After an IDADA “First Friday” filled with downtown gallery tours — Road Trip at the Harrison Center, Square One at Stutz Art Space, Focus: Midwest at MiCo, Television Hates Itself in the Sidecar Gallery of the Big Car Gallery — you might think the local media would be full of rave reviews or uninspired remarks.
But alas, Indy hasn’t had an art critic for as long as anyone I talked to can remember. Unfortunately, this news is common as papers across the country are eliminating art critics from their press. Just this week the chief dance critic for the Los Angeles Times was canned. Paul Hodgins of The Arts Blog writes:
There’s a pervasive feeling among many decision-makers at newspapers that arts coverage doesn’t matter anymore – or, more accurately, that it’s not important to the kind of readers they’re trying to reach.
In his post “Now more than ever, newspapers need arts coverage,” Hodgins notes that most papers are measuring the success of their content by how well it does online, and in turn, change their printed paper to reflect that success:
In this regard, a lot of arts stories just don’t measure up. There’s no way to justify publishing a review of a show at a small storefront theater from a reader-interest point of view. No matter how you market or display that kind of piece, its readership will remain small.
Hodgins goes on to say that most Editors aren’t taking into account the source or quality of the Web hits by which they are measuring a story’s success.
The Indianapolis Star used to have several arts reporters and now has an arts & entertainment reporter and a performing arts writer. It does not have an art critic. It does, however, have a sports critic (columnist Bob Kravitz). Note: reporters gather news and write objectively, while columnists have the freedom to criticize and commentate as specialists on a topic. As a graduate of Butler’s Journalism Program, I have a strong sense of public service as the foundation for media coverage, instilled in me by Dr. Kwadwo Anokwa. It is essential for journalists to engage in the culture of the local community, and this includes comprehensive coverage and criticism of the local arts. Not only would this be beneficial to the success of local artists, musicians and performers, but it also makes economic sense by fostering art patrons and elevating our city to the national stage.
Image courtesy of Ricardo Biriba, “art critic” sketch, 2006. Web site: http://www.biriba.net/