Ever hear of The East Bay Cultural Corridor (EBCC), a virtual group that supports East Bay artists?

Did you know they just launched 510arts.com, a brand spanking new arts portal for Oakland, Emeryville, Berkeley and Richmond? This snappy new web site—which seems to have taken far less time to reach consensus to build that the tri-cities discussion of  BRT (bus rapid transit) is expected to require.

Not quite a year ago, 300 Oakland artists (all who responded out of 2,000 queried) said that the greatest problem for Oakland’s arts community was a lack of awareness of, and access to, artists and arts information. Based on that data, Oakland Cultural Arts and Marketing Manager Samee Roberts got the Oakland Cultural Affairs Commission,—to consider building a new web site to showcase arts in the area. (According to James Leventhal of WestMuse, there was an even longer process to get the site built—he blogged that the recent launch was” the culmination of a two-year initiative, with early champions in John Killacky of The San Francisco Foundation, Mary Ann Merker of Berkeley and Steve Huss of Oakland.” )

Once the decision was made, The East Bay Community Foundation, the San Francisco Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the James Irvine Foundation each contributed money, as did the four East Bay cities, all of whom ultimately withdrew funding support due to budget cuts. At a cost of $74,000,  Oakland Cultural Affairs Commission Member  and former Vice Chair Nicole Neditch’s design and production company, Objets d’Art, built the site, and then the four cities did a press release and an event on October 2nd, when 510arts.com went up as planned.

There’s no question but that there is amazing arts energy in Oakland and the East Bay, but there’s also the skepticism that reporter Angela Woodall expressed in a Bay Area News Group piece . Woodall’s take was this is nice, but without more funding it’s wishful thinking to believe this will expose more people to the arts; she says “The concept is about marketing. Artists will only benefit directly if they use 510Arts.com. to market themselves and their organizations.”

So, how’s it looking?

As of October 8th, there are 18 events listed on the 510arts.com events page. Six of them have not yet happened; the rest are passed. There is NO MENTION on the events page of how to add an event , so one presumes that mysterious city agencies—or a selected group of artists—are responsible for the updates….which are needed, fast. In fact, there’s no  obvious info on adding groups or events—it’s buried in the text of a lengthy FAQ,  a usability flaw the design team should correct, ASAP.

The vision of this site-and the artists is it meant to help is so cool, but in fact, if 510arts.com isn’t going to quickly become just another gorgeous piece of web brochure ware, the site needs to quickly add pages that tell groups what kinds of events can be listed, how to submit events for listing, and how selections for this fancy marketing are made.

Otherwise, gorgeous as it as and as rich in potential, 510arts.com is never going to get the kind of usage it deserves. As we all know, to get traffic on the web, you have to deliver up to date, dynamic information and value.  The promise of this site is clear and it looks amazing, but to make it deliver on that $74,000 in funding; now the four cities and the site managers need to make brochure ware come alive.
So, folks, thank you and what’s next to make this vision happen?

Take Action:
Here’s how to get your groups and events submitted to the EBCC for consideration, send an email to the following folks, reaching out to the whomever is in your city:

BERKELEY: Mary Ann Merker, MMerker@ci.berkeley.ca.us, 510-981-7533

EMERYVILLE: Lisa Sullivan, lsullivan@emeryville.org, 510-596-4393

OAKLAND: Samee Roberts. sroberts@oaklandnet.com,,510-238-2136 or Steven Huss SHuss@oaklandnet.com,510-238-4949

RICHMOND: Michele Seville, michele_seville@ci.richmond.ca.us, 510-620-5962

About The Author

Susan Mernit is editor & publisher of Oakland Local (oaklandlocal.com) a news & community hub for Oakland, CA. A former VP at AOL & Netscape, & former! Yahoo Senior Director, Mernit was consulting program manager for The Knight News Challenge, 2008-09; was a 2012 Stanford Carlos McClatchy Fellow; and is a board adviser to The Center for Health Reporting at USC, Annenberg School of Journalism. She has consulted with many non-profit organizations on strategy, product development and social media/engagement, including Salon.com, TechSoup Global, Public Radio International and the Institute for Policy Studies/Economic Hardship Reporting Project, led by Barbara Ehrenreich.