Survey of local visual artists results in six action items
For the last few months, DigBoston staff have been dropping public hints that big changes are in the offing for this publication. And it’s true, we’re gradually transitioning to a new management team and hope to make that development official sometime in the near future. So this interregnum strikes us as a fine opportunity to do some soul searching and to think about our strengths and weaknesses with an eye toward improvement.
One area where we know we’ve fallen down on the job has been our lack of coverage of the local visual arts scene. We also know that we’re hardly alone in that. Over the last decade, arts coverage in the Boston-area press has been gutted as part of a general downsizing of journalism in the US. Thanks to corporate media owners trying to remain profitable by reducing editorial staff while finding various ways to take advantage of the rise of the internet culture of free amateur content provision, paid arts reporters have gone the way of other types of journalists. Many are out of jobs, and have had to find other work to survive.
Only a handful of full-time arts reporters remain in Boston and far fewer freelance arts journalists can cobble together a living than was once the norm. Even as the city becomes ever more unaffordable for working people. So the vast majority of artists who aren’t trust-fund babies are literally being driven out of Boston (and Cambridge and Somerville). Into the suburbs and exurbs for those who can make a go of it in smaller communities in Boston’s orbit. Out to distant cities in flyover country for those in search of much cheaper rents and more supportive media.
The situation has resulted in a complaint that echoes daily in studios, galleries, and museums around the city: “How can Boston sustain a vibrant art scene if the news media ignores it?”
So, a few weeks back, we decided to circulate a one question survey around the visual arts community to ask working artists what kind of coverage they’d like to see in a new DigBoston arts section. In hopes of taking our best shot at supporting the local arts scene with guidance from the people who know it best.
We were gratified to receive a dozens of thoughtful responses, and upon reviewing them have noted six suggestions that received support from multiple respondents. So we can now say with some certainty that local visual artists would like to see the following content in our pages:
- Arts listings—especially listings of show openings at galleries and other visual arts venues.
- Features on the social and political dimensions of the visual arts scene—including articles on the growing difficulty of making a living as an artist in the Boston area, and attempts to ameliorate that crisis.
- Art show reviews.
- Coverage of art in Boston’s neighborhoods outside the big museums with a special focus on artists of color.
- Interviews and studio visits with local artists.
- Spotlight pieces on arts organizers and non-artists who make the visual arts possible.
We’re happy to report that we expect to start implementing all six suggestions as soon as we launch our new arts section—starting with arts listings, given that we’re planning to introduce a new general listings section shortly after our new management team takes over DigBoston.
Arts reporters take note: we won’t be hiring new full-time arts staff right away, but we will be building our freelance arts reporting team over the coming months. So, if you’re an experienced arts reporter or critic who knows the scene in Boston’s neighborhoods, we want to talk to you. We’re also interested to partner with arts reporters who run their own print and online publications—doing their best to fill the gap in local arts coverage. We’re already in talks with the Boston Compass folks to run their music listings in DigBoston, and we’d love to make similar deals with existing arts publications.
In summary, are you an experienced arts writer? Send your resume and clips. Do you run a Boston area arts publication? Let’s talk. Do you run a Boston area visual arts venue or organization? Get ahead of the listings game, and get us your latest contact information (venue name, contact person(s), address, phone, email, and website) right away. And get us on your press list. Are you an arts maven with more suggestions for our new arts section? Fire away. In all cases, drop an email to email@example.com. Let’s do this thing.
Jason Pramas is senior editor of DigBoston and will be running its new arts section. He holds an MFA in Visual Arts from the Art Institute of Boston.
Executive editor and associate publisher, DigBoston. Executive director of Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. Former founder and editor/publisher of Open Media Boston. 2018 & 2019 Association of Alternative Newsmedia Political Column Award Winner.