Ekphrasis Extra: Tricia Aferdita & Metaverse Arts

I feel like, in SL as in RL, a bunch of pretty buildings are only buildings unless you can bring people together and make friends and have fun. Tricia Aferdita

Tricia Aferdita. Photo by PJ Trenton.

While I started this column to profile artists who were breaking new ground in Second Life, I’ve broken my own mould a little with these ‘Extra’ articles, having felt compelled to talk about the recent outstanding and controversial work of Rose Borchovski.  So before I return you to your regularly scheduled programming (with an Ekphrasis I am VERY excited about, I might add), I want to introduce – or re-acquaint you, as the case may be – to someone I had the pleasure of meeting early on, whose work in the SL art world I greatly admire.

Tricia Aferdita is the ideal arts patron. An artist herself, Tricia understands both the needs of the artists as well as learned the skills required to effectively organise an exhibit and run a gallery. An easy conversationalist with a charming and fun demeanour, Tricia is the tireless and graceful hostess of Avalon, wearing the caps of Town Manager, Arts Curator, and Events Director simultaneously. And is, of course, owner of the Tricia Aferdita Gallery. She is much loved in the SL art scene, and her petite, stunningly pixie form houses seemingly limitless energy as well as a cunning mind that has organised and planned a number of exhibits and events with the greatest of ease.  All of these factors make her the perfect person to produce and present the programme Metaverse Arts, a brand new show covering the art and artists of the virtual worlds, produced by Treet TV and Prim Perfect Productions.

Metaverse Arts premieres on Treet TV tomorrow (July 10th) at 2pm.

I caught up with Tricia at her gallery in Avalon, where she had a chat with me about her life in the SL art world.

Rowan Derryth: Tell me a little but about your start, and how you got into the arts here in SL?
Tricia Aferdita: Hmm… well. I heard about SL on NPR and it was intriguing. I wasn’t a huge internet person at the time but decided to try it out. So I created an account, decided my real first name would be least confusing (laughs).  Made a few of those newbie friends you never see again. Then I got a couple of my RL coworkers interested in it and one of them was a little more of a social butterfly than I was. They don’t come in world too much anymore, but the friend I’m referring to, Patrick… he pops in occasionally.
Rowan Derryth: So he got you socialising more?
Tricia Aferdita: Well, he met some key people that he introduced me to, namely Ed Baron, who isn’t on much anymore but was a great mentor.  He talked to me about galleries in Second Life and helped me find land, get a builder for my first gallery… answered ENDLESS questions about lindens (laughs).
Intuitions, Tricia's first art gallery in SL
Rowan Derryth: So did you always know you wanted to get involved in the arts here?
Tricia Aferdita: I had no idea what I was getting into. I was literally only a couple of weeks into SL when I met him and had barely gotten beyond shopping for freebies (grins). I hadn’t even been to very many galleries when I opened mine.
Rowan Derryth: What was your vision for it then?
Tricia Aferdita: I put up my own artwork and a RL friend’s photography. Pretty much my whole SL experience has been making it up as I go along. (laughs)  I slowly learned about promoting… my first reception I met some really nice people.
Rowan Derryth: Did you have any RL experience in the arts?
Tricia Aferdita: I have a degree in graphic design from the 80s, so a bit outdated, and I don’t really work in the field, so no I was pretty much learning as I went along. I met Hecubus Dogpatch, who is seldom in SL anymore… he showed me his work and I LOVED it and decided to show his work at the gallery.  His exhibit was a huge success – his art is amazing, and he’s extremely charming –  so it was really an incredible first experience, and I was hooked. (smiles)
Rowan Derryth: One of the things I admire about you is how good you are at all this, and, as you say, you’ve come in to it without much background. I know I’m uber critical, but so many come here and say “I think I’ll own a gallery” – which is great because it is their fantasy – but doing it WELL takes hard work and specialized skill. You’ve really figured it out.
Tricia Aferdita: Well, honestly, my same friend Patrick introduced me to Xander Ruttan [the creator of the first Cetus] after only about 3 months in SL. I moved from my first sim into Cetus and started working with Xander on the Gallery District. We spent a lot of time brainstorming together and I became president of the group that we formed. And I sort of was the community person – hosting events, promoting. Xander was the brains… the buildings and the business. I actually credit him with a lot of what I know today.  We had some near brawls over how I was hanging art in my gallery (laughs). He was a tough love sort of teacher, but he is a curator and art director in RL, and I deferred to his wisdom.
Rowan Derryth: So really you got some great formal training early on.
Tricia Aferdita: Yeah I really credit his education on the success of my galleries now. I try to follow as close a RL model as possible.
Rowan Derryth: It is clear, your shows are always… Um, I want to say well hung – without giggling like a teenager. (grins)
Tricia Aferdita: (laughs) Yes! I still laugh to this day about how often we’d argue about the color of my walls and how the art was hung in the gallery.
Intuitions Gallery at Cetus
Rowan Derryth: It is funny, people try to make galleries here that are non-traditional, but the problem is, unless you do it JUST RIGHT, it competes with the art.
Tricia Aferdita: Yeah, true.
Rowan Derryth: It happens in RL too, though, when a famous architects designs museums. I just experienced that at the Arp Museum in Bonn. Amazing building, designed by Richard Meier, but a massive wall of glass isn’t so good for displaying art.
Tricia Aferdita: The possibilities are literally so limitless in SL, I find that it’s just as easy to do something overboard as it is to do something  incredible.
Rowan Derryth: Easier maybe. Overboard is common.  People are like that with powerpoint too. Text flying everywhere.
Tricia Aferdita: (laughs)
Rowan Derryth: So, how did you come to Avalon then?
Tricia Aferdita: Em Larsson had a gallery in Avalon and she kept telling me how wonderful the management was. When the time came for me to leave Cetus, I bought this lot my gallery is on now. PJ Trenton designed the building, and I mod it as needed. People love it. It’s been here since… late 2008… oh August – I just checked the date I got this building, August 2008. The 22nd to be exact. (laughs)
Rowan Derryth: Perfect, now you can have an anniversary party.
Tricia Aferdita: (laughs) True! Any excuse for a party.
The Tricia Aferdita Gallery in Avalon today. Photo by PJ Trenton.
Rowan Derryth: (smiles) One of the great things about Avalon. What are your titles here now?
Tricia Aferdita: I actually just hung out here as a gallery owner for  a while. Then got to chatting with Elora Dawes, the manager at the time.
Rowan Derryth: And then you got roped into more. (grins)
Tricia Aferdita: Well honestly, I was sort of bored and out of sorts without something to DO. I had been working at Cetus for most of my SL. So when Elora asked me if I’d run events for Avalon, I was thrilled. I became Events Director in about February 2009.
Rowan Derryth: And now you are…?
Tricia Aferdita: Well, still events Director, but then events are fairly easy for me, I’ve been doing them so long now so I proposed that I become Arts Curator, so I would be more involved with the community, put together some more arts related events, etc. But not long after that, Elora stepped down as manager and Matthaios Aquacade, the general manager of Avalon, asked me if I would be willing to step in. That was in April of this year.
Avalon Arts District. Photo by PJ Trenton.
Rowan Derryth: So is that in addition to the Curator and Events Director, or did you just roll them all together?
Tricia Aferdita: Well, I guess they are all sort of rolled together right now. Along with Matthaios Aquacade, who is the general manager, I plan events, I also help tenants, manage rentals, etc.  Recently Ethan Westland joined us as Assistant Manager to help keep things running smoothly.
Rowan Derryth: And your events are more than just visual art – I love the literary events. And music, of course!
Tricia Aferdita: Yes, Avalon Town… while we have a HUGE art district is definitely more than just visual art. We have clothing retailers, other shops and businesses, so I try to not just have art events.  That’s why I added the literary events, music of course, sort of the universal appeal.
Rowan Derryth: It was a great idea.
Tricia Aferdita: We started out with poetry only, then added short story, then made it general literary.
The Avalon 'Fur Ball' was one of the many successful charity events Tricia has organised.
Rowan Derryth: You also do amazing work for charity.
Tricia Aferdita: Colleen Kesey, the estate owner, is  HUGE philanthropist, so she is thrilled to have charity events in Avalon. We had our Fur Ball for the Interational Fund for Animal Welfare, they have a sim here in SL.  You had to come as a critter – in formal wear (laughs), it was fun!
Rowan Derryth: (grins) Very clever.
Tricia Aferdita: I may do it again soon
Rowan Derryth: Oh, please do!  I have a ferret that doesn’t get out enough. All the events here are a blast.
Tricia Aferdita: We also recently had the Multiple Sclerosis fundraiser, which I walked in on behalf of my aunt.
Rowan Derryth: Yes, that was a very elegant evening, and the art auction was GREAT fun.  You raised a bundle, didn’t you?!
Tricia Aferdita: Between SL and RL the total raised was US$610 – $350 of that was from SL. That is the most I have ever managed to raise in SL. Previously it was about $250
Rowan Derryth: Now you have to beat it. (grins) Next year.
Tricia Aferdita: Heh, yeah!  Well in October we will be doing a fundraiser to benefit mental health. We have several community members and friends who have struggles with mental health so it seemed only appropriate.
Rowan Derryth: You do a wonderful job of really making this a community… But I think something that slips under lots of people’s radars is the fact that you are an artist yourself!
Tricia Aferdita: (laughs) Yeah. I tend to be more of a promoter of others’ work than of my own.
Rowan Derryth: Self-promotion is difficult, it makes me uneasy.
Tricia Aferdita: In fact I enjoy promoting others’ art so much, that my long term goal is to have a gallery in RL
Rowan Derryth: Yes?  That is fantastic!
Tricia Aferdita: I know a few artists, I shouldn’t have trouble filling it!
Rowan Derryth: Oh, I hope you do it. But let’s talk about your work a minute…
Tricia Aferdita: Okay! (laughs)
Tree at Dusk, March 2010. Watercolour.
Rowan Derryth: You make really beautiful stylized watercolours.
Tricia Aferdita: among other things, yes… but the watercolors have defintely been my most recent interest
Rowan Derryth: What else do you do?
Tricia Aferdita: Well my first love as far as paint goes is acrylic. The style there is very differnt though. I tend to use louder colors and more intense abstracts. And for years I didn’t paint at all.
Rowan Derryth: No?
Tricia Aferdita: Nope. (laughs) I actually blame a painting teacher I had in college, she kind of turned me off from it. So I drew. A lot. Colored pencil and graphite.  It’s funny for each medium i use I have a completely different style. Colored pencil works I trended towards fantasy work, visionary art. Graphite I do wildlife art and pet portraits. But when I started painting again, that pretty much took over.  Though I do still do pet portraits – oh and the occasional children’s portrait.  I have learned to never say never.  As soon as I say “I never draw people” I do a portrait for a friend.
Red Fox, August 2009. Egg Tempera.

Rowan Derryth: Now… THE SHOW (grins)
Tricia Aferdita: Yeah… wondering what I’ve gotten myself into. (laughs)
Rowan Derryth: Heh, me too, but it is great.  You are perfect for it.  What was your reaction when Saffia [Widdershins] approached you about doing it?
Tricia Aferdita: Something like, “REALLY?” (laughs) But I did think about it for a few days, and spoke with the management of Avalon to make sure they didn’t think it was a conflict of interest.  I got their thumbs up, and then said, well my whole SL has been about making it up as I go along, so why not give it a try?  I warned Saffia that I had no idea what I was doing, and she said she hadn’t when she started either.
Rowan Derryth: And look at her now!
Tricia Aferdita: (laughs) Yeah, I’m not sure I aspire to her nights of random sleep levels though. I think its all a bit overwhelming at the moment, I haven’t had the chance to get as excited about it as one might expect. I have mostly been trying to focus on the planning.
Rowan Derryth: Well, it’s a ton of work!
Tricia Aferdita: The initial stuff, yes… I spent hours choosing music, creating the art.
Rowan Derryth: Did you do the graphics then?
Tricia Aferdita: Yes
Rowan Derryth: Impressive
Tricia Aferdita: Thanks!  We had a run through Saturday and it went well. Winter [Nightfire] is so enthusiastic, she made it easy.
Rowan Derryth: Winter is your first guest?
Tricia Aferdita: Yeah, she’s another very active artist in SL.
Rowan Derryth: (grins, thinking of Winter) That should be a scream.
Tricia Aferdita: She’s very energetic. (smiles)
Rowan Derryth: (laughing) Um, I take it this show is PG? (winks)
Tricia Aferdita: Hah, yes – mostly anyway. Don’t want to detract from the art (laughs).
Rowan Derryth: No, nor surpress a personality like Winter’s.
Tricia Aferdita: But the conversation that winter and I have is very interesting and she is willing to share some personal struggles.
The Labyrinth Theatre in Avalon, where Metaverse Arts will be taped. Photo by PJ Trenton.
Rowan Derryth: I really can’t wait to see it. I think that is a fantastic first guest, and after the runthrough Saffia said you were a pro, and she thinks you will be stellar. What will the format be like?
Tricia Aferdita: We will start the show with a one on one interview, then after a short break we will cover some upcoming events and then the offsite tour.  This episode we are exploring Douglas Story and Desdemona Enfield’s new installation “Ripple”, which we filmed last night, since I am newbie and the thought of wandering around trying to film was a bit terrifying. (laughs)
Rowan Derryth: Good idea. The Treet team makes it really easy though.
Tricia Aferdita: So the rest of the show will be recorded live, the interview, the events, then we’ll play the video of Ripple, and Douglas and Desdemona will join us onstage.
Rowan Derryth: Sounds great!
Tricia Aferdita: One added little treasure we’re including will be the Featured Gallery, which we plan to try doing as a surprise. No one will know what the gallery is except staff, and our staff photographer. We’ll pick one out, and send him over to photograph it and then announce it and show a slideshow at the end.  PJ [Trenton] has agreed to be the official photographer, I’m happy to say, since he already does Designing Worlds for Saffia, it will be nice to have him take photos for Metaverse Arts as well.  The criteria for this will be that the gallery, as well as the art, should be interesting.
Rowan Derryth: Perfect!  I love this idea.
Tricia Aferdita: Oh, and we’re already getting IM’s and notecards from people who want to have their work, or their gallery, or themselves… on the show.
Rowan Derryth: It’s amazing how fast word travels, isn’t it?
Tricia Aferdita: Yes!  We decided that it would be best if they email their proposal to metaversearts@gmail.com, otherwise… it gets lost in our inventory or our IMs.
Rowan Derryth: So, this all starts when?
Tricia Aferdita: Well, the show will air live on Saturday the 10th at 2pm on Treet.tv. We will have a launch party right afterwards with DJ Skott Westland on our set at the Labyrinth Theatre in Avalon. [Note: the set will be closed to all but reserved guests and staff during taping].  We’ll also have a viewing party set up for those who didn’t get reserved tickets to the taping in the Speaker’s Hall in Avalon.
Metaverse Arts will not only be an exciting addition to the Treet schedule, but with Tricia at the helm, it will go a long way to promoting the best art that SL has to offer.  I for one will be tuning in, and I hope you will too!


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