Art & Mind

Here's What Happened - 2018 Edition

Earlier this year, I saw British blues artist Jack Broadbent at The Turning Point cafe, a small music venue tucked away in the tiny town of Piedmont, NY.

It's that time of year when many of us are prone to look back on the past 12 months and hope that what we set out to do was somehow, against all odds, accomplished. It's also that time of year when many of us set goals or lament about setting goals for next year. Well, I'm going to put my own little spin on this and do something slightly different.

Instead, I'm going to kvetch and assert. The kvetch is essentially a small recap of what occurred this year, and the assert is the declaration of one small goal for the upcoming year. Pretty straight-forward, right? So bear with me as I tell you about a conversation I recently had about my blog here at Incandescere and what is to come. But first, here's what happened:

The Kvetch

A colleague, who recently discovered my blog, asked me a couple of days ago, "Why don't you write for [popular hyperlocal blog]?" I replied: "I wouldn't mind writing for that blog, but I don't believe they pay, and I rarely write for free anymore. Plus, why would I write for them for free, when I can do that on my blog."Seems like a fairly innocuous response, right?

M'colleague chirped in with a follow-up: "Yeah, but if you write for [popular hyperlocal blog], you'll reach a bigger audience."

Cue the steam shooting from my ears and me fighting the urge to roll my eyes.

I've talked about this issue multiple times here on my blog, so a part of me is naturally frustrated, but to be fair, m'colleague clearly didn't bother to read those blog posts. Not even the one from 2 weeks ago about letting artists be artists, which touched on this issue as well. No. M'colleague was like so many out there on the interwebz who believe that another's "success" is defined by the clichéd markers we often see in media. The idea of reaching a large(r) audience in m'colleague's mind should be my primary intent. Without it, my writing somehow has less value. Without it, somehow I have less value.

Um, ... yeah.

My visit to the American Writers Museum in Chicago was short, but sweet thanks to this exhibit by celebrated photojournalist Art Shay.

Needless to say, for those of you who have read more than one or two posts here at Incandescere, my value isn't predicated on the appreciation of others. And neither is my writing or my desire to write. But instead of being angry, I've decided that m'colleague was simply being short-sighted. After all, this person doesn't know me very well, nor was that moment in the conversation really about me. But it did get me to thinking.

There was a time when I would complain about how much of the writing assignments companies were advertising only sought those who deliver "clicks," or the gigs were for media outlets that wanted you to drone on for 10 articles a day about what Janelle Monae wore in a music video or when the latest popular YouTube channel drama had everyone up in arms first began. I longed for the opportunity to apply for writing positions related to something substantive, not ephemeral. And if it had to be fleeting, please let it be about a new play, a gallery opening, lose in funding for an arts center, the politics of auction houses selling appropriated art, the opening of a new performance space, you get the picture.

The Assertion

Writing about arts and culture is my bailiwick, but for the last six months, sadly, it has been my red-headed stepchild. I began the year delighted to be a part of the New Jersey Stagepool of writers who contributed to their publication. I wasn't doing anything special, mind you. I was still writing about the arts here on my blog, but it would occasionally get picked up by NJS and shared among their readers with a link back to my website.

Although the first six months of the year were extremely difficult financially, I admit that this new relationship with New Jersey Stage was one of the few bright stars in my increasingly cloudy sky. Add to that, I was asked to cover a couple of plays and movies in exchange for theater and film festival tickets, and well, let's just say you don't have to ask me twice.

In September, I had an effusive chat about American vs British theater and the commitment to bring John Constantine, Hellblazer, to life with the very patient actor Matt Ryan at the HVFF in Edison, NJ.

But as the year continued and my employment situation changed, so did my availability to cover arts and culture here on my blog. With two part-time positions gobbling up roughly 60 hours of my week, I rarely had/have time to partake in some of my favorite artistic consumptions -- primarily attending museums, plays, book signings, dance performances, and festivals.

And even when I made time to enjoy my cultural scene (because I really, really, really wanted to go), it was difficult to also make time to write about those experiences, let alone share them with New Jersey Stage. So alas, there was no review of Thom Pain (based on nothing) at the Signature Theatre. There was no Gallery Keen for my first of what I'm sure will be many visits to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in DC. There was no detailed report of the conversations I had at the Heroes and Villains Fan Fest in Edison, NJ, where I got to chat with not one, but two great theater-geeks-turned-superhero-virtuosos: Ray Fisher and Matt Ryan.

I also never had the chance to share much about my all-too-brief visit to the new American Writers Museum in Chicago; the casual, yet electric dialogue enthusiastically absorbed at NJPAC's "An Evening With Lenny Kravitz;" or my road trip to a sleepy New York music destination called The Turning Point that has seen many jazz and blues legends pass through its doors over the years.

All of these adventures into the arts and culture world wanted to be written about, if only as proof that I do something other than work, but time was not on my side. And my energy wasn't too giving either.

I regret not writing more, as well as neglecting my outlet of choice for sharing my thoughts on the arts and culture scene. And I don't want to go into 2019 fearing this will become my new normal, so right now, I'm asserting that it won't.

That's right. Although the past few months here have been largely quotes and lotus moments, I'm declaring that come January 2019, I will do my best to return to sharing my thoughts on news in the arts, opinions on what is culture and why are we still asking that question, and of course, any outings I have where I actually get to enjoy a performance or three.

I can't be certain if New Jersey Stage is still interested in my musings, but I am still committed to filling my off-hours with artistic pursuits. And if you're game to follow along, dear readers, I welcome you regardless of size and popularity. ;-)

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