I recently appeared on the local arts podcast Don’t You Lie to Me, where they fed me whiskey and made me reveal all the secrets of arts criticism and INDY Week. Thanks to Warren Hicks and Jeff Bell for having me on and for all they do for the arts in Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill.
After eking out a second place for arts features two years ago, stoked to snag that gold medal from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia Awards (for arts criticism), and to be in good company with INDY colleagues past and present: Byron Woods, Victoria Bouloubasis, Erica Hellerstein, Sarah Willets, and V.C. Rogers all won or placed. Thanks AAN.
ARTS CRITICISM circulation under 40,000
In last year's first-annual INDY Week Style Issue, we created paper dolls that you could dress for a number of character types and social circles in the Triangle. In this year's Style Issue, published today, we made a coloring book about aughties fashion nostalgia, which is nearly upon us (I've written about it a couple of times lately, so it was already on my mind). For next year, I'm thinking pop-up book, but our printer would probably murder me.
A couple of weeks ago, something remarkable happened at Articulating Value, the symposium that capped the yearlong series of conversations Culture Mill spearheaded among local artists and art professionals about the relationship of art and value in economic, social, and ethical senses.
Unlike many arts symposiums, which are dry and self-protective, an emotional outpouring of the sort I have seldom seen transfigured the event into a searching referendum on white privilege and supremacy in the arts, which came into outline as a structure that must be dismantled before the question of "value" can be coherently approached.
There were courageous, unflinching, powerful testimonials from artists of color, such as Saba Taj and Monet Noelle Marshall, who faced an audience of predominantly white faces that exemplified the very constructs they and others so eloquently explained. And there were courageous, unflinching, powerful confessions from white artists, such as Laura Ritchie and Tommy Noonan. I wish I could publish all of it in Indy Week, but luckily, I don't have to, because much of it is available in a free book you can download at Culture Mill's website.
I wanted to publish Tommy's piece because it so clearly anatomizes three fundamental assumptions about worth, diversity, and professionalism in the local art scene and then so clearly overturns them. Culture Mill has enacted a process that stands in witness of the process's own failings, which are structural and all-encompassing, rather than trying to sweep them back under the rug, where we usually keep them.
As an embodiment of that principle, I think this piece is really important for white artists and presenters across the state--across the country, really--to read, and to confront it in their own practices, as I know everyone who was at the symposium that day must have been compelled to do. Find it here.
To John Keats, autumn might be a season of mists and mellow fruitfulness when gathering swallows twitter in the skies. But to us in the INDY arts and culture department, it's more like a season of impossible events calendars, as all the arts presenters stir from their slumberous summers at once, when we pay more attention to our fruitful Twitter feeds than to anything twittering in the skies. The key to enjoying the fall arts onslaught is to just succumb to the madness—and don't fear the FOMO. The following package will help you navigate the former while avoiding the latter. (And, personally, I've developed a useful thing called "faux-mo," where you express regret for missing something you secretly didn't want to go to anyway.)
Ninety-seven. That's the total number of events we wound up highlighting in our 2017 Fall Arts Guide—and that's drawing only from events that are already booked; trust us, many more are coming down the pipeline. Our editors, contributors, and critics fanned out to learn about as many fall events as we could and then boiled them down to the affairs you absolutely cannot miss, whether you're a fan of music, food, visual art, theater, dance, comedy, books, or film. We also pumpkin-spiced things up with features that cut across genres, from a roundup of fall festivals and Halloween treats to a rundown on the Triangle's booming population of escape-room games.
All of these events will touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue from September through December. If you use this guide to master your calendar game, we'll see you there.
I'm still not rich enough to shell out for an actual VR HMD of my very own, but, as someone who has long been interested in the metaphysics of virtual reality and simulations in general, I get my hands on the technology in my journalism whenever I have the chance. In 2013, I went to various Triangle universities and played with their toys to write a long story focusing on DiVE, a CAVE at Duke University. In 2016, I went back to Duke to see what they could do with an HMD, and explored a virtual ruins in Brazil. Last week, I got to think through another potential path of VR: visual art, in a story on Tyler Jackson's exhibit at Lump, Before the War. Here's the nut:
"The story of VR began millennia ago, when humans first drew a boundary in space and agreed to imagine that whatever transpired inside it was set apart from the rest of reality—a world within a world. We call this device a frame when it outlines two dimensions, a stage when it outlines three. In the twentieth century, it flattened and deepened into screens that, with a certain inevitability, are becoming permeable in the twenty-first. Now we face the question of whether we'll soon reach the logical conclusion and lock the virtual door behind us."
With everyone buzzing about The Handmaid's Tale on Hulu, one of our staffers, Allison Hussey, said, "Remember the 1990 movie of it they shot in Durham?" None of us did, so we started shaking trees to learn more about it and find people who were there. The result is one of those stories writers dream of, full of arresting details -- how the dean of Duke Chapel was shocked to show up on Palm Sunday and find a gallows at the church, how much of the film was shot at the soon-to-be-infamous Michael Peterson house. Allison did a terrific job on the story, and that's also her you see in this stunning cover image by Alex Boerner, Steve Oliva, and Shan Stumpf. Yes, we bought her a red cloak off of Amazon (she made the bonnet herself, though) and posed her in front of Duke Chapel (you can compare our image with some reference images from the film in the story). Read it to learn about the missing link between instant-classic book and Hulu hit, and to spot some well-known local landmarks if you're in Durham.
Every now and then a story comes along that is so momentous, so earth-shattering, that it changes the scope of human knowledge forever. This is not one of those stories. But it still has a lot to recommend it, chiefly the fact that it is about doing yoga with goats, which is a thing now and has made it to the Triangle. Props to Drew Adamek for bringing me this (here's how it came together -- Drew: Do you want a story about goat yoga? Me: I don't know what that is but yes), and for writing one of my favorite ledes I've ever published. Props to Alex Boerner or the candid caprine portraiture. Props to Allison Hussey for coming up with "N-a-a-a-a-maste." Props to all that is benign and decent in this world for this being a thing.
Six first places, two second places, and two third places add up to a nice haul for the INDY at the 2016 North Carolina Press Association Awards. Some of these stories cover issues as pressing as immigration, HB 2 and transphobia, the rise of Trump, and police shootings; others fill in the texture of our times through experiential journeys into the mixed martial arts scene, a rare tuba museum, and a groundbreaking Southern art exhibit. If you are unfamiliar with our paper, the progressive weekly serving the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area of North Carolina, then these, as some of our best and most representative stories, are a perfect litmus test to find out if we're for you.
1st Place, News Feature Writing: Billy Ball, “The Invisibles”
1st Place, Feature Writing: Barry Yeoman, “The 30 Years That Brought Us HB 2”
1st Place, Arts and Entertainment Reporting: Brian Howe, “The Brass Menagerie”
1st Place, Sports Feature Writing: Bryan C. Reed, “Unstoppable Force”
1st Place, Serious Columns: Bob Geary, Citizen
1st Place, Election/Political Reporting: Barry Yeoman, “The Trump Show”
2nd Place, Profile Feature: Grayson Haver Currin, “Saving Eric Bachmann”
2nd Place, Arts and Entertainment Reporting: Chris Vitiello, “Luck of the Drawl”
3rd Place, General News Reporting: Paul Blest and Jane Porter, “Four Shots on Bragg Street”
3rd Place, Profile Feature: Kenneth Fine, “Saving Grace”