Promoting art in Cleveland is a challenge. That’s the context for the launch this week of the Collective Arts Network Journal, which is at the moment a one-time, promotional publication created by Zygote Press and a collective of 28 visual arts organizations, with support from the Ohio Arts Council.
CAN Journal is their response to the fact that media coverage of the visual arts in Cleveland has dwindled significantly–even as Cuyahoga County has seen arts activity revitalize neighborhoods, and despite the fact that the voters decided it mattered enough to create a public fund to support artists. Despite all that, Cleveland artists have a devil of a time getting much press–at least in print. It’s edited by yours truly.
I wrote this observation in an essay for CAN Journal:
“Consider what the NEO arts scene has lost just in roughly the last decade: Dialog Arts Midwest, Northern Ohio Live, Angle, ARTefakt, Urban Dialect, The Free Times, and Avenues–all of which dug deep into the local arts scene–are gone. For a while, all those existed in addition to what we have now. Shows and performances—even in small galleries—got covered. Previews were written. Personalities were explored.” It’s not like that anymore.
The Plain Dealer–the biggest local fish– typically ignores Cleveland’s visual artists and small galleries. They did recently start running reviews by Douglas Max Utter once a week, and they deserve some credit for that. But it wasn’t long ago that they had an Arts section every day, with interviews, features, and plenty more reviews–especially of the visual arts. They’re now down to the Sunday arts section and the Friday magazine. When I was promoting Common Household Rhymes for the Modern Child, I was only able to score a listing. I do have to complement PD Friday listings editor Mark Rapp for following up with a question as he put my listing together. Thanks, Mark. Mad props.
Not everyone is so thorough. As most of the region’s visual artists know, the local so-called “alternative weekly” might run a listing of your show. Or they might skip it. In the case of my show at William Busta Gallery, they skipped it. They also skipped Barbara Polster’s video projection, which opened in the same gallery, on the same night.
Fortunately, there’s a collection of other media outlets that does what it can to pick up the slack. And on that front, Common Household Rhymes dominated Cleveland’s fragmented media landscape. My little blitz began with a Cool Cleveland video, which I made myself:
As you can tell by my hair, making children’s books is a very serious subject.
Next, and on the same day, came a segment on Around Noon, WCPN 90.3FM’s daily, noon-hour arts magazine. Hosted by the positively musical Dee Perry, and produced by the understated Dave DeOreo, it is beyond question the last great
Dee Perry, host of WCPN's Around Noon
stronghold for Cleveland area arts coverage: almost an hour each weekday featuring guests in live interviews and performances. That gives them enough air time to have real conversations with as many as 15 artists and performers each week–conversations long enough to actually tell a story. Those of you who love me enough will click this link over and over, listening to this for as long as they see fit to keep me in their archives. Go to about the 19th minute. That’s where I start talking.
Of course I can’t forget the hyper local media. My friend Francis Killea –a prodigious cyclist who blogs at vagrantasacloud.blogspot.com wrote this feature for the Lakewood Observer. It’s packed with thought and information, rolled out with great care.
Locking in type with quoins and furniture. Photo by Francis Killea.
The Observer papers, it must be said, can be a great resource for visual artists–if you use them. Jim O’Bryan’s citizen journalism empire has expanded far beyond its Lakewood birthplace and now has franchises in Cleveland Heights, Collinwood, Euclid, Bay Village, and elsewhere. If you are trying to promote your local art show and fail to submit an article to the Observer paper that serves your community you have missed a what has become a rare opportunity in Cleveland–the chance to tell your story in print. All you have to do is meet the deadline. If you don’t have a friend like Francis to do the writing and photography for you, just do it yourself.
Back in the digital world, reporter Cory Shaffer wrote this piece for Lakewood Patch, AOL’s venture into hyper-local, online news. Patch is delivered every morning by e-mail in several communities around Cleveland. Like Cool Cleveland, the delivery right to the audience’s in-box is a big plus. So don’t forget to pitch your stuff to Patch.
But the biggest arts media coup in Cleveland might be scoring time on the local PBS affiliate, WVIZ’s weekly arts magazine, Applause. I’m grateful they found my story worth telling in video, especially because they did a fine job.
Applause is a very rare thing these days–a locally produced, weekly TV show that focuses not on car crashes, sex crimes, and weather, but on people making and doing things around Northeast Ohio. It’s an arts magazine exploring some of what makes this a great place to live.
Dennis Knowles, the producer for my Applause segment, invested a lot of time and care in putting together the piece. After spending about 3 hours shooting video and talking in December, he came back after Christmas to follow up. Clearly he cares about the details that will help him tell a good story.
For some reason, the “embed” function on the Applause website will not actually embed the clickable video. So we’ll just have to be content with this link.
For the moment, if you’re promoting an arts show in Northeast Ohio, that’s all there is. But things could improve. I get to go back on WCPN’s Around Noon tomorrow, along with Zygote Press director Liz Maugans and artist/critic Douglas Max Utter to talk about the launch of CAN Journal–which all of us involved hope will eventually become a quarterly platform to let people know what’s coming up on the Northeast Ohio visual art scene. So if you’re reading this before noon on Tuesday, tune in to 90.3 FM.
And then on Thursday, when CAN Journal actually hits the streets, be sure you run right out to your favorite local gallery and pick up a copy.
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