An arts consultant responds: The Time Out survey is “deplorable”

Appi,
I read your blog on the recent TONY article rating critics. I want to say congratulations on writing about the survey and am surprised others have not done so. What a sham of a poll!
Though I agree with some of the comments on the critics who made the list, there seems a clear agenda, with results skewed towards TONY readership. For example, the person designated top food critic writes the Times’ $25 and under column.
Also, it seems to me that those who participated in the survey have something to gain by a negative response. A critic doesn’t pocket any extra dough for a positive or negative review (well, at least I hope not), but a survey participant–not only artists but curators, gallerists, producers, restaurant owners, directors–has something to gain by dumping on a critic.
I felt particularly frustrated with the results in dance: Gia Kourlas gets top honors in her own publication? That just discredits her efforts and takes all the dance critics down with her.
I realize that whether they’re on the list or not, most cultural observers aren’t going to write negatively about the survey’s high potential for misinterpretation, misrepresentation, misuse, etc. Why? Could it be that critics are that starved for praise, and fear reprisal from their employers and peers? Yes!
The editors of TONY could have made the survey more real by not including their own and by offering specifics on the participants (any demographic explanations would have been helpful).
As it is, the survey’s purpose seems to be to supply a cheesy opportunity for the TONY advertising club to vent their frustration with NYC cultural critics. It really doesn’t matter that the top spot went to a Village Voice critic — TONY’s got the market cornered for advertising culture-dollars anyway. With these results, it means artists, presenters of art, art patrons are only interested in reviews that are popular and positive.
Don’t we want to thank the critics for negative opinions that save us all a lot of wasted effort, time and money? That critical negativity can often add up to something positive, even transforming.
I don’t know if saying congrats on making this survey is something anyone included is going to want to hear, but congratulations to you. Still, there should be an independent body to bestow recognition (e.g., awards) on cultural critics.
If you happen on any more feedback on the survey, please let me know.
Okay, this has been a little more than two cents’ worth, but I think what TONY did, including a grading system that can only stunt intellectual discourse, is deplorable.
Anyway, thanks for stepping up to the plate and taking a swing at this shit.
August Savage
Arts Consultant
Apollinaire responds: Thank you for your considered and impassioned response, August. As soon as I’m off deadline (some time tomorrow), I’ll dig up other blog responses to the Time Out survey and offer links.

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