SOUTHERN INDIANA — When artist Keith Hampton moved from the Indianapolis area to Crawford County, something was missing.
He was used to living in a thriving arts community where he could easily connect with local artists and find gallery openings. When he moved south, he had a hard time finding fellow artists.
"... there was no place for me to go to seek them out," Hampton said in a recent phone interview.
After some (OK, a lot) of digging, Hampton discovered Southern Indiana has its own thriving arts community. In an effort to save others from having to dig to find the local arts gold, Hampton decided to create a bimonthly, online arts magazine called "ArtistsCreating."
Each themed issue features artists from Martinsville, all the way to the Ohio River. The magazine fills what Hampton said was a hole in the Southern Indiana arts scene: a comprehensive list of local artists, everyone from painters and sculptors to writers and cartoonists.
"I know how hard it is to get promoted," he said. "I know how little money artists have to do that."
Which is why "ArtistsCreating" is a self-financed labor of love for Hampton. He essentially advertises local artists, but doesn't accept any money to do so. And subscriptions? Free.
Hampton said he works on one issue off and on for two months, with each issue taking roughly 80 hours to compile, design and publish. Since it's a digital-only publication, costs are low, and as a retiree, Hampton has the time to devote.
"There's nothing like giving, and I feel like I get the satisfaction of helping people that otherwise had almost nothing there to help them out," he said. "And I know when it comes to the arts the more eyes that you can get on a piece of artwork or on a performance or on a piece of writing, the more chances of success that that particular artist has."
Hampton said it has taken time to not only connect with the local arts community, but to gain the trust of artists — artists like Julie Schweitzer, owner of ArtSeed Gallery in New Albany. Schweitzer, who was one of several local gallery owners featured in the most recent issue of "ArtistsCreating," said artists tend to be skeptical when someone offers to publish their work for free. What is portrayed as an act of kindness can turn into a ripoff scam pretty quickly.
So before Schweitzer agreed to help Hampton get in with the local arts community, she had to meet him for herself. Now, she's an unabashed supporter, even offering to help him with a launch party later this year.
"I think it's incredibly valuable to have a magazine that features (local) artists," she said. "He is creating an artist registry, which we've tried to do for a long time ... we just didn't have somebody that was putting that all together."
Schweitzer said the Southern Indiana arts scene is often forgotten, with all the love and attention going to more metro areas like Louisville and Indianapolis. With a magazine to connect and promote the local arts, artists in places from Jeffersonville to Georgetown can more easily thrive.
"You know, artists working in isolation where they're not as tied into the arts community, this gives them a way to become involved in the community to meet other like-minded artists and see their work," she said.
Hampton said he's reaching close to 500 subscribers and continues to get positive feedback. He's excited for the year ahead and hopes getting the word out about the magazine and what it offers will only strengthen the arts communities in the state's southern half.
"I'm hoping to ... foster a feeling of let's all help each other out," he said. "I think if we all share in the audience and we all help promote each other and all we do this together as a community, it's only going to be for the greater good."