Andres A. Verzosa is owner and director of Aucocisco Galleries in Portland, Maine, one of the leading commercial art galleries in the state. In its fourteen-year history under Verzosa’s direction, Aucocisco has gained widespread critical recognition. The gallery currently represents some of the most respected contemporary artists in Maine. The gallery’s primary focus has been on presenting mid career artists, along with emerging newer artists. All artists have a significant connection to the state of Maine or, quite simply, Maine plays a significant role in their identity as visual artists.
Verzosa grew up in Portland, attended both the University of Maine and Maine College of Art. In addition to Verzosa’s work with Aucocisco, he’s committed to community building around the arts. Verzosa is a trustee of the Maine College of Art, a board member of the Ogunquit Museum of American Art, the Tides Institute & Museum, and founder of Portland’s “First Friday Art Walk”, past president of the Portland Arts and Cultural Alliance and former board member of the Quimby Family Foundation. Last year Verzosa orchestrated a free reading by Inaugural Poet Richard Blanco at Portland’s Merrill Auditorium, co-curated “Maine Women Pioneers III” at the University of New England Art Gallery and is co-editor of “Maine Art Now”, scheduled for publication by the University of Maine Press in the Fall 2014.
MySpace, Zootz, and “You’ve Got Mail!”
As with most of my interviews, what you’ll read here is a greatly condensed version of our conversation.
What was your first experience with social media?
“I’ll kind of dial it back a bit because I’m not sure if this is social media, but when I first had an AOL acccount and you could instant message people — that was something I started doing in the late nineties into the early 2000’s. Remember getting the free AOL install CDs back then?! I’m sure I had an AOL email account and then I jumped ship and went to Yahoo! — probably like everybody else — and I actually still keep my Yahoo! account. I’ve had it and people know it. It doesn’t mean I haven’t tried other accounts — I have a gmail account — and my gmail account serves as a backup for my business, for example. But the novelty of AOL chat was that instead of using the phone I could connect with my friends and family that way. Of course, this was pre-cell phone and certainly pre-iPhone, so instead of making calls long-distance, I could use AOL chat. So, you had your regular land-line and then you had AOL, you know, you dialed up. You know that little dial tone you got when you used AOL? Anyone who recognizes that and gets warm and fuzzy is definitely 50 years old. So, anyway, this was all a way of relating to people that was different than what I had done before. And, I used to love that tone that AOL had — ‘You’ve Got Mail!'”
Artists Kate Russo and Tom Butler in the window of Aucocisco Galleries
“It used to be, in Portland, that you would meet people in front of Green Mountain Coffee and socialize there. And, you would call people, and then you would see each other at Zootz. You went places. Community was different. With email and being able to chat online, that changed how we interacted and it became a little bit more removed. Now there are so many things that you can do online and through texting — you can send photos and videos — there’s just been a whole shift in how we interact and engage with each other.”
“I started using Facebook in late 2007/early 2008. I was still MySpacing at the time. MySpace was like your room in high school. You could put your posters up. You could put your souvenirs up. You could have your record collection there. And, you could share it all through MySpace. You could create a billboard or wall or something. I can’t exactly remember. Now I don’t go there at all. I couldn’t tell you anything about it anymore. Facebook just blew them out of the water. Now you can do pretty much all the same things with Facebook, and do them better. There’s much more sophistication and versatility with Facebook now than MySpace ever had.”
Artists Tom Butler, Maury Colton, Larry Hayden, and Andy
“I use Twitter but I’m not a daily Twitter person. With Twitter it’s just making sure that I’m putting content out there. And, it’s primarily for Aucocisco, or maybe something else that I really believe in. Andy Verzosa doesn’t tweet, it’s the gallery. Aucocisco tweets. I want people to know what’s going on in the gallery and with my artists. It’s also tied in with my Constant Contact. So, once I send out an email there is a social component and Twitter is included in that, and Facebook, etc. So, I have a presence on Twitter but it’s relatively limited. I do follow Pope Francis’ tweets. I like that. I also follow President Obama and I think he uses Twitter well. But, I’m not following Justin Beiber.”
“I’ve used Facebook a little more personally than Twitter, but I’ve tried to dial that back too. You realize that everything you put online is there forever. I may feel strongly about something one day and then change or temper my view after becoming better informed. I’ve even gone completely off of Facebook, more than once. I was concerned about privacy issues and the fact that Facebook owns the content. I’m responsible for artists’ images, and I thought to myself, ‘If I put these on Facebook, how is that going to work?’ Also, people steal images all of the time. It’s awful. I mean, if I work with artists there is an implicit understanding that I’m going to promote them using the Internet. But, I’m still sensitive about it. I really had to think hard about the whole thing. Now, I try to be very careful with how I use it.”
What do you like about social media?
“It’s a technology that has taken over our culture, for good bad and indifferent. I mean, do I want to see Miley Cyrus and Justin Beiber bopping around all the time? No. But, it’s a great way to get a message across and a great way to connect. You know, I’m an extrovert, right? But we all have introverted qualities and sometimes I just like to use social media to get information. It’s a great way to unobtrusively check in on people and get all sorts of other information. You can see people’s baby pictures and stay up-to-date on other major events in their lives.”
“The flip side of all of this is if someone you care about unfriends you. Then you’re reeling and you’re in therapy for six months. But that kind of stuff always works itself out. It’s just part of life.”
Misse Carolan and Andy
“I think about things like AOL and MySpace and neither of those became institutionalized in our lives in the way that some of the social networks today have become. Facebook really has such a deep impact on things. Or think politically about things like Arab Spring and how people used technology, primarily Facebook groups and Twitter, to get a message across. It’s really incredible. Or when Edward Snowden spoke out in Germany and the broadcast went everywhere besides the United States. You could get that information here via social media. It really makes you realize the power of information. The need to know, or the desire to know, and the appreciation of knowing something right when it happens is really an interesting phenomenon with social media.”
Is there a person or brand that you think uses social media effectively?
Maine College of Art (MECA)
I love seeing the “daily pics” on Facebook by my friends Joanne Arnold, Larry Hayden, Diane Hudson, David Wade & Jay York.
Fave micro art blog: Joanne Mattera: http://joannemattera.blogspot.com
(more to follow in Part Two)
I want to thank Andy for taking the time to talk with me about his opinions on, and experience with, social media. Watch for Part Two of his interview next week.
You can find Andy on aboutme at: andres_verzosa
You can find Andy on Facebook at: andres.verzosa
You can find Andy on LinkedIn: andresverzosa
You can find Andy on Twitter: @aucocisco
89 Exchange Street
Portland, Maine 04101
PHOTO CREDIT: David Wade