While GW’s arts community is an entity in its own right, the divide between the academic arts community and the District has pushed local nonprofit organization Day Eight and its arts magazine, Bourgeon, to call for more arts journalism.
“I think it’s important to have someone translating to the public what art means for themselves, or for society… so the public can gain some kind of greater understanding of it,” senior Kathryn Boland said.
Boland, who began interning for Bourgeon as part of a class in the dance department, is now an editorial assistant for the magazine. The magazine was born as an outlet for artists, specifically dancers, to express themselves to the District with the written word. In 2009, founder Rob Bettmann expanded Bourgeon to include all of the arts, while also starting the dance company, Bettmann Dances.
“Both are organized within the programming of Day Eight with the sense that art can contribute meaningfully to the solutions in our world,” Bettmann said. “So, where the one is actually producing the work, the other one is documenting that work.”
After Boland released an article on the divide between university and local arts, Bettmann approached her with the possibility of using the idea to help motivate change.
“What her page convinced me of was that arts organizations locally, arts locally and universities and university students would really benefit from increased interaction,” Bettmann said. “We can get more students into professional arts experiences, identify good coverage, publish more coverage and, as we’re doing that, raise the importance of arts journalism, the importance of art history, the importance of criticism in general.”
The competition, which will accept submissions through Feb. 15, will select five finalists and publish their work in the online magazine. Alongside the magazine’s editorial board, professional critics from the Washington Post – Michael O’Sullivan and Anne Midgette – will select a winner from the finalists to receive a $300 cash prize at a ceremony Mar. 22.
While it is only the Student Arts Journalism Challenge’s first year, Bettmann hopes to be able to offer free tickets in the future for students to help motivate them to get involved in both the competition and the arts.
“From the nitty gritty of writing to just interacting with other professionals and getting things done and not getting emotional, I think I have just grown so much as a professional and as a person,” Boland said.
Bettmann, who is also the chair for the D.C. Advocates for the Arts, knows that in spite of the economy and its effect on the nonprofit world the arts will remain important to the District’s economy. In the future, he hopes the competition will continue to encourage the growth of arts coverage.
“We know that arts journalism is not going away,” Bettmann said. “We can help ensure that our culture and our community will continue to be served in ways that it needs to be in order for the arts to happen – for the best achievements in the arts to reveal themselves.”