Writing on The Wall
by Elizabeth Licata
How four years at AV changed a career trajectory
Somewhere in my house, a scary closet is filled with photocopied articles from a time when I wrote about art for the Buffalo News (1987-94), and then Artvoice (1996-99). While still a stringer for the News—I was also working at the Castellani Art Museum—I remember one night encountering AV publisher Jamie Moses in Nietzsche’s (not a rare place for either of us to be) and challenging him on the paper’s visual arts coverage. At that time, there were infrequent art reviews and—at least to me—it didn’t seem as though Artvoice lived up to its name in terms of gallery and museum coverage. “Well, then why don’t you write something” was Jamie’s response. That was his standard response to any complaint about coverage. (Ask not what Artvoice can do for you; ask what you can do for Artvoice.)
So starting in 1996, I began a weekly column called “Writing on the Wall,” supervised the art listings, and wrote reviews when I could. And just to refute the common wisdom about writing for Artvoice, I was actually paid for this work. I even attended a few staff meetings—there were at least three during the four years I was with the paper.
It was great fun. While my News reviews would often elicit a sort of noncommittal comment like “I saw your piece in the News,” the AV writing would be more likely to get an actual response. It seemed that people had more time to think about and discuss what they saw in AV. And I felt freer to say whatever I wanted. It even got me into trouble once or twice, most notably when I wrote a somewhat snarky review about a video show at the Albright-Knox. In retrospect, I think I would have been more positive had the review not needed to be filed the day the show opened.
Artvoice provided different perspectives on visual art, theater, and music at a time when there were few outlets for alternative coverage of the arts—no other papers, no blogs, no websites that covered the material AV covered. The other local alternative weekly had much less extensive cultural coverage. To their credit, Western New York museums and galleries took AV’s coverage very seriously—or at least they acted as though they did. In the 14 years since I started my column, galleries have come and gone, but more have arrived than have left, particularly in AV’s Allentown neighborhood. And the museum scene is stronger than ever. Would I credit AV’s presence for this? Sure, even if only indirectly. The fact that Western New York has supported a paper named Artvoice for as long as it has says plenty about our commitment to culture.
One day, a flyer advertising an editor’s position at Buffalo Spree appeared in my Artvoice mailbox. I had a fulltime job that I loved, but my tiny gig at Artvoice ended up leading me on a totally different career path, one that I’ve followed longer than anything else I’ve done in my life.
I offer my thanks, congratulations, and best wishes that Artvoice continues publishing for decades to come. And I hope the champagne is on ice at Nietzsche’s.blog comments powered by Disqus
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