Friday, November 22, 2013

Finestra- An Interview With James Lytle

"Finestra is Italian for window,
but its root meaning evokes the opening of a world of possibilities."

     A good father gives his children good gifts. Jim Lytle is a good father. He graduated in 1975 from the Maryland Institute College of Art, as a skilled artist. Here is an excerpt from Finestra- The Backstory by Jim's son, James:

   'However, he had few opportunities to support himself - much less the new family he was starting along with his wife Susan, whom he met at the institute. Instead of pursuing his artistic passion full-time, he opted for the dependability of a career in plumbing. Over the years I saw him put his family first and rarely have the time to use his gift of art.
   Now all four of us are grown and able to pursue our passions through our careers. As a designer, I've had the opportunity to adapt many of the artistic gifts I've inherited from my father to the diverse opportunities available in a design profession. However, recently, as I've built more relationships in the arts community, I've heard echoes of my dad’s story and have realized that the challenges for the artist to connect with an audience are somewhat universal - nearly 40 years later.'  

     It is an age-old question: How does an artist promote their work (i.e. make a living)?  I know several artists personally who struggle with this question... my wife and myself included.

     Thanks to James Lytle and his brother Seth, there is now an app called Finestra, available for the iPhone. With Finestra, you can "see original art to scale and move it around on your own wall while you hear the artist tell a story about it." Imagine... what would Leonardo have thought of such possibilities?

     I was fortunate to meet James not long ago. He kindly answered a few questions for me. 

What was the ‘sparkplug’ for Finestra, i.e., was it an ongoing conversation with artists or a question someone posed? 
   I think the ground was cultivated for the idea when I made a purposeful shift towards building more relationships amongst the creative community. After finding and rebirthing the Atlanta International Arts Movement chapter, I had many, many arts related discussions. Almost two years after joining that group, the seed of the idea simply poured into my mind on a drive to my brother Seth’s house. It wasn’t long before we co-founded the project. 

How is Finestra different from an agent or gallery representative? 
   We’re communicating to tomorrow’s art buyer a bit more on their terms. The mobile app creates a more accessible first impression to finding art in the surrounding community. One day we hope it compliments agents and galleries by helping them both discover emerging artists and curating customized experiences with their own hard-earned growing patronage. 

How many artists do you currently show? 
   Since launching end of June 2013 exclusively to Atlanta, we have about 50 artists showing here. 

How did the current ‘look’ of the app (and website) evolve? Can you walk me through the issues you had to resolve? 
   Wow, too many issues to count! I will say we take a very iterative approach. Kind of like constantly pushing paint around a canvas. 

I am fascinated with the audio aspect of Finestra. How did that come about? 
   From the beginning, we knew this was important. So much so, in fact, that we require an audio recording from the artist. This warms up the art viewing process by making it more personal for people. In many ways, the fact that it was a natural fit for a mobile app as well. 

"There are arguably more creators of artwork today than ever before, but our society measure the value of artistic talent through the vehicle of commercial marketing and art becomes a commodity in the process."

What are your long-term goals? 
   Again, too many to count. Broadly, we’re interested in stirring creative confidence in everyone through the arts.  

How do people find out about Finestra? 
   Personal invites through the app are likely the best way. We also regularly are involved in the Atlanta arts events where new people hear about it. Our online identity is FinestraArtApp in all the typical hangouts.  

Do you have any artist/user testimonials you would like to share? 
   It is pretty unbelievable, but we’ve actually had some artists buy iPhones just so they could easily promote their art through the app.  

What is the biggest challenge you have faced in this venture? 
   Keeping momentum and staying laser focused on the vision is an ongoing challenge. We’ve made incredible progress, though, and we are excited to see what happens next.  

Does your Dad still make art? 
   At least every family vacation you’ll find him doing just that. And every time he teaches me something new, which I love. More and more I’m impressed by how talented he is.

From one 'artist dad' to another- thank you Jim!

Check out the Finestra Website-

...and watch the video below.

James Lytle

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