When Reader publisher/owner John Heaston asked me to be his Contributing Visual Arts Editor a dozen or more years ago, he did me a big favor as well as honor. He did a bigger favor by continuing a commitment to Metro fine arts coverage, a staple of Reader’s mission for more than 30 years. Whether either one of us continues in a similar role remains to be seen after this, the last issue of the Reader, as we know it.
But, friends, readers and countrymen, to paraphrase Shakespeare, we didn’t come today to bury Reader, but to praise it, at least to acknowledge it, not only for what it has been, but what we will miss when it’s gone. At least, I can do so from our purview, that of covering the visual arts which continues to get short shrift in the media, especially when compared to sports, popular entertainment, fine and fast food dining. There are reasons for that and damn few solutions, but that’s not on the menu. What did Reader bring to the table and who was responsible? Who do we say goodbye to, maybe forever?
My job, which I will sorely miss, was made possible, challenging and worthwhile because of three sets of people: artists, curators and gallerists, and above all, Reader staff and arts writers of whom I’ll say more. As for artists, yes, I had my favorites, many whose work hangs salon style in our home, many more who moved me and shaped my writing. I won’t embarrass them all with full disclosure, but their initials are, in no particular order: Susan, Sarah, Joe, Larry, Jim, Terry, Claudia, Mike, Iggy, John, Bill, Vera, Christian, James, Kim, Freddy, Shawnequa, Watie, Frauke, Fulvio, Therman, Humberto, Catherine, Kristin, Christina, Craig, Renee, Tate, Bart, Barb, Ellie, Tim, Monte, Julie, Jamie, Josh, Skylar, Sora, Joey, Wanda, Jay, Mark, Troy, Travis, Nolan, Brian, Paula……a mixed palette to be sure, and no doubt a sin or two of omission as I’ve written about many more artists of all kinds and talent near and abroad. It was a pleasure to spend some real face time with each and their work…often more than once.
Several of the above are also gallerists and curators, some of the hardest working, risk-taking, people of service and care givers in their own right. Despite memorable pop-ups and DIYs the past dozen years, artists would not have shown or prospered without the following who also helped and enlightened me along the way: Mark Masuoka, Jeremy Stern and Hesse McGraw, Doug Dushan, Larry and Logan Roots, Jess Benjamin, Joel Damon, Rob Gilmer, Brigitte McQueen, John Rogers, Patrick Drickey, Vera and Mark Mercer, Christian Rothmann and Matthias Harder, Humberto Chavez Mayol, Kyle Laidig, Shane and Sean Bainbridge, Tom and Jeanne Sitzman, Alex Jochim, Teresa Gleason and Ang Bennett. In addition, Metro artists…and writers… have been aided and abetted by other venue owners and staffers including Amy Rummel, Peter Fankhauser, Patrick Mainelli, Davina Schrier, Sara Bihlmaier and Launa Bacon. After all, exhibits are not created in a vacuum, and the best that I saw and reviewed were larger than the sum of their parts.
I would be remiss not to thank those Reader staff behind the scenes, who not only managed, polished, proofed, designed, teched, published and uploaded the Reader, they kept me from being a total luddite…I learned a lot and enjoyed micromanaging our contribution online. Besides Captain John, I am grateful to Eric Stoakes, Lynn Sanchez, Chris Bowling, Michael “Spike” Newgren, Jason Fisher, Sarah Wengert, Joanna LeFlore, Ken Guthrie, Paul Clark and many others. I hope you all land on your feet as well.
Most of all I must acknowledge all the past arts writers who not only wrote for the Reader and me, but you the readers: Janet Farber, Kent Behrens, Jonathan Orozco, Eddith Buis, Joel Damon, Mary Day, Carol Dennison, Sally Deskins, Jeff King, David Thompson, Melinda Kozel, Laura Vranes, Gerard Pefung, Alex Priest, David Williams, Hugo Zamorano and Adam Price. Only a few had any journalism background, so I particularly enjoyed tutoring them up to speed and Reader professionalism and style, always grateful for a managing editor’s eye prior to publication.
Whether a preview, review or feature, our goal was to bring the reader and Metro art together. We did our best to make it about the work more than the artist. Therefore, no puff pieces and no promotion, we wrote for the Reader and to you. If our writing was not as critical as some may have liked, it was analytical first and foremost. Whenever judgmental or opinionated, we made sure to Tell and Show, and only after spending considerable face time with the art, letting it speak for itself instead of relying only on an artist or show statement. Most of all, we stayed out of our stories, seldom, if ever, using first person, or making it about ourselves. We were never the show.
But we did enjoy the show in too many venues to mention. And we enjoyed serving you and Metro Arts. I hope that showed also. As the curtain closes on the Reader this September, all that’s left for Maestro Heaston and company is to take a final bow. I read somewhere that as one door closes, another opens. Really? Who? What? Where? When? We know the “Why.” The question is, “How?”