Southwest Contemporary publisher Lauren Tresp discusses the publication’s role in the arts ecosystem of the Southwest—including some behind-the-scenes work building networks and sharing resources.
This summer, Southwest Contemporary was invited to participate in a convening called Critical Ground at Granary Arts in Ephraim, Utah. The one-day symposium was designed to stir up dialogue about art criticism in Utah, in rural arts communities, and more broadly throughout the Western region.
This invitation was an opportunity to reflect deeply on the role Southwest Contemporary plays as a venue for arts writing and critical engagement, and to question, what is it that we are really doing?
It’s always been our mission to contribute to an environment that takes creative work seriously and to propel creative work forward by engaging in dialogue around the arts through journalism, criticism, and discourse.
And while discourse remains our core activity, we’ve been following the threads of Southwest Contemporary’s impacts and the ways this work contributes more broadly to the arts ecosystem in our region—that in the course of deepening our work as an arts publication, we’ve also realized our role as a regional hub for information- and resource-sharing, network-building, and professional development within the arts.
There are tendrils extending from our work that are less visible to the public eye than our regular publishing. For instance, our community-building has resulted in a network of eighty-plus arts writers and journalists across the Western region and beyond. We are also increasingly in dialogue with arts professionals and leaders across the country. And while our membership program is still in its adolescence, we see our reader membership program as an avenue for greater dialogue and community with you, our readers. These relationships are, in a word, everything.
Another less-than-visible part of our work is our dedication to supporting writers. Opportunities to write about art are few and far between, and opportunities to be published, to work with an editor, and to be paid are even fewer. We are dedicated to nurturing our contributors, who are frequently artists, scholars, and arts professionals, and uphold a collaborative editing process. We hope to develop further opportunities for art writers to better their craft.
In the area of resource-sharing and professional development, we’ve organized multiple workshop series, offered consultations to artists, published our ongoing Financial Lifespan of an Artist series, and maintain the (free) Classifieds page on our website. Behind the scenes, we’ve been developing a database of opportunities and resources that will become accessible soon!
With all of this in mind, I envision Southwest Contemporary not only as a publication but as a mechanism with the potential to power the creative ecosystems of the Southwest and West.
And there are so many more opportunities to further this work! If you’re interested in supporting our vision, we really do need your help. The fastest way to make a difference is to become a paying member (southwestcontemporary.com/membership). But there are free ways to help out, too. Do you think we’re making an impact? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know. If you think we’ve published something worthwhile, share it with a friend or colleague. Subscribe to our free newsletter or follow us on Instagram. All of these actions make an impact, and we appreciate them deeply.
Thank you for your support,
Lauren Tresp, publisher + editor