In February 2010, The Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County debuted an ambitious, first-of-its-kind hybrid website, CityOfTheArts.com, that provides a holistic, immersive online experience centered around events and activities within the city and county.
The engine behind CityOfTheArts.com uses robust behavioral mapping, database, social media, search and mobile technologies, brought together for the first time to create the ultimate online experience for anyone living in or visiting the Winston-Salem area. It offers current, easily updated information on a wide range of events and activities; options for customizing the user experience; areas in which the community can share information; inspirational projects that allow the community to become creatively involved in the city; sophisticated location mapping; and “storefronts” for the sale of products and services.
There is currently no other website with this kind of functionality in the country. The site features six sections and has been fully operational since December 2010.
Events: The events section features an easily searchable listing of all events and activities within Winston-Salem and Forsyth County. Organizations may post events, include event schedules/times and upload photos/video/audio files to the site for free. There also is free link share access for ticket sales. Enhanced pages, that aggregate data on multiple events, are available for purchase. Customized administrative access is provided to organizations for them to make their own easy updates and changes.
The system encourages users to post their ratings of events and their comments. Over time, the system learns users’ preferences so that it is able to proactively suggest events in categories of interest to users (e.g. if a user regularly searches for musical events, the system will suggest upcoming concerts for the user to consider).
My Planner: Registered users receive a free, customized events planning calendar through which they are able to track events of interest to them. Events may be “snagged” for posting on social media pages (e.g. Facebook, MySpace, etc.). Users also are able to invite friends to attend events and receive customized offers or discounts from organizations. Users will receive email reminders about events tracked in their planners. My Planner will sync with mobile devices later in the year.
“The design of the Events and My Planner sections alone is a significant enhancement over any other events website in the country,” said Siobhan Olson, chair of The Arts Council’s marketing committee. “Not only do larger organizations benefit from the free features embedded in the site, but small organizations, that do not have large marketing budgets, can capture the power of the web to draw people to their events – all free of charge. And users find a truly customized experience that enhances the discovery of new things to do.”
Community: The Community section is an online repository of news, articles, posts and blogs about activities in the area. All posts are provided by citizens and community commentary is encouraged. “The community section puts the power of the press in the hands of the people who live here and participate in events,” said Olson. “We encourage everyone to post their event reviews and provide commentary on the vibrancy of our city.”
Gallery: The Gallery will feature individual portfolio pages for artists, musicians, educators and other individuals who wish to showcase their work. These online pages will feature photos, video and audio files, artist descriptions, contact information and a schedule of events at which they will appear. These events may be tagged into My Planner. Of special interest is a section in which individuals can indicate their availability for lessons, lectures, appearances, internships or mentoring. Artists may also allow references of their work to be posted. Gallery pages are free to individual artists.
Best Of: The Best Of section features the most interesting monthly events, as rated by site users. This is a special feature section that draws attention to uncommon, innovative experiences in the City of Arts & Innovation.
Art Market: The Art Market gives artists and experts “store fronts” from which they can sell their work. Similar to other online art fairs (e.g. Etsy), this area of the website will enhance the visibility and commerce of individual artists or co-ops. There will be a nominal charge for “store fronts” in this section of the site. “This is a unique feature of the site,” said Olson. “Nowhere else in the country can you find an online arts market, linked to an events listing, linked to a community news generator.”
Project: The Project is a monthly initiative that encourages community citizens and visitors to engage with the arts and culture of our city. Results of participation will be posted on the site for sharing and commentary.