January 20, 2016

Art Blogger of the Week: Kevin Buist in Grand Rapids, USA

I came upon Kevin Buist's blog on Twitter, and reading his favourite shows of the year 2015 there were 9 out of 10 I could agree with (I just wasn't wild about the Hito Steyerl's video at the Venice Biennial). His blog is also named after his own name, just like mine. So I felt like Kevin Buist and I are very much on the same page. His answers below reminded me about the differences between a blog and an online journal. Somehow blogging is in the first place a thing one does for yourself, in an urge to clear one's mind for one's own sake. This gives it a certain honesty and authenticity. Writing for a magazine, one can't help but think about what the editor wants, what the voice of the magazine is like, and if its audience will be satisfied. But let me give the floor to Kevin Buist:

Art scene
I live in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It's a mid-sized midwestern city that's fairly conservative, but has some interesting history in public art and design. I write on my blog sporadically, and I spend most of my time at my day job serving as Exhibitions Director of ArtPrize. ArtPrize is a huge international exhibition, competition, and festival that takes place for two and a half weeks in Grand Rapids each fall. Art is installed all over the city, 400,000 people come, and we award half a million dollars in prizes by jury and public vote. I'm responsible for artists, curators, and the jurors and speakers we bring in. It's a great job, but it doesn't leave a lot of extra time for writing.

The art scene in Grand Rapids is interesting. My perspective is skewed because of my role with ArtPrize. I think it's also fair to say that the scene itself is skewed because of ArtPrize. It's such a huge event, that locals have either figured out how to use the energy, or attempt to ignore it all together. Of course there's art being produced and exhibited here outside of ArtPrize, but the scene is small. Some of the most interesting things are done by students or young faculty at local universities, but both of these have a tendency to not stick around for very long. There are only a handful of full time artists carving out a career here, and there's not a large base of collectors. There are promising glimmers, but a lot more could be happening.

I started the blog several years ago as a place to publish things I was writing that weren't destined for another outlet. I think the first thing I posted was a list of my favorite articles I had read that year. I wanted a blog for both sharing and posterity. I write for ArtPrize's blog and other volunteer and paid outlets, but it was important to me to have a platform that wasn't associated with any other entity. It's just me and what I think, I'm not promoting or serving anything else.

I'm connected with other bloggers both through my freelance writing, (on mnartists.org blog for example) and through my work with ArtPrize, where I've been able to get to know bloggers I really respect like Paddy Johnson of Art F City and Hrag Vartanian of Hyperallergic

Before helping start ArtPrize seven years ago, I produced a podcast about film and wrote for a film blog. I was making art and running a gallery at the same time as well, so I've been thinking about how to do criticism in a vernacular, accessible way for a long time. ArtPrize, as an event, really specializes in exposing new audiences to contemporary art, so the challenge of how to talk about complex things in ways that invite more perspectives is a thread that runs through everything I do. I travel a lot and see a lot things as well, and it's nice to have my personal blog as an outlet for things I'm thinking about.

I don't monetize my blog at all. In the scope of what I do, it's a small side project. It has helped me pick up paid freelance gigs, however. At least once I published something on my blog and someone liked it enough that they paid me to publish on their site as well, so that's nice.

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