A Farewell to Urbanite

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A Fond Farewell: An ending is just a new beginning by Cara Ober

I started the BmoreArt Blog in 2007 without much fanfare. I had just finished a graduate degree at MICA and, to me, Baltimore’s art world was a strange and exciting place. I didn’t know anything about online publications, but I felt that Baltimore’s artists deserved more coverage. At the time, there were no other visual art blogs in Baltimore, and I had no idea what I was getting into. The online software was free, so I simply began.

With a few clicks of the mouse, I published listings for art exhibits worth seeing, interviews, studio visits, and the occasional critical review. I liked that this new project made me more aware of my surrounding community and that it gave me a purpose when I went to an opening or exhibit. I didn’t realize that I could track my readership until six months later. When I discovered online analytics, I was shocked to see that I averaged several hundred hits per day.

I never expected my art writing to be a profession, but I did see clearly that there was (and still is) a critical shortage of press coverage for the visual arts in Baltimore. The BmoreArt blog brought me other opportunities, including writing gigs for the Baltimore City Paper, ARTnews, Urbanite, and a number of other publications. When Urbanite started their online initiative in 2010 and hired me to write their weekly Arts and Culture ezine, the timing couldn’t have been better. I was about to become new mom, and this job allowed me to earn an income and be at home with my son. During a time in my life when I wanted nothing more than to hibernate (and sleep!), my weekly ezine stories pulled me out all over town and focused my attention on Baltimore’s artists, craftspeople, organizations, and exhibits.

This position has been a terrific learning opportunity for me. It has allowed me to appreciate what so many creative people here accomplish every day, and to share that information with a larger audience. I’m not going to lie: It hasn’t been easy. I now have a huge respect for any journalist who can produce a high-quality column every single week. In order to stay on top of deadlines, I had to cut back on making my own artwork, curating shows, and teaching, and this has been a fair tradeoff in my mind, given the circumstances.

For the past two years, whenever people ask what I do for a living, it’s been a pleasure to say that I write for Urbanite. Without exception, complete strangers smile and tell me what a great publication it is and how much they enjoy reading it. In a city starving for intelligent, positive press, a city that faces so many challenges, Urbanite has been a steadfast advocate for Baltimore’s positive attributes, without pandering or sugarcoating. It has been a terrific hub for thoughtful writing and creative collaborations across subject areas and and social barriers. For artists, this coverage has become even more essential at a time when most local publications have cut back dramatically on arts writing.

We all know that these times are challenging for publications and press, so it probably isn’t a great surprise that Urbanite is closing its doors after nine years. However, how we choose to accept this loss is—for each of us—a question of resolve. We can shrug our shoulders and say it’s a shame and complain about the lack of coverage for the arts here in Baltimore—or we can do something about it. Urbanite’s reporting, at its core, has always celebrated the small efforts and initiatives by individuals that have grown to become something larger, something meaningful. In that spirit, what I am going to do is keep doing what I seem to do best: continue to write about the artists and creative people who make Baltimore a place worth living.

Starting now, the BmoreArt blog will again become my primary publication, and I intend to implement the lessons I learned at Urbanite. My goal is not only to provide a critical voice and online space to discuss and celebrate the visual arts in Baltimore, but also to incorporate a number of different writers and perspectives and to create a richer and deeper dialogue than before. If this is a cause that sounds important to you, please get in touch and involved. I think Urbanite would want it that way.

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