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Art goes online at Brick Street Arts

Mississippi Art around the World…Wide Web

CLINTON — Michael Piazza knows Mississippi is full of talent in all facets of the arts. With a new dot-com concept called Brick Street Arts, Piazza hopes to make all users of the World Wide Web aware of it, too.

Piazza, who owns a Web design and computer training company called Professional Design Associates (pda-usa.com), came up with the idea several months ago, partially inspired by Gravity Gallery and Coffeehouse in Clinton. The gallery features visual artists with local connections (with the lineup changing monthly) as well as some poetry readings and musical performances occasionally.

Piazza said he wondered, “Without Gravity or other small places, who would know about them?”

Piazza conceived Brick Street Arts, with the Web site scheduled to come online in late June, as a publicity site for Mississippi artists to get the word out about their work and sell their wares online. Piazza has been active in non-profit arts organizations for many years; he has worked for the Mississippi Arts Commission, he does sound production for the Alamo Theatre in downtown Jackson, he was a member of the original Clinton Brick Street Players and a founding member of the theatre troupe’s current incarnation, and he is active in post-production editing of Mississippi recording artists such as Dorothy Moore.

Piazza said he saw so much of the really great work in Mississippi — visual, performing or other creative arts — being done mostly in a not-for-profit environment.

Brick Street Arts is designed to “serve the artists but also make the site pay for itself.” Piazza said.

Plans to offer not only the artists’ work for sale but for Piazza to produce other publicity materials to sell online are underway with several area artists, said Piazza; however, not all negotiations are completed, he noted.

Artists can elect to be featured on the cover page for the main Web site, brickstreetarts.com, or have a Web page designed for them linked to the main site, Piazza said. Fees should be less than $100 per month for the Web presence with a split worked out between Piazza and the artist on profits from the actual merchandise sales, Piazza said.

Some merchandise will be classed as “fundraising,” with Piazza taking no profit from the sales beyond his costs. One example is a CD to be offered as a fundraiser for the Alamo Theater, according to Marcia Weaver, member of the board of directors for the Mississippi Association for the Preservation of Smith-Robertson School. Last January, the Alamo sponsored a panel discussion including musicians that knew or were influenced by the music of Farish Street, including singer Dorothy Moore, bluesman Sam Myers, musician Bernard Holly, DJ Bruce Payne and journalist Jim Rundles, with blues historian Worth Long as emcee. Excerpts from that discussion will be featured on a spoken-word CD. “I think it’s a great idea to get a variety in the arts out to the public,” Weaver said.

One link from the main site that artists wanting a look at what Piazza has to offer in Web site services should be www.nevadabarr.com, the official Web site for Clinton mystery author Nevada Barr. Barr had been exploring the idea for an official site at the behest of her publisher G.P. Putnam and Sons in New York.

“A lot of authors as well as other business people are turning to the Internet for exposure. I had been contemplating it for some time.” Barr said.

Barr was considering a New York Web site developer when both her husband and her pastor recommended she talk to Piazza, whom she knew well through their mutual interest in working with Brick Street Players.

“Two real good sources,” Barr deadpanned. Barr and Piazza spent about a month developing the site and have had it online for almost two months.

Barr, who admits she is not totally comfortable with technojargon, said Piazza would find the simplest way to implement her concepts and explain it in language Barr could understand. More marketing items should be added soon for sale, along with all of Barr’s mystery novels and a spoken-word CD about herself that are currently available. “We have to keep adding new things, or Mike and I will get bored,” Barr said.

Technical requirements for viewing brickstreetarts.com and being able to sample the merchandise include any recent version of Windows with Windows Media Player needed for the sound and streaming audio files, said Piazza. Mac-friendly files will be available as well for those with Mac operating systems and RealPlayer, said Piazza. For those without these programs, the site will provide links to download versions of them that will allow users to view all files. Some musical selections may be stored in an MP3 format, said Piazza.

“I want to make Mississippi artists my priority, “ Piazza said. “I don’t want BSA to become a Sears catalogue, but I will add as many artists that are willing to participate.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer at Julie Whitehead at mbj@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1018.

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