For the past two weeks, I have spent my Wednesday evenings inside SNAP Gallery learning how to write. To write is to: rewrite, to read and to know what you want to say and question how you want to say it. Writing is a craft, as I have mused about here and elsewhere, but it is also about placing yourself within a community discussion—a fact easily forgotten within the isolation of writing.
Huddled together with handful of fellow freelance writers and editors ranging from new friends to old colleagues, I participated in SNAP’s Artist-in-Residence Anthea Black’s “Freelance Art Writing Workshop for Emerging Artists and Arts Writers.” Looking around, the people in attendance were certainly not new to writing, but over the course of the evening, many new thoughts and insights were generously shared. I admit I was disappointed to not see more “emerging” faces there, hoping that people were in fact just too busy and that they were not in attendance because of their resistant ego. The group of writers in attendance, all notably women, were not emerging writers in any technical sense. One has her PhD and several of us have been professionally writing for years, but when it comes to arts writing, everyone revealed that they still have these “a-ha” moments when we collectively crawl out of our hermit writing shells, put aside any sense of ego, and openly talk about important issues such as mentors, fees, conflicts of interest and how to maintain a sense of sanity.
The isolation of writing, especially arts writing, where the mantra “art critics have no friends” is beyond humour, the sense of solitude is deeply exacerbated by a region already isolated from a larger arts dialogue occurring nationally and internationally. Arts writers are writing not out of public service, but engaging to take part in the greater cultural dialogue that feeds into the entire system of a community, a city, an economy and an identity.
Looking back, I feel I have written about a lot of artists and exhibitions because nobody else was willing to—in fact, that’s exactly how Prairie Artsters began. New voices are being added to the mix and we are looking beyond our past legacies, and I’ve continued to question why I do what I do. I know I am now adding to a multiplicity of voices that need to grow and speak with and against one another, but for the community to flourish, we need even more voices to bring in new perspectives and challenge existing ones.
That’s why as of this month until next summer, I am opening up PrairieArtsters.com to fellow writers who are interested in contributing to the ongoing dialogue. I will remain in an editorial capacity and continue to write and post periodically (and keep this column for the time being), but the online infrastructure is there for writers to come and go as they please. This is a time-sensitive trial, but I know if PrairieArtsters.com is to sustain itself beyond a stagnant shelf life, new voices must be willing to step in and step up, and be willing to learn how to write collectively.
Interested writers should contact the e-mail at the bottom of this page regarding contributor’s guidelines.
*First published in Vue Weekly, November 13 - 19, 2008