This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

Electronic Highways

Published: April 14, 2005

Harnessing creativity: Online artistic collaborations

Let's face it: All of us are enriched by the arts in some way. We may be avid readers of poetry or prose, theater- or concert-goers, or gallery spectators. Many of us choose to indulge our creative sides by actively participating in the literary, visual or performing arts. We might be absolute beginners, seasoned professionals or at any stage in between. Whatever our degree of expertise in our chosen artistic realm, the satisfaction we derive from expressing ourselves through the arts can be fulfilling and even exhilarating!

The following Web sites encourage participation among visual artists, musicians and writers—projects in which people can collectively engage, using the Internet as a means to connect kindred creative spirits.

If you partake in the visual arts, you have the opportunity to add your work to The Global Collage ( Dedicated to "empowering artists & audiences," This nonstop slideshow welcomes submissions from artists in all mediums—from scanned paintings or drawings to Photoshop files. Every 30 seconds, a new image appears, along with its title and the artist's name and location. For longer views at individual works, you can click on each artist from a side menu. This site describes itself as "a forum in which ordinary people can express their extraordinary talent."

Another democratized art project, HypArt (, allows anyone to add his or her own personal touches to an image. To emphasize the collaborative nature, project designer Klaus Rosenfeld urges contributors to attempt to harmonize with the elements of the work-in-progress, rather than haphazardly throwing on random images. As of the writing of this column, there are 50 completed HypArt paintings, each made by nine artists from around the world and from various professions.

Artists Miranda July and Harrell Fletcher have conceived an ingenious method for bringing out the artistry in us all—by giving us assignments. The results are on the site entitled Learning to Love You More ( To complete the assignments, you can, for example, draw from life experiences (make a documentary video about a small child; write down a recent argument), or create simple art projects (draw the cathedral from Raymond Carver's short story of that title; make a sculpture from a photo of an unknown man). The responses to the 46 assignments thus far have been in photography, drawing, writing or sound, and reflect the sense of having captured special moments out of the everyday and the commonplace.

Musicians who wish to play along with other people—without lugging heavy equipment or dealing with club owners, cold garages or disgruntled neighbors—can find opportunities for online jamming and sharing original sounds. Collaboration Central ( allows its members FTP space to house MP3 files of finished or unfinished material. Forums and chat rooms can connect musicians for the purpose of adding tracks to musical material. The site also includes "CC Radio" that rotates all posted material for members to hear.

Similar features can be found at F-Jam Online (, where users can set up individual homepages highlighting their work and send out invitations to other musicians to assist them with tracks. Lyricists also can add to a members-only database.

For musicians with more commercial goals in mind, 96decibels ( shares the collaborative features of the other two sites, but also allows its members to set their own prices for their compositions. The site taps into the WeedShare system, which enables listeners to listen to a song three times before they are required to purchase it for further hearings.

And Loopwise Online Music Community ( utilizes the concept of "beds," which are segments of music—a drum track, say, or a sonic atmosphere—that other musicians can enhance, either as a free collaboration or for a fee. Otherwise, the beds could stand alone to be employed by advertisers, film producers or other commercial firms.

Writers also have avenues, not only to show off their work, but to engage in collaborations with ongoing and frequently intriguing results. The Albany Poetry Workshop, which offers a supportive environment for sharing and critiquing poems, also has a site for group poems ( These usually are begun with a first line from a piece by a prominent poet, such as Langston Hughes or Emily Dickinson, and each participant adds one line. The workshop staff has claimed that the group poem area has been the most popular for the site.

If your bent is more toward fiction writing, you might wish to add your own passages to the stories launched by MIT's Mike Barker (—don't forget to read the guidelines). The City Stories project ( invites writers to submit true stories set in their home city in order to capture the unique flavor of cities throughout the world. So far, 17 cities are represented, with hopes to add another 15.

Finally, you can pick and choose from the Yahoo directory's list of "Add-To Stories" ( and find a category that might float your creative boat.

—Nina Cascio and Rick McRae, University Libraries