carpenter in March/April 2015 was one of those “welcoming committee” assignments. Michael Carpenter and his lovely wife lived in Portland for much of Michael’s professional career as a successful graphic designer. They have spent a good deal of time in California and New Mexico since he retired and began devoting his time to the fine art oil painting that fired his passion for art as a young man. They moved here recently, and decided it was time for Michael to establish a presence online. Many thanks to artist and plein air painter Norm Rossignol for referring Michael to me!

 

Michael is not an emerging artist. His experience, skill and diligent study as well as a very refined eye are evident in all his work, so building a new website for him was a real treat for an artist and art enthusiast like me. I prepared a total of 77 images for this project, 36 images of original oil paintings for the website and the rest, images of paintings that are now only available as prints for Michael’s promotional use. That was a LOT of eye candy to soften the technical end of the work for me! And it felt good to be protecting them with the addition of internal metadata and a visible copyright/website address to each image. A little cropping and adjusting to the images themselves was required, though not too much as they were in very good shape when they came to me. A total of about 15 minutes per image on average to make them fully web-worthy and ready to add.

 

On the technical end, Michael’s site was built with a complete suite of plugins chosen for various back end functionalities, including a complete security setup, search engine optimization, Google analytics, and caching for consistent performance and page loading speed. More too, but surely that is boring to most readers. What’s not boring at all are the three portfolio galleries of his paintings, displaying his work in Still Life, Landscapes and Waterscapes categories. His home page displays a few images from each category to give you an idea of what you will find as you continue to explore the site. These image galleries are presented in the new “masonry” style, which I’m very grateful for as it shows each image in its entirety—no unpredictable cropping that deprives visitors of a glance at each painting in its fullness before clicking to view and enlargement. A bio page to learn more about the artist, a customized CV page which includes his shows, distinctions and awards, and a contact page round out the presentation on Michael Carpenter’s new website.

 

Michael’s site received a fair amount of attention when it came to customizing the theme. By default a white background and very modular, the newer Divi theme by Elegant Themes is becoming very popular with my clients for its very nice portfolio layouts. These don’t come with the theme by default, but are available in a separate download if you look hard enough for it. Divi is also a responsive theme, so Michael would emerge on the internet ready for Mobilegeddon with a theme that looks fabulous on both desktop and mobile devices. Michael chose a deep green background with black banner areas and gold text, adding custom gold accents to the theme itself as well. What a great call! The site looks very elegant and refined, and quite masculine without being “strong.” An effective, subtle and understated setting for his wonderful paintings. We “lifted” his signature from a painting and turned it into a site logo and customized a number of additional elements throughout the theme.

 

Even the parallax site banner, which opens the site with an accompanying quote from the artist, got a lot of scrutiny and adjustments before it was just right. We had to make some compromises on this important detail due to the difference in how its displays on mobile and desktop browsers. No one really likes making that kind of compromise, but when we were finished Michael was satisfied that it looked the best it could across the range of device sizes. In the end our collaboration resulted in a beautiful new website for Michael Carpenter that we are both proud to present. Where’s the champagne?!

 

New website, new friends…without any further adieu, here’s a glimpse of Michael’s new website home page, and a few features that people interested in a new website might like to see. You can click therse for a larger image, but please take a little bit of time to visit the live site at www.michaelcarpenterart.com, enjoy all his paintings, and inspect the various features of the website. Who knows, you might find a painting you can’t live without! If you’re an artist, particularly if you paint en plein air, you will find much of interest in his work to be inspired by. Thanks so much for entrusting me with this project, Michael!

Screenshot of www.michaelcarpenterart.com homepage, created by Hannah West Design in April 2015
Screenshot of www.michaelcarpenterart.com homepage, launched April 2015
Curriculum Vitae page. www.michaelcarpenterart.com
Curriculum Vitae page, www.michaelcarpenterart.com

 

 

 

 

 

New Year’s Reminder: Update your Website’s Copyright!

It’s important to keep your copyright notice updated from year to year to protect your intellectual property and your reputation, and it’s that time of year. If you don’t know how to change the copyright notice on your website or just don’t have time to figure it out, please contact me at webmistress@hannahwestdesign.com or call 541.899.2012 to request this change. It’s quick and easy, so it’s inexpensive too. Happy New Year!!

Looking forward to Free SSL!

Updates on Website Security and Free SSL

Securing your website is increasing in importance to the point that soon your site could be disregarded by Google and avoided by visitors if they don’t see the familiar “https://” with a tiny padlock icon at the beginning of your url. Last year Google announced that websites secured with Secure Socket Layer encryption, or SSL, are getting added favor from the search engine company, increasing their rankings in search result pages at google.com. A number of recent high-profile security breaches such as the one at Sony Pictures demonstrate the possibility that any site can be hacked and illustrate the business-halting disaster that the ensuing data loss can cause. The little understood hacker phenomenon, combined with our fascination with the idea of artificial intelligence, has inspired numerous movies on the subject since the birth of the internet, with the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo released in 2011, The Hacker Wars released last year and Black Hat (Chris Hemsley) leading several new ones slated for release in 2015. Television writers have also explored the phenomenon in many shows, my own personal favorite being “Kill Switch,” one of the most thought-provoking episodes of The X-Files and possibly an inspiration for Transcendence (Johnny Depp). Such fascination reveals how little most of us actually know about what hackers do and how they do it, even the filmmakers, as most movies do not represent hacking with much accuracy. Nearly none of them show the ethical side of hacking — those we can thank for testing sites for vulnerabilities and helping design software to protect the rest of us from that shadowy threat we know nothing about aside from its existence. And of course there’s Anonymous, a group of hackers who seek social justice via computer-hacked threats. Most of us — that is, those of us who do not operate ecommerce websites that conduct credit card transactions online — have been able to get away without SSL up until now, but clearly that era is ending. As responsible citizens of the internet, we all need to step up to the plate and secure our websites to protect our investment in the site itself and any data it may contain, but also to give our visitors confidence by demonstrating our commitment to protecting them from “drive-by” malware infection. Taking these measures will help us retain (and hopefully boost) the search engine rankings we work so hard to gain.

My own website www.soartists.com (The Southern Oregon Artists Resource) was attacked by malware early in 2011. The entire site was taken down and its companion blog, Art Matters!, had to be reconstructed. Fortunately we did not receive any reports of massive spam attacks or anything else that indicated a loss of critical data for any of our listed artists or visitors to our site, but it was a painful wakeup call that directed my attention to the importance of internet security. As a result, all my clients with WordPress sites will see at least one and often three or more security plugins. I set these up to notify me when unauthorized attempts to gain access to the admin portion of their websites result in a “lockout.” This keeps my email inbox quite busy. For those clients who do not have WordPress sites, I recommend a security overhaul to install some basic code that will help protect their sites until they are able to purchase a SSL certificate that will encrypt all activity to, from and on their websites, making the “transactions” that include visitors’ activity invisible to hackers and ever-watchful malware bots looking for opportunities to inject malicious code on vulnerable websites.

So what has kept us all from investing in a SSL certificate that would protect our sites and their visitors? Most of us have a tendency toward complacency, clinging to naïve thoughts that justify inaction. One I hear often is “Why would hackers want anything from my website?” Trust me, it’s nothing personal. If you are not engaged in ecommerce, they probably do not want anything from your site itself, but like parasites they are always looking for “hosts” from which they can silently conduct their mischievous and often damaging activities. In early 2014, a client for whom I needed to create a website on a very restricted budget opted out of security measure “for now.” By Thanksgiving, her site had been blacklisted by Norton Safe Web and had to be cleaned of malware before it could be reinstated. I breathed a deep sigh of relief that we caught this before Google had blacklisted her, as their reinstatement procedure can be much more time-consuming. Still, the process wound up costing her an unexpected sum for cleaning and submitting her site for reconsideration as well as installing security measure that would prevent future infections—no fun for either of us, yet a relief once it was reinstated. For those who chose to look into a SSL certificate for their website, the dealbreaker has most often been the price. SSL certificates have been expensive, and the lineups of less expensive to most expensive types of SSL were not only confusing, but discouraging, making us feel that if we invested in a “minimal” (cheap) SSL certificate, it might not be effective and therefore a waste of money. But there is good news! A couple of days ago I received a little/big gift from one of the security companies whose plugins I use–a link to an article in my inbox with good news for 2015 – SSL will be free, and much easier to install, as of Q2 2015! Following is the source of the information reported in this excellent article. I strongly suggest you read both articles!!

Let’s Encrypt: Delivering SSL/TLS Everywhere

Vital personal and business information flows over the Internet more frequently than ever, and we don’t always know when it’s happening. It’s clear at this point that encrypting is something all of us should be doing. Then why don’t we use TLS (the successor to SSL) everywhere? Every browser in every device supports it. Every server in every data center supports it. Why don’t we just flip the switch?The challenge is server certificates. The anchor for any TLS-protected communication is a public-key certificate which demonstrates that the server you’re actually talking to is the server you intended to talk to. For many server operators, getting even a basic server certificate is just too much of a hassle. The application process can be confusing. It usually costs money. It’s tricky to install correctly. It’s a pain to update.Let’s Encrypt is a new free certificate authority, built on a foundation of cooperation and openness, that lets everyone be up and running with basic server certificates for their domains through a simple one-click process.Mozilla Corporation, Cisco Systems, Inc., Akamai Technologies, Electronic Frontier Foundation, IdenTrust, Inc., and researchers at the University of Michigan are working through the Internet Security Research Group (“ISRG”), a California public benefit corporation, to deliver this much-needed infrastructure in Q2 2015. The ISRG welcomes other organizations dedicated to the same ideal of ubiquitous, open Internet security.

The key principles behind Let’s Encrypt are:

  • Free: Anyone who owns a domain can get a certificate validated for that domain at zero cost.
  • Automatic: The entire enrollment process for certificates occurs painlessly during the server’s native installation or configuration process, while renewal occurs automatically in the background.
  • Secure: Let’s Encrypt will serve as a platform for implementing modern security techniques and best practices.
  • Transparent: All records of certificate issuance and revocation will be available to anyone who wishes to inspect them.
  • Open: The automated issuance and renewal protocol will be an open standard and as much of the software as possible will be open source.
  • Cooperative: Much like the underlying Internet protocols themselves, Let’s Encrypt is a joint effort to benefit the entire community, beyond the control of any one organization.

If your website needs attention to security or you want to get a SSL certificate and you’re not sure what to do, please contact me at webmistress@hannahwestdesign.com or call 541.899.2012 to discuss your needs and what I can do to help. One of the primary lines of defense is simply keeping your WordPress installation, theme and plugins updated, and backing up your website regularly so you can easily restore it if a disaster does happen. I know you’re busy and have other priorities on your mind and your schedule, so let’s talk about an inexpensive annual contract that will allow me to do that for you so you won’t have to!

Help Me Help Mother of Hope Cameroon to Empower Girls & Single Mothers

Well, there has been a lot happening at Hannah West Design this year, despite the fact that I haven’t been posting about it…I simply haven’t had time to keep my blog updated! But this volunteer project deserves to be first in line in my game of catch-up ball.

Cameroonian girls learn to use a laptop computer
Cameroonian girls learn to use a laptop computer

I met “Mother of Hope” Adah Mbah of Cameroon through WorldPulse.com, an incredibly warm and supportive global community of women founded by Jensine Larsen of Portland, Oregon. What a brainchild Jensine gave birth to! Many of these women are beautiful writers, activists working on behalf of women’s rights, ending gender-based violence, environmental causes and more. The site itself concentrates on digital empowerment for women and girls around the world, helping them to find their voice and broadcast it over the internet by providing digital empowerment resources, a venue for support and overwhelming encouragement, and opportunities of many types to women. Though I had been a member since 2010, I recently became active there to help my daughter Jennifer Faith to promote the book she wrote about her journey out of an abusive marriage and encourage women to visit her blog, jenniferfaith.org, for hope, encouragement, and the strength to begin their own journeys to freedom from violence and abuse.

Adah Mbah, Mother of Hope
Adah Mbah, Mother of Hope (seated at left)
Adah, the founder of Mother of Hope Cameroon (MOHCAM), found me through Jennifer, and seeing that I had computer literacy skills she immediately appealed to me for help in obtaining and delivering internet-enabled devices like cell phones, tablets and laptops for the 30 single mothers and girls entering their first year of University in Cameroon who will be attending her digital empowerment workshop next month. Our original thought was that there ought to be many used devices like these sitting dormant in desk drawers throughout the US. The idea of implementing a reduce-reuse-recycle approach to providing for these young African women really appealed to me and we went to work identifying others who could help us obtain donated devices. Unfortunately the rub came when trying to figure out how to actually get these devices to her, as Adah said the delivery system in Cameroon is very unreliable. Well, we couldn’t ask people to hand over their devices if we weren’t sure if they would get to Adah safely and in time, so a few days ago we decided to raise funds instead so she can purchase them in Cameroon in time for the workshop. You can help! A donation of only $10 will make a difference in Adah’s modest budget, which will cover the purchase of internet-enabled devices for the girls, transportation from their village to the internet cafe in a nearby city where the workshop will be held, and space rental fees. She is also offering modest but intriguing gifts for larger donations. If you’d like to help, you can jump straight to Adah’s Indiegogo campaign here: Virtual Learning tools for Young Women in Cameroon. Please share with anyone you think might also want to help these Cameroonian girls and young women!

This is what Adah & I wrote for her first appeal for device donations, published at WorldPulse.com:

Access to affordable and relevant health services and accurate, comprehensive health information are fundamental human rights. Yet gender-based discrimination, lack of access to education, poverty, and violence against women and girls can all prevent these rights from being realized. Single mums and girls face a lot of challenges when it comes to sexual reproductive health rights and safe motherhood.They lack accurate information about HIV transmission, the ability to choose whether and when to get pregnant, response to violence against women, and services for sexually transmitted infections and reproductive tract illnesses—all because they lack computer skills.

Mother of Hope Cameroon (MOHCAM), in her fight to educate single mums and girls, is organizing a three day digital empowerment workshop from the 28th-30th July 2014 to raise awareness on single mums and girl’s sexual reproductive health rights and basic computer skills. They will be given the chance to learn leadership skills, build self-confidence and better understand new marketable skills when using visual training tools.The programme is aimed at challenging prevalent gender stereotypes in communities, particularly those that reduce the aspirations of girls in rural communities, where traditions are firmest and patriarchal systems still remain very strong. For single mums and girls to fully participate in their communities and enjoy their rights, they need a life free from gender-based discrimination—a life with the opportunity to be educated, to work, to be healthy and to participate in all aspects of public life; however, millions women and girls are frequently beaten, raped, mutilated, killed, and subjected to gender-based violence which limits their opportunities.

Our ongoing campaign is working to connect rural and underprivileged single mums and girls to the world via the internet. Also some educated women are computer illiterate and can’t properly handle leadership positions. Computer literacy will open doors to share information and build networks with like-minded ventures. Most rural single mums and girls who are engaged in farming and petite trading will acquire computer skills which will enable them to market their products. They will be able meet with other women and mentors online, who will direct them in their activities and businesses. They will find online forums where they can showcase and gain global exposure for their work.

To enable these positive improvements in our communities, MOHCAMs training workshop will empower 30 single mums and girls from Mubang Ntsen Nkwen village and equip them with basic skills in information communication technology (computing), and also to educate them about women’s reproductive health to help them rise to meet the challenges they face daily. This workshop will take place in Foncha-street Nkwen-Bamenda from the 28th–30th of July 2014 at the Ets.ALMA Cybercafé opposite Providence Clinic.

We intend to extend this training to women and girls entering their freshman year in university. Due to the limited internet access, high school students entering universities in Cameroon are not familiar with the internet’s power to help them research and enhance their studies. Those who go online simply use it to send or read emails and chat. These women and girls lack the basic skills to access the vast learning materials available on-line that can help them break the cycle of poverty and abuse so they can find their voice, improve their own situations, and effect positive change in their communities.

When Cameroon’s women and girls succeed, Cameroon succeeds!

Women and girls in Cameroon make up more than half of the population. They are the breadwinners and the backbone of our economy, yet they face harsh treatment due to outdated customs and traditions which hinder them. They are still regarded as their husband’s property, with limited rights in most communities. This workshop will enable them to become local community reporters who can share information and advocate for women’s rights and positive change for everyone.

Equipped with basic computer skills, like-minded people can come together to improve their skills and share their experiences. This will increase productivity and encourage innovation in their businesses and workplace. Togetherness and love will be fostered in young minds, who will then be positioned for the mentoring and training which will enable them to create and contribute to a better economic system in Cameroon.

Computers are tools needed by all women and girls for a rapid change! You Can Help!

There are plenty of steps we can take to strengthen our future, but first we need to take action. We shall be grateful if you would donate your used Internet-capable phones, computers or electronic gadgets to help women learn and participate effectively in our computer literacy workshop. We also need assistance in getting these devices safely to us in time for the workshop and would appreciate any suggestions or offers of help to bring donated devices to Cameroon so that we can make them available to the workshop participants.
Please email us at motherofhopecameroon@gmail.com or call +23733051311

Thank you for your support!
Computing is our Business!!!
Mother of Hope Cameroon website

Adah and her handwashing campaign team, 2011
Adah and her handwashing campaign team, 2011
I sincerely hope this strategy for empowering the women and girls of Mubang Ntsen Nkwen village in Cameroon is reaching into your heart as it has mine. You simply would not believe how much hope some basic computer skills can bring to these aspiring but oppressed women! I appeal to you to take a moment to visit the Mother of Hope Cameroon Indiegogo campaign page and make a donation. Just $10 makes a difference (and your name will be added to the list of donors in all their promotional materials), $25 helps even more and gets you a bumper sticker about ending gender-based violence, $50 buys a digital device for one of the girls or pays for her transportation to the workshop, and those who donate $100-250 will receive a gift of handcrafted items made by the women of Bamenda, 250g of organic Cameroonian coffee produced without forced labor by the North West Cooperative Association (NWCA), or a 500g jar of native Cameroonian honey produced by the Bamendakwe Rural Women’s Development Organization (BARUWDO). Your donation must be received by July 17, 2014 in order to give Adah time to make the purchases and other financial arrangement she needs in time for the July 28-30 workshop.

For those to whom this kind of information is important, Adah Mbah is also a committed believer in Jesus and is counting on him to bring the help these young women need to change their lives for the better and bring hope to the future of Cameroon. “God will not fail me!” she says over and over, and your response to the tug in your heart that her words cause will make you God’s accomplice in doing something substantive to help 30 single mothers, young women and girls to overcome the very real challenges they face in Cameroon. Thank you so much for your donation in any amount before July 17, and for sharing with others who have the heart and a little cash to help! You can also show your support for the work Adah and her team are doing by liking the Mother of Hope page on Facebook.

Mother of Hope Cameroon’s Mission Statement:

Mother of Hope Cameroon MOHCAM logoMOHCAM is a non-profit organization of victims of gender based violence that provides security to the scared and unsure girls and women in communities in Cameroon. It’s aimed at fighting against the abuses faced daily by women and girls who become victims of gender based violence in communities. We ensure victims’ rights protection through advocacy and also aim at building future women’s rights leaders from victims. This in turns help to build a culture of empathy, justice, and peace from supported victim of violence. We also propagate a culture of peace building in homes and communities.

MOHCAM is based on implementing skills through local trainings on income generating activities for the empowerment and change towards acts of violence to secure girls and women victims of gender based violence. We work in partnership with schools and communities.

Vision

To establish a shelter home for victims of violence and to advocate for the implementation of family protection bill that can addresses domestic violence with prompt police response. And to establish a National Domestic Hotline for victims of gender based violence in communities.
MOHCAM is committed to ensure that all victims are able to regain and maintain a life of dignity and self-worthiness which will:
• Inspire
• Transform lives
• Motivate people to take action
• Promote social justice & human rights for girls and women

Values

We value and believe:
• In an environment which enhances self-esteem and respect for all.
• That each individual is unique and of value.
• That we all have a responsibility to build a healthy community.
• In a holistic approach in working with individuals and community.
• In constant attention, sensitivity and flexibility throughout the ongoing process of relationship building.
• In ethical practices.
• In volunteerism.
• In innovation and creativity.

Lastly, if anyone reading this knows someone who will be traveling to Cameroon or a neighboring country between now and July 15 and would be willing to be a courier of digital devices, please contact me at webmistress@hannahwestdesign.com or Adah at motherofhopecameroon@gmail.com and we will work out a plan to obtain and transfer devices for them to deliver.

Why Art Matters in Jacksonville

Hannah West, Anne Brooke & Arlis Duncan

Three years of promoting the arts community of southern Oregon through the Southern Oregon Artists Resource and of Jacksonville as a board member of Art Presence and curator of the art exhibits at GoodBean Coffee have shown me that the arts bring more benefits to our communities than many realize. I’d like to share what I’ve learned about how art affects our community and hope this will rekindle an appreciation that becomes a deeper commitment to supporting the arts in Jacksonville.

The arts have been made and practiced as long as there have been humans. They are key to children’s cognitive and physiological development, and the expressions of abstract thinking, sequencing, and eye-hand coordination needed to make art prepare young minds for mastery in reading, language and mathematics. Integrating the arts into core subjects helps students achieve better understanding, learn faster and retain information longer. Creative problem-solving and collaborative skills gained through training in the arts give kids the edge they need to succeed in the new knowledge-based economy and participate in the rise of the creative class. A new emphasis on the arts in education reflects the fact that creativity has become a valued asset to employers in many industries.

Art also has proven value in healing, and we are fortunate to have some incredibly effective nonprofits putting art to work on behalf of the most vulnerable in the Rogue Valley. From children recovering from abuse and kids battling cancer to adults with cognitive challenges or contending with degenerative diseases, art therapy is providing relief from symptoms, positive self-esteem, better communication, recovery from physical and emotional trauma and open doors of opportunity. All these contribute to a healthier community.

Results from the Arts & Economic Prosperity IV™ study in June 2012 showed that economic activity generated by the arts results in $135.2 billion in total economic activity to the nation’s economy and supports 4.1 million full-time jobs. After reading the study’s results, the U.S. Conference of Mayors urged mayors across the country to invest in nonprofit arts organizations as a catalyst to generate economic impact, stimulate business development, attract tourists and area residents to community activities, and improve the overall quality of life in America’s cities.

Additional 2011 and 2012 studies have so firmly established the contribution of the arts to the economy that government at every level has implemented programs for investments in the arts in education and nonprofit art centers, as well as entrepreneurial support for individual artists.

In Jacksonville we know cultural tourism is essential to our local economy, but it turns out that arts and cultural tourism is the fastest growing segment in the entire industry. Half of all Americans take at least one trip per year, of which 80% seek cultural or heritage opportunities; 15.4 million overseas cultural heritage travelers came to the U.S. in 2010, outpacing the average growth of all overseas arrivals to the United States. It’s so important to the national tourism industry that new commitments to support cultural tourism have been put into place at every level of government.

Communities which embrace the arts enjoy higher property values, which are more likely to remain stable during economic recessions. Jacksonville has benefitted greatly in property values and new residents with higher average incomes in the past twenty years. When residents would rather stay than move away those property values can be sustained. Though we’ve taken a hit with everyone else, we weren’t hit as hard as many other communities and have bounced back with greater resilience than most.  Southern Oregon is one of the top three regions where people moving out of state choose to relocate, and Jacksonville is one of the most desirable spots in the region. The evidence I’ve seen makes me think we have the Britt to thank for much of the gentrification we’ve enjoyed, but to sustain this we need to remain mindful of two things:

  • • As a city becomes more prosperous in terms of property values, artists are less likely to afford living and working there, and
  • • Arts & culture need active and ongoing cultivation to sustain property values, retain high net worth individuals and families, and give visitors a satisfying arts experience.

Art Presence was founded by artist Anne Brooke four years ago. Partnering with local businesses to provide venues for artists to exhibit and sell their work and attract visitors with a variety of outstanding events and displays, the group has helped bring revenue to our business community, supported local talent and is making strides toward contributing to art education, in schools and through the Art Presence Art Center in Jacksonville. With Arlis Duncan’s help, Anne achieved nonprofit status for the organization under the umbrella of the Arts Council of Southern Oregon, which in turn made the Art Presence Art Center’s new home in the former Children’s Museum possible. Soon after celebrating this accomplishment, our situation there became tenuous and finances strained. Some are concerned about the organization’s ability to survive 2013.

I’ve spoken with transplanted residents who love our gallery. They love Jacksonville, yet many left major arts & cultural centers to make a new life here and miss this vital part of their former lives. Their support shows that in its short existence the Art Center has already improved the quality of life for many of our Jacksonville neighbors and has the potential to do much more.

Communities that fail to support the arts suffer from its neglect. If we would continue improving quality of life for residents, increasing property values, building an attractive destination for our visitors and increasing revenue for our businesses, we must do more to support the arts in Jacksonville. We must make sure that our city seeks out and obtains its share of available funding for the arts in education, nonprofit art centers and cultural tourism, and makes a commitment to do whatever necessary to support artists and cottage industries as a key strategy for sustaining Jacksonville’s economy. The numbers are in: a healthy and sustainable local economy needs a thriving art center. Art Presence has proven its commitment to our city’s prosperity and stands willing to contribute everything the arts have to offer toward that end. We urge our Mayor to answer the call of the US Conference of Mayors to invest in Art Presence, our own nonprofit arts organization, as a catalyst to generate economic impact, stimulate business development, attract tourists and area residents to community activities, and to improve the overall quality of life in our city.

Art matters to everyone in Jacksonville, and we ask our neighbors to take action in whatever way you can:

• Visit the gallery and attend opening receptions and artist demonstrations. If you can’t buy art, leave your contact information in our guest book. Proving local support is crucial to obtaining grants and donations.

  • Go to art-presence.org: comment on posts, make suggestions, subscribe to new posts & our newsletter, and view our committees to find an area where you can contribute and who to contact. Share our content with your social networks.
  • Contact us if you’re a grant writer who’d like to help us acquire funding. We will often be required to match grant funds with locally obtained funds, so…
  • Donate to the Arts Council of Southern Oregon with “Art Presence Art Center” in the memo line. Contact Arlis Duncan or go to artscouncilso.org for more information.
  • Write a letter to the Jacksonville Review’s editor, the Mayor and/or City Council and tell them why the arts in our community are important to you and your family.

Thanks to the Jacksonville Review for publishing my piece in Jacksonville’s local newspaper and at their website!

Hannah West Design nominated for SBA Small Business Champion of the Year! Help us win!

Wow! Hannah West Design, parent company of the Southern Oregon Artists Resource, was nominated for the SBA Small Business Champion and Home-Based Business of the Year and they have accepted our nomination! YOU can help us win this prestigious honor! Just write a letter telling the SBA how SOAR has helped your business or has otherwise positively impacted the community and email it to soar@soartists.com, and we’ll include it in the info package we send them. They tell us that the sooner they receive everything, the better able they will be to review it by decision time, so if you could take a little time at your earliest convenience to write something nice for us, we’d be very grateful! To help you with the details of your letter, here are the elements that Champions will be judged on (for my beloved artists and art-related businesses/organizations, just translate “small business” into “artists and art-related businesses” to understand what they’re looking for and tell them something about your experience with me as a web designer/workshop instructor/champion of your art business through SOAR):

· Volunteer efforts beyond business/professional responsibilities to advance small business interests within the community, state and/or nation

· Demonstrated efforts to improve conditions in the small business community as a whole, not solely for individual personal advancement; Volunteer efforts to provide professional services to the small business community in a legal, legislative, managerial or financial capacity

· Demonstrated accomplishments in advising small business groups of opportunities within the overall business community

· Other accomplishments demonstrating the nominee’s merit as an effective advocate for small business interests.

Home Page Update for London Hummingbird Arts

Though Janet has boldly updated various parts of tamlondonhummingbirdarts.com numerous times, her site’s home page remained unchanged since its launch early in 2008. During this time she has done many creative experiments with her art and her workshops, growing and learning in the process, and recently decided that the Luminous Mandala workshops she facilitates with friend and colleague Diane Tibbitts have so outshined the others she has done that she wanted to showcase them and the path she took to reach them on her landing page. The luminous mandalas she and her students create are beautiful, and the success of the therapeutic healing work that accompanies the art is far beyond what she has seen with other techniques. Have a look and enjoy reading the outline of her wonderful journey!

Tree Mandala by Janet London
Tree Mandala by Janet London

Valentine’s Day Site Update for Cowboy Flowers

Last weekend I finished up a flier and site update for www.cowboyflowers.com to showcase the Valentine’s Day arrangements owner Barb Wallgren will be featuring. She’s also offering a 10% discount off online orders to be delivered Feb 10 & 11, so if you ‘re planning to give flowers to a loved one, you might want to take a look! Not all the arrangements are shown on her flier below, or even on her website, so you may want to like her page and connect with her on Facebook, too.