The Arts Fuse is initiating a series of monthly discussions (the final Mondays in February, March, and April) on the threatened state of theater and arts criticism, particularly in our mainstream media: The Boston Globe and NPR stations WGBH and WBUR. Admittance is free — but donations (of any size) to The Arts Fuse, an online magazine dedicated to publishing criticism of arts and culture, will be more than welcome.
The evening will be made up of three parts. First I will discuss the history of arts criticism in Boston (it has not always been so grim) and then sketch out a vision of what criticism does, at its best, concluding by making a rousing case for why we need more (and better) critics to cover Boston’s rapidly expanding cultural scene.
After that, fellow reviewers and members of the arts community will be invited to speak (Interested? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org) about how criticism has made a valuable contribution to their career and/or their art. Next, attendees will be encouraged to take part in a discussion aimed at organizing a public demonstration for “the love of arts criticism” at the offices of The Boston Globe, WBUR, and WGBH. It is tentatively scheduled for early May, the culmination of the “hit the barricades for arts criticism” enthusiasm generated by the three Monday meetings.
If the city’s companies, performers, and critics got together to protest the phasing out of arts criticism, it would make cultural history. I can’t find any occasion in the past when reviewers and the arts community collaborated for the purpose of fighting for the existence of arts criticism. There’s been agitation aimed at removing objectionable reviewers from their jobs — but few collective demands that critics be put back in their places. Let’s turn hundreds (thousands?) of years of acrimony topsy-turvy and work together for a worthy cause: the betterment of the local arts scene by demanding more (and better) criticism.
Attendance at the February 26′s “For the Love of Arts Criticism” meeting is vital. There will be two more Monday evening meetings (March 26 and April 30). My hope is that testaments to the value of arts criticism will lead to coordination among members of Boston’s arts community, culminating in the protest action in May.
Certain books were “banned in Boston” at least as far back as 1651, when one William Pynchon wrote a book criticizing Puritanism.