On Tuesday night, the Fort Worth Art Dealers Association hosted a panel discussion on art writing in Fort Worth, featuring Frances Colpitt, Rachel Cook and Scott Gleeson. Christopher Blay moderated the panel, which accompanied the annual Selections 2016 art exhibit at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center.
Cook is a curator at DiverseWorks, Houston, and the new guest Art Lies editor for Gulf Coast: A Journal of Literature and Fine Arts. Her writing has appeared in international art journals Flash Art and Modern Painters.
Gleeson is a Dallas artist and the founder and executive director of Peripheral Vision Arts, an online art criticism and curatorial platform.
The three spoke about their experience with art writing, as both artists and writers. Here are four takeaways from their discussion.
1. There’s plenty of room for cooperation and overlap between artists and art writers.
As an artist himself, Gleeson says he saw a market of artists desperate for writing about their work and a market of young art historians eager to get paid for work, so he launched Peripheral Vision in April.
“Artists and art historians can easily pair up and benefit each other,” he says. On the site, he connects emerging and mid-career creators and art writers. His application revenue goes to hiring critics, he says, and his objective is to pay above market rate.
Cook encourages artists to become writers as well.
“Artists can be writers,” she says. “You can learn to hone in your voice and develop your language.” She points to Colpitt as just one of many writers who can help guide an artist into the art writing world.
2. Who is arts writing for?
With his site, Gleeson hopes to create a mutually beneficial relationship between artists and art writers. On the other hand, Colpitt argues that criticism should not be intended to benefit or promote artists.
“When I work, I am thinking about the work, not the artist, not whether it will help or hurt them,” she says. But she admits that she only writes about artists whose work she thinks deserves to be known, so she sees Gleeson’s point. At the end of the day, she says, when she writes she is thinking about the three-way relationship of any art writing: the artist, the critic and the reader.
“The reader often gets overlooked, but they are key,” she says. “I always write to the reader. Who is reading and how do you best communicate with them?”
3. There’s no reason to limit the media of art writing.
Cook recently accepted a position as a guest editor for the art section of Gulf Coast, which is available both in print and online. She thinks that segregating printed and digital writing is not beneficial.
“In Texas, I see the online writing bucket, and the catalog bucket, and there’s not a lot in between,” she says. “For a great art city, you need a variety of mediums.”
Addressing a lack of local venues for local critical art writing, Colpitt points out that there are “a million places online.” Cook adds that today it’s also possible to self-publish easily and cheaply on the web.
Gleeson points out that his website overhead costs are only $26 per month — and he can do most of his promotion cheaply over social media, with Facebook’s “Boost Post” button for pages.
4. How do I get someone to write about my art?
Gleeson also argues that Facebook is a great place to make connections that can, in time, lead to professional relationships.
“Just get on Facebook and start looking for other artists and curators,” he says. “Once people get to know you and get a sense of your voice and your work, you may be able to just cold call them.”
Colpitt says group shows are the key. “It’s much more likely for a critic to go to a group show with 20 potential new artists than a solo show,” she says. And, she adds, a catchy name doesn’t hurt either.
For Cook, it’s pretty simple: if you want her to come to a show, just email her. She says that her main restriction is time, but she always wants to hear from new artists. She encourages artists to simply introduce themselves and ask about a studio visit. If she doesn’t know about a show, she can’t go.
Finally, if you’re a viewer and you see a great show but can’t find any reviews, Cook says, just write a letter to the editor.