How do you make art, which is typically viewed as an extremely personal medium, popular for a large and diverse audience? As Manager of AOL Artists, Nikki Macaluso works hard to overcome this hurdle. The AOL Artists program, which began in December 2009 as a way to continue fostering AOL's new brand identity, works with artists from around the world to create the visual identity of the AOL brand.

What does AOL Artists stand for? "The brand is focused on surprise, delight and creativity. Our goal is to bring new art and artists to light while supporting the artistic community," said Nikki, who is a veteran of two years on AOL's Brand Marketing team.

Since launch, the program has showcased the talent of over 93 artists and commissioned 235 pieces of art as canvases to be featured as part of AOL's visual brand identity. The canvases are featured on platforms like the AOL homepage, and the program also works with local communities and partners to bring the collaborations to a larger audience with activations like Rainbow City. "The AOL Rainbow City interactive and environmental art installation in New York City was amazing," said Nikki. "It was open for an entire month and free to the public, something you rarely see in the art installation world. We really got to expose people to incredible experiences through art." Nikki cites the success of the project, which included eight months of planning and a three-pronged partnership with the Highline and Miami based art collective 'FriendsWithYou', as one of her proudest accomplishments.

Although as a whole the AOL audience has received the canvas program with open arms, preferring "canvases that are positive in nature with bright tones," there have been challenges. "We're exposing large audiences to art on a semi-voluntary level. You're not always going to please everyone with the art that you put up, but we actively work to commission to a large spectrum of tastes." Nikki's personal favorite canvas, by artist Allie Rex, is yet to be released, but will be launched for the 4th of July. When asked, Nikki teased that the Artists program will incorporate new technological advances later this year that will enhance new canvas launches. We tried to get more out of her, but she just smiled.

Counting artists like Cindy Sherman, Marilyn Minter, and Jeff Koons as favorites, Nikki's personal interests also include cooking. "I've made it a point this year to read as many cookbooks as possible to get inspired in my tiny New York City kitchen - my current specialty is healthy eggplant parmesan!"

When asked what she liked best about AOL, Nikki quickly replied, "AOL Impact. The fact that we feature a different charity every day and can offer them exposure to the traffic from our homepage is incredible." Nikki then revealed that she also has a fondness for the AOL beer cart which rolls around the office during weekly Happy Hours. "My friends are always jealous." We agree.

Make sure to continue to check this blog for news about our latest canvas, including tomorrow's new launch of canvases from artist C. Finley.