In December of 1976 a small group of professionals from the westside of Los Angeles, met over brunch and discussed the arts and technology. Many in the group had a background in computer science and there was excitement about what computers could do to help the arts.
There was also dismay at what seemed to be commercialization and destruction of many musical forms and art forms. Chamber music, designed to be played in small venues, was seldom heard in them. Instead chamber music was played in large auditoriums where the music looses its context. In an analogous way the cost of art has pushed the art of painting and printmaking out of the reach of people to live with and view it as it was intended, instead it resides in museums and in inaccessible homes of the rich. The outcome of this meeting was to try and tackle the music issue first, and the first project was to get a string quartet to come and perform at a home in the area to recreate the chamber music ideal.
The first concert was given by the Sequoia String Quartet. In the course of the next year, several "home" concerts were scheduled. These were given at the home of Pat Britt and Gwen Moore high up on Tigertail Drive in a home overlooking Santa Monica, West Los Angeles, and the Pacific. This provided the origin for our name.
In the years that followed the concert season grew in number and in the number of people involved. Tigertail Associates became a Non-Profit California Corporation, with tax-exempt 501c3 IRS status. The succeeding decade saw the growth not only of Tigertail's concert season, but other people saw fit to start similar groups. And while the practice is still not the most common way of hearing chamber music, in Los Angeles at least, one can always join a society that has chamber concerts. Sister Mary-Ann Bonino was a leader in this movement.
Contributions in succeeding years were always modest, but they allowed the music season to continue, and they funded some minor research and educational efforts in the arts. The Xerox Corporation made a major donation to make possible the development of computer art teaching tools for grammar school education. This was Project Leonardo which was done in cooperation with University Elementary School a teaching and research school located at UCLA.
Today, Tigertail has a wide variety of active research projects and art appreciation projects. These include Thursday Opera Evenings, Museum support for the internet, an artist-internship program for learning web site design, and with this web site a new venue for education in music and art.
This Tigertail web site is dedicated to introducing a new way of exploring the arts. Initially it will start with an on-line guide to collecting classical music on CD and Laser Disk. This will be called the Tigertail Guide to Music (TGM). This on-line guide was written by Robert Uzgalis, our director of research and development. He hopes that this area we will become a collaborative effort. If you research and explore a composer, musical form or other specialized part of classical music we will add it to our developing guide. If you find an error or omission please send us an update and we will check it out and modify the data. This will soon be there.
For the visual arts have created a virtual museum that you can explore at your leisure using the internet at home. One of the major problems with museums is that to be good, they must have collected many good pieces of art. But art takes time to enjoy. One really should stop at each picture to examine it; ask yourself why this? Why that? How does this relate to that? And, what are my feelings toward the work? This is hard to do in any museum.
The reasons for museum fatigue are many. First, one quickly reaches overload because there is usually so much to see. Second, by necessity there are many pictures on the same wall all clamoring for attention -- the shy one that is really a masterpiece with probably get ignored. Third, in a major exhibition you can't really see the art at all for all of the people crowding around. At our Tigertail Virtual Museum you can pull up a picture on your browser, let it sit, view it casually, or even study it for several hours. Other pictures will not call out for attention, people will not push you out of the way (unless you have children who want to play computer games) and you can concentrate on the picture. Some day when you visit a museum with the original of a picture you have studied this way, you will find it come alive in a new and exciting way.
The Tigertail Virtual Museum (TVM) started off in a minor way, for a year we collected the postings to the network news groups which are interested in fine art. Art comes in somewhat randomly, or at least at the whim of the suppliers. Since there is often no information about the artist, sometimes not even his name, nor where the real picture resides, nor why or when it was painted, ... there are only images. Often these images are color tinted, because either the art has aged or because one of the sources of the digital image did not take enough care in its creation. To the extent possible these defects have been fixed. The first year the museum contained about 1500 images covering 1400 to 1950 representing about 200 artists. Five years later we have over 5,000 images covering 12 millennia: 10,000 BC to 2000 AD, representing about 1000 artists.
The Tigertail Virtual Museum will host special exhibitions occasionally, specializing in an artist or in a movement. If anyone has a curatorial bent and wants to put together a show, please feel free to do so. Again you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally we thought it will take a couple of weeks to organize and up-load the art. And that things will be somewhat disorganized at the beginning, and as time went on organization would drift into the museum and sweep away the chaos. Five years and two major reorganizations later, we still have the same hopes. Although our hope has somewhat diminished as the collection of art has gotten larger and larger.
The popularity of the site has grown with the years as well. At the end of the first year we had around 500 visitors a day. At the end of the third year about 2,000 visitors a day. Recently, in our fifth year, the daily average has been around 7,000 visitors a day from all over the world, although about half our visitors come from the United States. The sixth year doubled our usage again to around 14,000 visitors a day mostly from an increase in usage from outside the United States. A little more than half the people who use the site are students. This last statistic is a little hard to come by but it is based on a growth adjusted comparison between summer 2003 and winter 3004 usage. It assumes that most educational usage comes from the Northern hemisphere so it is slightly conservative estimate.
The cost of running the site has increased with the usage although contributions to support the site remain minimal. Yearly contributions for 2003 were $300 from 5 individuals accounting for a net loss of around $19,000. The losses were covered by the directors of Tigertail Associates and contributions from our ISP. A very conservative estimate is that there are 20,000 regular users of the site. If half of the regular visitors contributed $10 per year our income would be $100,000. This would allow us to hire a full time staff person to maintain the site and add new material on a much more regular basis.