ArtsWatch biz 6: The final pitch

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Join the Arts Watch! (Which looks a lot like Rembrandt's The Nightwatch, Rijksmuseum

Join the Arts Watch! (Which looks a lot like Rembrandt’s The Nightwatch, Rijksmuseum)

At its heart, ArtsWatch is a writing community. Some of us have been writing and editing stories and essays about the arts for decades, some are “mid-career,” and some are just starting out. Just as I did when I began in this business many years ago, the newcomers to arts writing need a place to start, editors to help them along, readers to respond to their work. ArtsWatch takes that responsibility very seriously, and we also absorb the energy and great ideas of new writers.

Among our writers, some consider themselves arts journalists. For others, writing about the arts is part of a practice centered elsewhere, often either in artmaking or academia (or both). We find the combination of outlooks and experiences produces a site that is hotter and deeper than it would be if it were only journalists.

I realized that I hadn’t come to terms with the numbers of writers involved when Brett Campbell, the pivot person for our classical music coverage, sent a group email to the writers who are actively writing for us at the moment. There were nine names on the list, plus mine, and that list didn’t include writers outside Portland or those who have contributed occasional pieces to ArtsWatch. I think it’s safe to say that this is the largest group of classical music writers that have ever written for an Oregon site or publication at one time. Their perspectives and experiences in music differ widely, which is why they sometimes disagree about things, and this makes our coverage around music all the better.

The group we have covering theater is somewhat smaller, but it strangely includes all of the fulltime staff theater critics The Oregonian has ever had: Bob Hicks, Marty Hughley, and me. We represent three decades of theater coverage, but even at The Oregonian, we were never ALL deployed on theater at the same time. AL Adams is also central to that group, and her wide experience in performance practice balances the rest of us nicely.

Our dance coverage is led by a former president of the Dance Critics Association of America, Martha Ullman West, who started writing about dance in Portland years before Oregon Ballet Theatre raised its first curtain. Bob and I also write about dance, and so do two younger writers, Jamuna Chiarini and Nim Wunnan.

One of our aims this year is to add to our roster of visual art writers. Right now we count Patrick Collier, Graham Bell, and Sarah Sentilles in that company, and we have some new voices on the brink of announcing themselves on the site.

These are just the group of writers writing for us right now. Others have dropped by for occasional stories and essays, too, and some of that is among the most interesting stuff we’ve published. With any luck, they’ll write our way again.

If you help us, that will be far more possible!

During the past couple of weeks I’ve attempted to “explain” ArtsWatch. I’ve written about the importance of the arts, the specific importance of the arts here in Oregon, and the importance of renovating the practice of arts journalism to respond to the arts in a more open and useful way. And I explained where the money for ArtsWatch comes from and where it goes.

This will be the last post in this “Pledge Drive” series, and I want to let you know what your support will allow us to do.

  • First, we’ll shore up the administrative side of our nonprofit. We’ve spent our money on our writers and their posts so far and haven’t built the strong structure we need to keep it going. Yes, I think that’s called “sustainability”!
  • Second, on the content side, we’ll invest in the visual arts while we do a better job of organizing our other coverage areas. And if we have enough money, we’ll expand: to the moving image, to the literary arts, to music outside the classically influenced, to deeper news coverage of our arts institutions.
  • Third, we want to experiment more than we have with other media, from public gatherings to podcasts to video to books. And we want to rebundle our work into apps that work better with tablets and mobile, for obvious reasons!

We can’t do it without you, though, and by becoming a member, you’ll start to receive lots of perks: special invitations, ticket discounts, and surveys to help us shape the site and our journalism.

We’re coming up on our third anniversary. If you’ve been reading us along, you know what we offer: a deeper drink of the arts and culture of the state than you can get anywhere else. And if that’s important to you and you can do it financially, we’d love it if you decided to join our small band of members. Because that’s the first step in making it a BIG band of members.

Joining us is so easy to do through Paypal: Just pick a level of support and you’re in!


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And if you don’t want to work through PayPal, you can just send us a check, because that works great, too. Just don’t forget to include your email address so we can sign you up to our Newsletter.

Oregon ArtsWatch
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Portland, OR 97212

To those of you who have already joined us? You are the best! Thank you! And for those who are still thinking it over? Don’t hesitate to click the membership button once you’ve decided that ArtsWatch is the kind of media you want to support. We’ll see you then!

One Response.

  1. Martha Ullman West says:

    I suppose this “recommend” could be viewed as self-serving, since I do write for ArtsWatch and I do get paid. But I don’t do it for the money: I do it for the privilege of being edited by knowledgeable people who are passionate about the arts and arts writing, who know the Portland scene much better than I do and who validate the artists who are the linchpin of that scene every day, not to mention my own work. Many thanks Barry and Bob, and your check is in the mail.

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