Pan by Ron Regé
The Houston Press's readers have voted The Great God Pan Is Dead as the Best Arts Blog in Houston in the Houston Web Awards. I'm grateful for the honor, but it got me thinking about the "competition." It's funny to even use the word "competition." Bill Davenport, who writes the news for Glasstire, occasionally expresses mild disappointment when I scoop him on some bit of news (a rare event). But I never call Dean Liscum and Virginia Billeaud Anderson into the boardroom and say, "Crush Glasstire!" while pounding my fist on the conference table. I just don't see myself in competition with other arts writers and arts blogs in town. We're all colleagues.
In any case, I consider Glasstire to be a different beast than Pan. I see Glasstire as a full-fledged magazine that happens to live on the web. It has different departments--it has feature articles, reviews, columns (which they call blogs), news, classifieds, a calendar, etc. Very unlike a blog, which is highly linear--one post after another. Glasstire is not linear--like a print magazine, it is multidimensional. The reader can enter it at various points depending on her interest. And it has a fairly large stable of writers. And I have to add that Houston is really lucky to have Glasstire around. I know I depend on it.
What else is there? Well, there is The Silo by Raphael Rubenstein. This blog won a Creative Capital/Warhol Foundation Art Writers Grant in 2010. Rubenstein is a critical studies professor at U.H. and edited a book about art writing that I really like, Critical Mess. The Silo is " a personal, revisionist 'dictionary' of contemporary art. Its primary aims are to challenge existing exclusionary accounts of art since 1960 and to offer a fresh look at some canonical artists." And this is part of the problem--at least in terms of local popularity. Rubenstein isn't reviewing current exhibits. In fact, it is pretty much impossible to see many of the artists he writes about locally. The whole project--which I love--is about constructing an alternative, highly personal art history of the past few decades of art. Another problem with The Silo is that Rubenstein is not terribly prolific. Popular blogs get updated constantly. In short, The Silo is not the kind of blog that is likely to ever win a local popularity contest like the Houston Web Awards. But it is a great blog if you like diving deeply into the obscure corners of contemporary art--which I do.
Another local arts blogger is Theodore Bale. He writes a blog called Texas, A Concept which is hosted on ArtsJournal. Bale has a music background and writes primarily about music and dance. His writing is thoughtful and incisive. But as a blogger, he has the same problem as Rubenstein--he is not very prolific. Or, to put it another way, he is not a prolific blogger. As a freelancer, he writes quite a lot for other publications, especially CultureMap. I think it's hard to be a professional freelance writer and a blogger. A freelancer needs to be continually seeking out paying work--the best paying work he can get at any given time.
There are local art blogs that are really personal blogs which have a heavy art component. One of these is Neon Poisoning by Robert Kimberly. The value of such a blog is that it has no agenda, and because of this, it can surprise you in delightful ways. For instance, this post noting the relationship between the work of Miina Äkkijyrkkä and Daniel Anguilu.
Lots of local artists have their own blogs. I've linked to Professor Art, Earl Staley's blog, many times. I like it because he frequently takes the reader through his creative process on his paintings, showing us works in progress. Brian Piana's blog, Art Falls Out, is primarily images (lucky for me he saves his writing for Pan). Some of the images are his own work, and some of it work he likes. This is a good approach for artists--showing images of work that is meaningful to them, whether their own or other people's work. But you don't need a "blog" to do this--a Pinterest board or a Tumblr work just as well. There are tons of Tumblrs that show nothing but jpegs and gifs that their author finds interesting. Another local artist, Alexandre Rosa, does this kind of thing on his blog Fiery Laundry. But the champion artist-blogger is Stephanie Toppin, who essentially has five simultaneous blogs, including Art Keeps Me Poor, fabric+lines, Obey Crochet, Hello Very Much, and Very Dead Toys. Each one more-or-less focuses on a different interest of Toppin's.
I don't know much about local blogs dealing with theater or dance or art music. I'm a visual arts guy. If you blog about art or music or dance or theater, leave your link in the comments. I'd love to read your blog.