So, you have your artist statement, your website, and you’ve signed up for every social media platform under the sun; but if you see Wikipedia as the final frontier in gaining online recognition for your career, you’re not alone. In conversations with the artists Creative Capital supports, I have heard from a lot of people who have tried in vain to publish a Wikipedia article. And though the online-based encyclopedia is not without its own complications, it is undoubtedly a way to gain credibility.
In the past few months, I have endeavored to help Creative Capital artists write and publish Wikipedia articles. It’s been a learning process for me and them, and I am by no means an expert on Wikipedia. However, I’ve put together a few quick tips to help you get started!
1. Study Existing Wikipedia Articles About Your Favorite Artists and Your Peers
The first thing I tell artists who want Wikipedia is to study other artists’ pages that already exist. It helps to look at pages about a range of careers, from late career to emerging artists. For example, I love Christo and Jeanne-Claude‘s page: they have an extensive amount of writing about them, and each of their major projects has sections. If you’re a filmmaker, look at Todd Haynes‘ page. But there are also pages about emerging artists, like Jayson Musson, which might be more applicable to you. The discipline matters too, so if you’re a performer, research performing artists’ Wikipedia pages. You know best who your peers are, so look them up!
2. You Can’t Write An Article About Yourself, But There Are Other Options
It’s not like the FBI will appear at your door if you open a disguised account and write an article about yourself, but I don’t necessarily advise it either. Wikipedia is a crowd-sourced website, and with that in mind, the best articles are the ones that many people have worked on. Creative Capital artist Heather Hart of the collaborative The Black Lunch Table has experience organizing Wikipedia Edit-a-Thons to make sure the website includes more women and artists of color.
Some artists have held Living Room Edit-a-Thons; it’s something you can do too! Invite your artist friends over to your apartment or studio and help each other write Wikipedia articles. It also helps to provide a little wine and cheese!
3. A Wikipedia Article Is Not An Artist’s Statement
If you are gathering material for someone to create an article about you, know that you shouldn’t just copy and paste your artist statement. Either through bots or human reviewers, Wikipedia will undoubtedly flag (and eventually remove, if not dealt with) “statement” sounding articles as “self-promotional.” They are looking for “neutral point of view” articles about artists—read this page to understand what that means.
As an encyclopedia, Wikipedia is a reference website that seeks to provide accurate and extensive information about your work and your life. Think about who would be researching you and your work: what would that person want to see beyond your artist statement? And remember that having a Wikipedia article about yourself isn’t always a good thing: it could end up including information that you don’t want to feature.
4. It’s A Trial and Error Process! Don’t Give Up After the First Try
When you create a new article, a Wikipedia article is published the moment you hit save. But as I learned when I started helping artists write their Wikipedia articles, those pages can be removed within hours if they don’t fit the guidelines. It might take you a few tries to keep the article you created, so save your work on Word docs, read why a page was deleted, and provide plenty of third party sources.
5. You May Not Be Ready for A Wikipedia Article, But Preparation Can Start Today
Above all, a Wikipedia article needs citations from a variety third-party sources from approved websites, books or other print publications. This means that, if you are just starting your career as an artist, it might not be the right moment to have a Wikipedia article published about you. But that doesn’t mean preparation for your future Wikipedia page can’t start today! Start collecting all the third-party articles that mention you and compile an ongoing list so that when you ARE ready for a Wikipedia entry, you’ll be prepared.
The more you edit Wikipedia articles, the more you will learn about what makes a great entry. So if you start contributing now, you’ll know what to look for when making your own article. Good luck!
Here are a list of resources to further help you start writing and editing Wikipedia articles. This is an ongoing list, so feel free to submit new links in the comments section!