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Afro Pasts / Afro Futures

The BmoreArt Journal of Art + Ideas Issue 04 explores the Theme of Community by Cara Ober

“We surf the internet. We swim in magazines.” – Power of Print Campaign

About three years ago I got a crazy idea. After publishing BmoreArt as an online journal for seven years, I yearned to create a print journal. I didn’t want it to be just any print journal. I wanted to create something beautiful, relevant, but also useful and I was determined to make it happen.

I did what you’re supposed to do when attempting a new project. I talked to advisors with experience in the business and they all told me the same thing. They said that print was dead. They said print was prohibitively expensive. They said it was a waste of time and it couldn’t be done. So what did I do? In my typical fashion, I dove in the opposite direction. Head first.

I found an opinionated graphic designer with extensive print experience. I reached out to writers who I had admired but had never worked with before. For the first time ever, I carved out a budget for original photography and encouraged writers and photographers to collaborate as partners on each story. The result was the first BmoreArt Journal of Art + Ideas, which released in November 2015.

Unlike traditional commercial magazines, our print journal was designed to be evergreen, to stay relevant for as long a period of time as possible, to be treasured as a keepsake. We opted for heavy coated paper and a laminated cover in order to maximize its aesthetic and tactile qualities. If you’re going to make an art magazine, it deserves to be beautiful. Right?

We didn’t attempt to review exhibits and events happening in real time. Instead, we diverged completely from the type of writing published at our webzine to serve a different purpose. We approached content thematically, looking at a varied range of individuals and artistic output, in order to attract as diverse an audience as possible. The goal was to make something aesthetically compelling but to also build equity, inclusion, and awareness for the arts in Baltimore to a local, national, and sometimes global audience.

After the first magazine was finished, I was terrified. I knew I was in love with the product we had created, but I had no experience in releasing it into the world. I had no clue how to price it, or sell it, or give it away. I wasn’t sure of the mechanics of promotion and publicity, of sales and distribution. And dammmm those boxes were heavy.

Our team decided the best way to release our new publication was to host a party, a blowout event where everyone was welcome and a good time guaranteed. For me, it was essential that our launch reflect the city of Baltimore in the same way that the publication does. Although throwing parties for a few hundred people was never anywhere near my bucket list, it seemed like the publication deserved an event as unique as the product itself. Our first magazine launch party was hosted in November, 2015 at Maryland Art Place and, to my relief, it was a crazy good time.

Although it has never been easy, I am deeply in love with the process of making print publications. It’s included a lot of mistakes and a steep learning curve, but there is literally nothing I like better.

“The internet is exhilirating. Magazines are enveloping. The Internet grabs you. Magazines embrace you. The Internet is impulsive. Magazines are immersive. And both media are growing.” – Power of Print Campaign

Bearlesque Night at The Eagle photographed by Matthew Kern for Issue 04

For our FOURTH (! I still can’t believe it…) print issue, we chose to explore the theme of Community.  It’s a word you hear often, in and around the arts, and we wanted to adopt a critical stance to its use. Baltimore is certainly a town of team players, and this magazine celebrates the power of groups, alliances, and friendships. It also recognizes artists who explore and challenge the meaning of community in their visual practice, examining our city like a patchwork quilt of overlapping initiatives.

For those embittered and insulted by the way the word “community” is used by city officials and cultural leaders as a placebo or place-holder, you’ll be glad to know — we did NOT find that community is an effective sales pitch for real estate and economic development. We did NOT discover “community” as a brand for large institutions and wealthy businesses to patronize with under-funded community outreach positions.

Rather, we found that community is an active and evolving force, a connective tissue between creative individuals and acts that catalyzes radical movement. We found community to be powerful even when it exists only between two individuals working together. Community can be a profound and unconventional opening for ideas and activities that push back with force against mainstream culture. Most of all, we found that community is a necessity for creative people and production, in direct opposition with the cliches of artists as narcissistic, dysfunctional loners.

More than anything, artists need one another and they also need to build authentic relationships with audience to survive. It is in this spirit of community that we release our new publication.

Writer Angela N. Carroll in New Beginnings Barbershop with Troy Staton and Mr. Al, photographed by Kelvin Bulluck for Issue 04

The Baltimore Girls photographed by Theresa Keil for Issue 04 (image at top from same photo essay of Safi)

Issue 04 features emerging theater companies, artist-run spaces, collaborative projects, and experimental artwork. It includes writing by Bret McCabe, Julie Scharper, Martina Dodd, Angela N. Carroll and others. Issue 04 includes original photography by Joseph Hyde, Justin Tsucalas, Kelvin Bulluck, Shan Wallace, and more. Featured artists include Wickerham & Lomax, Marian April Glebes, Baltimore Girls, Troy Staton, Dr. Joan Gaither, Phaan Howng, Elliot Doughtie, Graham Coreil-Allen, Tanya Garcia, and others.

Issue 04 releases on Saturday, September 16 with a launch party at The Eagle, a historic hub for the leather community which has been resurrected as place where everyone is welcome. We hope you will celebrate with us on Saturday!

You don’t have to wear leather, but you can if you want to. You can purchase tickets and get more information here.

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