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Melissa DiVietri on promoting yourself in the digital age 

See and be seen

Melissa DiVietri is a social media consultant, offering her services helping ad agencies and small businesses reach their audiences through the myriad online channels that seem to be multiplying explonentially. "I'll talk to some companies and it's like, you haven't posted anything since April!" DiVietri, 25, says that's an eternity in 2014. Knowing which social media platforms to use and how to use them is essential to building an online presence — as if you're not really real unless you turn up in Google's search results. Descartes' philosophy could get a 21st century update: I tweet, therefore I am.

It's a strategy that DiVietri uses in promoting her own artwork. She works in a variety of mediums — from acrylic paint to encaustics to tile work. The recent metro Detroit transplant says she likes to primarily paint abstracts or Detroit cityscapes. She's done live painting at the Movement Electronic Music Festival and will have a painting in the ArtPrize competition in Grand Rapids this fall.

DiVietri studied computer graphics and Web at Ferris State, but she also commuted to Kendall College of Art and Design for painting. "My professors were sort of sticklers about it, like you have to either be a creative or a digital media person. I was like, 'Why can't I be both?'" she says.

These days, every artist has to be social media-savvy. Gone are the days of getting discovered by an agent — if those days ever existed. "I'm personally on 30 social networks for my brand," DiVietri says (we didn't even know there were 10), explaining that each serves a different purpose.

"(On) Google+, I'll write content on my website and share it on there using keywords like 'abstract art' or 'Detroit art,'" she says. "When I'm creating the piece I'll use Twitter and Snapchat, and I'll take pictures of the progress, and people will give me feedback as I'm painting. They'll be like, 'Oh yeah, add some more cool blues there.' It's nice to be able to get instant feedback."

Of course, instant feedback means instant haters, as well. "I just try and ignore them," DiVietri says, adding that she sometimes blocks people. "I have no idea how some of them find me. Everyone has something to say."

It seems like the emphasis on social media could be both a blessing and a curse for an artist — with the average American already spending a good portion of the day staring at a computer or smartphone for both work and pleasure, there's something to be said about unplugging oneself and spending time alone with on one's craft. (We doubt, say, the Sistine Chapel would've turned out the way it did if Michelangelo was posting Instagrams of his paintings every step of the way.)

But DiVietri says she ultimately doesn't paint for the Likes and the Faves. She was born with sacral agenesis, a spine disorder that restricted her to a wheelchair until she was in middle school. Today, she's active and independent, getting around with crutches. ("Sometimes I paint my crutches for special events like festivals or weddings," she says. "It's cute.")

"Art has been healing process for my disease," she says. "All my energy runs into each painting, and I completely forget that I have an illness."

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