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June 14, 2007

Being an arts journalist in Lansing

Bridgette Redman

Attending the 2007 NEA Arts Journalism Institute for Theater and Musical Theater was a defining event for me.

Before that fortnight, "arts journalist" was not really a tag I used. If I had to describe myself, I would call myself a writer, leaving out adjectives because I was pretty eclectic in the writing that I did. By day, I'm a textbook writer, writing curriculum content and training materials for the hospitality industry. I also do a great deal of freelance writing ranging from business writing to ghost writing to theater reviewing to performing arts articles to book reviewing.

While arts writing--whether it was about books, theater, or other performing arts--was my passion and my love, it was (and is) the least lucrative of the writing that I do. I write about the arts to feed my soul and I write about everything else to feed my family.

The Arts Institute, however, transformed much of the way I approached what I do as well as expanded my view of what is happening in the rest of the country. For years, I had been awed by what I saw theater doing in my community. Every year there is a new organization, many of them doing stunning work. While some people complained that resources were being spread too thin, most groups have thrived and audiences have grown. People have begun to speak with pride about the arts community in our town--even though few outsiders would ever think of arts and Lansing, Michigan in the same sentence.

I learned that throughout the country, arts communities were experiencing similar growth. More and more people are creating art with less and less money. In fact, if the people who spoke at the Institute were representative, it seemed that the arts communities in smaller cities were much healthier than those in large metropolitan areas that depended on big budgets to be successful. Perhaps that is because it becomes more about the business than about the art. More likely, though, the answer is far more complicated.

I returned home with a renewed enthusiasm and a determination that I would be an arts advocate both in my hometown and wherever else I wrote. Too many exciting things are happening to have them be ignored or go unchronicled.

There are exciting stories taking place in small cities and towns across the country. It is a testament to people's need for art and their need to create. I'm looking forward to helping to tell these stories.

Posted by Bridgette Redman at June 14, 2007 6:00 AM