Camille LeFevre on teaching and writing arts journalism

Criticism? continued

Given the comments, thus far, to my last post, clearly the topic of arts criticism generates passionate responses, ranging from the financial power of critics to boost (or diminish) the monetary value of art to what exactly constitutes a work of art. Curiously, responses thus far are mostly from those concerned with the visual arts. Which brings to mind several conversations I’ve had lately about criticism (the topic on which, for now, these posts are focused).

Last week, Scott Stulen (visual artist and project director of mnartists.org) and Alan Berks (playwright and originator of mnplaylist.com) ended their visit to my class with this call: The Twin Cities needs a visual arts critic, with tough skin and well-honed critical abilities, to really address the work being created here. Artists may not like this person, but they’ll respect him/her.

I heard a similar call later in the week, while talking with two artists who are friends. The lack of thoughtful, well-substantiated criticism, they said, leads to mediocrity. This speaks to the belief that criticism is integral part of the art making, promoting, consuming and appreciating ecosystem. My questions are these:

What form should criticism take in the digital age? Meaning, what should the writing read like?

How do we critics negotiate the public’s hunger for entertainment and critical assessment, for the growing distaste for “elitist” critics (and what does that mean, anyway? That readers don’t like critics who know what they’re talking about?), and for access to arts criticism that creates thoughtful discourse?

As more critics migrate to pr, and pr takes on a more journalistic role (in terms of providing insights, education and in-depth access to artists, as my students did with our blog for the Southern Theater’s “Lush Life” show http://southernsongbook.tumblr.com/ ), where will criticism be published and who will write it?

I look forward to your comments.


December 15, 2010 Posted by | From the Classroom, The Wild West of Arts Journalism | 4 Comments