In August 2020, Chad Cheek wanted to do something to help the arts community that had been suffering for months because of the pandemic. So he created Artarie, a curated streaming media platform.
Artarie, pronounced “ar-ter-y,” debuted Feb. 12. The platform focuses on arts and cultural content for television, computer and mobile devices. This includes world premieres, live and recorded performances, online classes, lectures and exclusive content.
Through conversations with people on the various boards of directors of arts organizations he serves on, it became clear to Cheek late last summer that organizations were struggling to figure out ways to keep busy.
“Everyone wants to keep busy doing what they do best,” Cheek said.
He said arts organizations were also trying to “provide an option for their patrons to see some of the work that they were trying to accomplish even while everyone was sheltered in place or doing minimal, social-distanced productions.”
The goal of Artarie is to help artists, as well as arts and cultural organizations, come back stronger than they were before the pandemic by offering a space where they can share their talents, exhibitions and programming online. It could also help expand their audiences.
Cheek, the founder and curator of Artarie, is no stranger to the local community. He is president and owner of Elephant in the Room, a design and marketing consultancy based in Winston-Salem that offers graphic design, brand development and brand strategy.
He is a member of the board of directors for the Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County, the North Carolina Arts Council and the RiverRun International Film Festival.
Before starting Artarie, Cheek did a lot of research looking for platforms that could be used to house arts content.
“I couldn't find anything that was easy to use and also promoted art and culture content,” he said. “I had a couple of conversations with some key folks here in town, and I determined that it made sense to just try and build something.”
He said his research showed that many people who have sheltered in place at home are looking at more cultural streaming activities than they were before the pandemic, but access is limited or non-existent.
“Groups are creating and recording a limited number of performances which might be found in various websites online,” he said. “Artarie aims to create a home for a diverse collection of arts content, all in one place.”
The information he found through his research also indicates that many people will be slow to respond to crowded theaters and events from a cultural perspective when things return to normal after the pandemic.
He said it seemed to make sense to develop a platform that would allow arts organizations to do their live events when it was feasible but also reach out to patrons who still want access to content but don’t want to go into crowded theaters or rooms.
He said organizations will have to consider licensing restrictions.
But, he said, “The options for the platform are as wide as the ability for organizations to present their content on it.”
Cheek said the initial idea in the search for a name for his new venture was one that would be similar to a location, where someone would browse and search for art.
“But the more we thought about it, we also felt like there was a connection to this idea of it being a lifeline to the arts, much like an artery,” he said.
Artarie’s viewership, so far, is more than 200 people, Cheek said.
As part of the platform’s debut two weeks ago, the North Carolina Black Repertory Co. premiered the play “Freedom Summer,” by Cynthia Robinson. The play, which is set against the backdrop of the 1964 Mississippi Voting Rights Project, is streaming on Artarie through Feb. 28.
“NC Black Rep is thrilled to partner with Artarie to bring high-quality entertainment into the homes of audiences worldwide,” Jackie Alexander, artistic director for the NC Black Repertory Co., said in a press release. “Technology never reverses, so it’s exciting to be on the forefront of a new model of theatre production.”
“Mixtape,” a collection of love songs performed by the Winston-Salem Symphony and curated by Timothy Redmond, the symphony’s music director, also debuted on Artarie.
“We are incredibly excited about the opportunity to premiere 'Mixtape' on the Artarie platform,” Merritt Vale, the symphony’s president and chief executive,” said in the press release. “We believe offering the symphony’s concerts on a centralized platform of arts and culture programming like Artarie will exponentially expand our ability to reach audiences, music fans and symphony-lovers in Winston-Salem, across the country and around the world from our home at the Stevens Center at UNC School of the Arts.”
Cheek said Artarie will start with 10 to 12 partners — the content providers.
“But we’re having conversations every week with new providers who have found out about it and want to create and deliver content for the platform,” he said. “I anticipate that number to grow substantially over the next few weeks.”
Subscribers will find episodes of “Home Sweet Home: Live at The Ramkat,” an online concert series for Southeastern regional musicians playing a variety of music from blues to bluegrass and heavy metal to hip-hop.
Bookmarks, an independent bookstore in downtown Winston-Salem, will feature curated content for children and young adults, as well as conversations with authors such as Yaa Gyasi and John Grisham.
Instruction classes produced by the Sawtooth Center for Visual Art and original branded content by Reynolda House Museum of American Art will also be on the platform.
Artarie is offering a 30-day free trial, after which the service is $8.99 per month and $84.99 annually.
To subscribe, people can sign up at www.artarie.com. Once an account is created, people will receive an email. Then they can download the Artarie app, which is available on all app stores for iPhone, Android, Roku and Amazon Fire TV. An Artarie subscription isn't required for ticketed performances. The ticketbuyer will watch that performance through Artarie but won't have access to Artarie's subscription content.
Cheek hopes that people will find Artarie easy to use, download the app and watch the content on their TVs, computers and mobile devices.
“We’ve developed it in such a way that it should be easy to see the content that’s available,” he said.
For now, he is focusing on content from artists and arts organizations in Winston-Salem and North Carolina.
But Cheek said he plans to “expand the content offering to include as much from many different categories, not just in our community but in communities across the southeast and then eventually across the country.”