Why You Need to Write About Art

This is my personal plea for you to become an arts writer/reviewer – not of your own work, but of other artists.

Wait! Don’t be scared! Stay with me here.

Michelle Casey Collage

©2011 Michelle Casey, The Tree Whisperer. Collage and mixed media, 8.5 x 6 inches. Used with permission.

I’m alarmed at the large numbers of arts writers that are disappearing from major newspapers. They’re dropping like flies! We lost television a long time ago because artists, for the most part, aren’t sensational (read: startling, violent, controversial) enough to make the headlines.

We’re losing even more ground with our youth in public schools because of teaching mandates.

It’s up to us to educate people about art, and the role it can play in the lives of others.

Can you do your part?

I suppose a better title for this article would be “Why We Need You to Write About Art.”

Artists Need Writers

We need writers in the art ecosystem. Critics and reviewers shape taste. They are the gatekeepers that decide what is worthy of attention.

If this makes you cringe – if you think art should be more democratic – consider all of the art you’ve seen in your life. Is it all worthy of critical acclaim and attention?

It isn’t and it shouldn’t be. There is no earthly way to cover in writing all of the art produced. Writers must be discerning and, if you’re aiming high, you want them to be discerning.

I just finished reading Grant Wood: A Life. After the success of his painting American Gothic, Wood became a cultural icon and the painting achieved, as you know, cult status.

Wood’s success wasn’t because he was the founder of a revolutionary painting style. Instead, it had a great deal to do with Thomas Craven, the critic who championed American Regionalism. Look back on any 20th Century art movement and you’ll find a writer behind its day in the spotlight.

“But I’m Not a Writer”

I hear ya. You may not think of yourself as a writer, but I’ll bet you can write. And that’s the verb behind the profession.

Just write. Become a documentarian of culture as you see it.

People don’t start out as great writers. It comes through practice and a desire to be better.

The more you write, the more comfortable you will become with this new creative pursuit.

It Benefits You, Too

Writing about other people’s art:

  • Identifies you as a leader in your art community
  • Gets you out of your studio and connecting with people face-to-face
  • Makes you friends
©2011 Ruth de Vos, Snapshot #8. Quilted textile.

©2011 Ruth de Vos, Snapshot #8. Quilted textile, 40 x 40 centimeters. Used with permission.

Most importantly, the more you write about any art, the better you will become at writing about your own art.

Start on Your Blog

Blogging is where arts journalism has been heading since the shrinking of arts sections in newspapers.

If you, like many artists I know, are looking for blog post ideas, head over to your local gallery or museum and write about a show you see. You might also set up a visit to the studio of an artist you admire as fodder for your blog.

When you have the hang of it, you can submit guest post ideas to interested publications – online or off.

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96 comments to Why You Need to Write About Art

  • Susan Elcox

    Excellent post Alyson! I couldn’t agree more. I especially agree when it comes to art forms the public may know less about. This not only opens that art form up to the public, but may even entice others to get involved in that art, which keeps the whole life cycle of that art continuing. I teach rug hooking, an art form that dates back to the Ancient Egyptians. There is a large community of rug hookers in the US and Canada, and a few in England. As in all niches, most of the heavy lifting is done by few. Today’s technology makes that heavy lifting so much easier. I also wanted to mention to all that “CBS Sunday Morning” is a favorite TV program of mine, predominantly because of its focus on all forms of art. If you haven’t seen that program, tune into CBS on Sunday mornings.

  • Thank you for this post.
    This is totally true, I believe the presence of art in media is severely going down. Specially these days where crisis is painful and there are cost reductions everywhere the problem has increased dramatically.

    Let’s do our best with contributing in great sites like this one and everyone in our own website!!

  • Thomas

    Great article, but I think the main reason a lot of writers abandoned covering artists is, they got sick of the uber emotional responses artists gave when the writers didn’t publish favorable pieces about their art.
    Let’s face facts, there are some brilliant artists out there, but then there are some abysmal ones too.

    As a writer, I’m not afraid to call it as I see it, but at the same time, many emo artists are totally incapable of receiving criticism-regardless of the type-without throwing little hissy fits.

  • I’ve been writing about art – mostly art education – for years. I really enjoy writing, but for me, writing about art also helps me learn new things. Quite often, if there’s a topic about art I am weak on, I’ll choose that as a research project and out of it will come a blog post or a magazine article. It’s a path of self-education. But it becomes more than that. As an art instructor, I get more students this way and have a built an audience over the years that adds to my income.

    For those who don’t teach, writing can help clear the muddy waters. Who isn’t sometimes confused about where to take one’s art? Writing about it helps.

  • […] strong with help from her artist-writers.  She said she was inspired by my 2012 post calling for artists to write more about the art in their communities. (I love […]