The Nerdery - Overnight Website Challenge

Chicago 2015, May 2-3

Chicago Artists Coalition / Chicago Artists Resource

Established in 1974 by artists who sought to create a better environment and future for the local arts community, the Chicago Artists Coalition (CAC) continues to pioneer advocacy and professional development for Chicago artists across disciplines. CAC’s initiatives include artist residencies and exhibitions, digital resources, educational programming, and events that connect collectors with emerging artists.

Our digital programming is housed on Chicago Artists Resource (CAR), an arts service website that connects and educates Chicago’s artistic communities. Serving individual artists and arts organizations in the fields of dance, film, literature, music, theater, and visual arts, CAR provides resources for a wide range of issues related to professional practice. The site functions as a learning platform, an online magazine, and a community board for jobs, calls for artists, events, and space listings.

What new functionality we are looking for

We want to improve the site in two main ways: by implementing a lightweight redesign and to improve the login process and functionality for users.

1. Lightweight redesign

The redesign would place existing content into three main categories: community posts (including jobs, calls for artists, space listings, and events), long-lasting educational resources (including our Survival Guide video series and certain articles), and a blog (including all current homepage content of announcements, artists stories, and most articles).

2. Improve the account sign-up process and functionality for users

Community posts are an active aspect of the site. We have 6,300 users with active logins (based on the last two years). In the past year community contributors added over 5,000 posts to the site. We hope to further encourage site visitors to create accounts in order to contribute content and to receive a more customized user experience. The user login process could be streamlined and provide better direction for site users. In addition, we would like to consider the possibility of a social login feature to further simplify the user sign-up process.

How the new functionality will help

Our site currently receives nearly 85,000 visits each month (approximately 46,000 unique visitors) and over 375,000 page views. Most of this traffic is driven by job postings and calls for artists; this indicates that our audience is comprised largely of artists and arts professionals who are building careers.

Currently, a relatively small percentage of those visitors take advantage of our more in-depth educational and professional development resources. However, those who do report high levels of satisfaction, improvement and quality found within the site. One surveyed user stated, “CAR allows artists and organizations to reach audiences on their own terms. It fosters audience development and cross-pollination. I look forward to watching the site grow.”

With support of our grant funders we have been expanding CAR’s educational offerings, including a video series, “Survival Guide,” that provides artists with foundational skills in the areas of business, finance, social media marketing, and legal topics. Survival Guide provides the base upon which our educational curriculum will be built, which will expand to include continually updated written, video and audio materials on CAR.

A site redesign is essential to better connecting our broad user base with our in-depth resources, thus providing both customized and widely applicable support for artists’ career development. We envision that a redesigned site would present users a clearly laid out homepage that serves to highlight all three areas of content: community posts, educational resources, and blog features. By simplifying our feature content (articles, artists stories, announcements) into a blog, we will be able to use that area to highlight various opportunities and drive traffic to our educational programs by connecting to current discussions and providing additional context. In addition, interior content pages could provide related content and we would replace the filtering by discipline feature with landing pages that used feeds of both community and blog posts. Our CMS is built in Drupal and has been well maintained. The website content is well structured with robust and relevant metadata. With a new website we would be able to leverage this rich back-end data to better serve our artists communities.

In addition to this UX-focused redesign, we hope to encourage more user account registrations by improving the sign-up process and by adding a social login feature.

This will make it easier for users to access content like the newly launched Survival Guide ( that is required to be login-protected for reporting requirements of our funders.

Improving the site design and account features will have a broad and significant impact on our diverse community of users. Our in-depth resources will reach a wider audience of artists and creative professionals, who will be more effectively connected to opportunities, information and networks. Further, by growing our user account base, we will have more insights into our users, which will shape the ways in which we continue to develop website content and offline events and services.

How our organization will use the technology

Who will use the technology

19 Messages from Supporters

2015-03-31 16:01:18 UTC
Houston Cofield

I use CAR all time. Whether is to find freelance work or calls for artists, the website is an extremely helpful resource for Chicago's artist community. I found my current job at David Weinberg Photography on CAR and found very exciting exhibition opportunities through the site. CAR filters out (most) tasteless opportunities providing a refined platform for professional artists and creatives to find work. CAR is always the first place I look for work and exhibition calls when I'm searching in Chicago and it absolutely deserves a redesign.

2015-03-31 17:38:24 UTC
Steven Bridges

CAR has been invaluable to me over the years. It is the first place I go to look for employment postings or other ways to get involved in the art community in Chicago. There are many points along my personal trajectory in which I would have been utterly lost without this resource. The website is a critical asset and certainly deserves recognition, and a redesign.

2015-03-31 18:08:23 UTC
Stephanie Lentz

CAR is unmatched in its quality and depth, providing opportunities, information and networking for the arts community like no other site or service. I have not only hired several individuals through postings on CAR, but when I was job searching myself, it was my primary and most trusted source. I know when I visit CAR that I will find fresh, relevant, well-written content and useful educational material. A face lift for CAR would impact a huge number of people in a very positive way. CAR deserves a redesign!

2015-03-31 20:50:18 UTC
Renee Mikon

CAR is an extremely important resource for the Chicago arts community. I’ve both found jobs and hired applicants through CAR. The website is integral to keeping an active community of professional artists and administrators living and working in Chicago. The website deserves a redesign to ensure this community stays strong and viable.

2015-03-31 23:30:38 UTC
Jeremy Kreusch

Before I moved to Chicago, the prospect of finding a place in the arts community via Internet tools seemed a daunting prospect. That is, of course, until I discovered CAR. CAR is invaluable to young creatives because it is exactly what it proclaims to be - a LOCAL resource specifically intended FOR artists to help them thrive in the community. It does that job well, and redesign would help to ensure that it continues to do that job well by keeping its interface as contemporary and user-friendly as its programs.

2015-04-01 17:20:47 UTC

I can't think of a better fit. CAR has been an excellent resource for our Lit. organization to find volunteers, employees, and interns. We read, use & share (and contribute to!) the articles, and it's a great place to find events in Chicago.

I do agree, as mentioned by CAR, that the CAR website could use some improved functionality. So please award CAR! We love them.

2015-04-01 17:32:32 UTC

I found my current job through CAR and the connections and experience I have gained as an artist through the position have changed the course of my work for the better. I've also heard about great grants and opportunities to submit work through CAR.

I would love for their website to have a complete redesign. I've now gone from answering posts to writing my own and would love to reach a wider base of artists and believe a redesign could help improve the connection within Chicago's artist community for the better.

2015-04-01 21:31:48 UTC
Susan Aurinko

As a former gallery owner (FLATFILEgalleries) and currently a full time artist/curator, I often receive calls and emails from artists asking me questions. In about 80% of the cases, I refer them to CAR, because CAR has way more answers than I do. The questions range from queries about grants to jobs, to legal issues, to just about anything you can think of. Usually, within about a week, I get another call or email, thanking me for sending them to CAR!

2015-04-02 18:56:44 UTC
Matthew Gilboy

CAR has a fantastic setup and does really good work. However, the content is in need of a strategy overhaul and re-architecting. Nerdery has a real opportunity to get some good user stories on how the views filters can be reconfigured to better help users navigate listings. Further, the user permissions could be expanded to empower users to better create listings, and for a moderator role to manage the more promotional postings that have inundated the site over the last few months.

CAR is ready to get not just a facelift, but a whole set of attainable updates that harness existing content in a way that gives it depth for a variety of users.

2015-04-02 03:45:47 UTC
Renee Rock

CAR has been a tremendous resource, not only for the Chicago community, but for the arts in general. The blog on their website has an enormous amount of guidance, assistance, and information available to everyone in the industry. I have recommended to many many people who are all over the country! Additionally, their staff is genuinely interested and supportive of the artists in their city. They have gone above and beyond to guide, mentor, and promote artists and their work-myself included. Their site has been an invaluable part of my artistic career in Chicago, without question!

2015-04-02 16:15:00 UTC
Mary DeYoe

A few years ago, when I was planning my move to Chicago, a friend introduced me to CAR. Quickly, it became my go-to resource for job searches and a deeper understanding of the arts in Chicago. Now, having worked in Chicago for several years, I see that CAR is not only a great place to learn about arts in the city, but it is vital to helping the community grow. A redesign would only make this an even more powerful tool.

2015-04-03 20:02:12 UTC

I love CAR -- it's such a treasure trove of information, and it goes a long way to fill the gap between artists/creatives and the information they're looking for (whether for space, exhibition opps, etc.). There isn't an artist in Chicago that I've spoken to that hasn't used this at some point, for some reason. The site, however, could use some refining and redesigning -- finding the right information can be difficult sometimes. CAR is an amazing resource that would only become more effective with a redesign!

2015-04-08 17:09:32 UTC

After graduating with a BFA, I had no clue as to how to proceed in what seemed like an incredibly small creative field. How do I find a job? Where can I find grant opportunities? How on earth do I file my taxes? What do I do now?

Enter Chicago Artists Resource. CAR has been an invaluable tool in my life as an artist and arts administrator in Chicago. I've found internships, jobs, and ever-insightful advice in its pages. From the Survival Guide videos, studio listings, events, artist interviews, and of course job postings, CAR is an information behemoth. It needs a facelift precisely because it's stuffed with useful, but often unnavigable, stories, calls, listings, postings, openings, etc. Help CAR streamline its interface so users from across Chicago and beyond can better access the wealth of opportunities to be found there.

2015-04-08 21:46:48 UTC
Caroline Older

When I moved to Chicago three years ago, friends and colleagues directed me to CAR for my job search. It provided a comprehensive listing of positions in the arts and cultural sector that I had not experienced in other cities. I recognized it then as I do now as a vital resource for the community.

Today CAR keeps me up to date with the latest job postings, calls, and events; articles highlighting the work of Chicago area artists of all disciplines; and important professional development tools. Sometimes, however, CAR is cumbersome for it users whether they are logging in, posting, or searching the site. Work done through the Nerdery Overnight Website Challenge could significantly impact CAR and its thousands of devoted users.

2015-04-09 14:28:20 UTC
Katharine (Kate) Schutta

CAR is an invaluable resource for SAIC students, faculty, staff and alumni. We in SAIC's Career and Co-op Center refer students to CAR for job postings, calls for artists, workshops and events focused on professional development,entrepreneurship, etc. We are very excited about the Artist's Survival Guide. Love that that this information and guidance is available 24-7. Making it easier to navigate and user friendly will make it all the more accessible.

2015-04-09 20:04:25 UTC
Nancy Herring

CAR has been dedicated to continuous improvement of its website from its founding. The opportunity from Nerdery will help CAR stay as fresh and up to date as possible and strengthen its commitment to artists of all media throughout the Chicago area.

Improving openness and ease of use will help CAR achieve goals of cross-fertilization among the arts as well as enhancing accessibility and outreach throughout the community.

2015-04-09 16:00:36 UTC
Joel Straus

CAR is my go-to resource to advertise available jobs at my art advisory firm because I know that anyone looking for a position in the arts, uses CAR. On a personal note, I look to CAR to inform me on the current art related activities, events and exhibitions. I do support CAR's desire to improve the site and hope that they will get the funds they require.

2015-04-09 17:51:52 UTC
Carmelita Tiu

CAR is truly one-of-a-kind. It provides a broad array of information to an ever-growing community of artists, creatives, and supporters of the art world. Unlike many other informational sites, CAR is inclusive of all art forms: visual art, dance, music, etc. I know countless people from various disciplines that have used CAR as a resource to find helpful information, job postings, exhibition space, calls for entry, etc. I'm in full support of a CAR redesign -- I know what a valuable resource it is, and making it easier to navigate will only increase its positive impact and reach.

2015-04-09 23:50:20 UTC
Surinder Martignetti

I use CAR all the time, it is a valuable resource for job info and postings well as keeping up to date with information and happenings in the arts in Chicago. It is need need of redesign as it is fast becoming obsolete and unwieldy to use because of the depth and breadth of information on the site.

Our Mission

The Chicago Artists Coalition strives to build a sustainable marketplace for artists of all disciplines. Through the Chicago Artists Resource website we carry out this mission by providing artists with both basic and in-depth career resources, as well as by showcasing Chicago’s vibrant artists and arts communities.