Daily Bytes | Op-Ed

Is 15 Bytes SLC-centric?

SLC Sunset by Brody Froelich, one of our previous 35 x 35 artists, who appeared in the January 2013 edition of 15 Bytes.

SLC Sunset by Brody Froelich, one of our previous 35 x 35 artists, who appeared in the January 2013 edition of 15 Bytes.

Back in November St. George artist Ronald Wilkinson posted a comment to our “Contact” page suggesting — rightly so — that our coverage in southern Utah is wanting. I posted a public reply explaining why it was difficult to get our writers from the Wasatch Front to cover the area, and hoping we might drum up some locals to cover the scene. Then last week, Lloyd Knowles came across the comment, and suggested we were being too generous describing our writing as happening along the Wasatch Front — from what he could see most of it was about Salt Lake.

I was a bit jazzed up from breathing some clean mountain air when I read the comment so posted a rambling reply. Yes, we are SLC-centric was my jist, but we’d prefer if we weren’t. In order to move the conversation to a more public space, I’ve moved the comments to this space, inviting everyone to comment (and will soon be removing the comments from the Contact page). Is 15 Bytes too SLC-centric? What’s happening outside the capital that we’re missing?

(Lloyd had another comment about our 35 x 35 exhibition and age discrimination, which I’ve left in the original post at the Contact Page, but we’ll save that discussion for another post)

The founder of Artists of Utah and editor of its online magazine, 15 Bytes, Shawn Rossiter has undergraduate degrees in English, French and Italian Literature and studied Comparative Literature in graduate school before pursuing a career in art.

Categories: Daily Bytes | Op-Ed

8 replies »

  1. I think you do not spend enough time or focus enough on the southern artists. I went to the University of Utah, maybe a hundred years ago, and was taught by Alvin Gittins. There are some great artists here in the St. George area both known and more unknown. I know many of the older artists of northern Utah. But no one seems to care about myself or others here in St. George.

  2. Ronald,
    You’re probably right that our coverage of the artists in southern Utah does not match all that is going on down there. Our writers and photographers are volunteers, so a lot of our coverage depends on what they are willing or able to do. From time to time we get a chance to cover artists in the Dixie area, but that is usually when one of our writers from the Wasatch Front is heading down there for another reason (we have a small travel budget but generally not enough to cover trips to St. George), or when someone in the area volunteers to write something.

    Thanks for reminding us to keep the southern portion of the state in our loop, and if you know any writers in the area, encourage them to contact us if they are interested in covering your scene.

    best regards,
    Shawn Rossiter
    Editor, 15 Bytes

  3. Sounds like you need a writer/photographer volunteer in St. George.
    I’ve been following 15 bytes for some time and come to the conclusion that what you mean by “The Wasatch Front” is Salt Lake City – I’m from Utah County and would say the same thing as Ronald. There are some exceptional artists here, and some wonderful venues. I can’t remember seeing any coverage.

  4. Guilty as charged. And wish it weren’t so.
    Yes, I’m sure 15 Bytes is SLC-centric. I haven’t gone back and counted up all of our articles, but I am sure if we did we would find that the vast the majority of the articles are Salt Lake-centered. It’s not by design.

    Take for instance this month’s edition (and yes, I realized we happened to get lucky with the timing of this discussion). Kev Nemelka from down in Provo contacted us about a possible article and BAM! we did a two column piece on three Utah County artists. And the lead for it appeared on page 1. It ran, as chance would have it, next to an article on Heroes and Monsters, the BYU exhibit. And our lead, the Artist Profile was on Heather Campbell, a Logan artist showing in Park City. And if we wanted to bump up our argument we might throw in the page 9 piece on the film project focusing on the Utah County Art & Faith movement.

    Our December edition featured an article (again on page 1) on Roland Thompson, a Utah County artist showing in Utah County.

    Our October edition featured another review of a BYU show, as well as an article on Kirk Richards — a Utah County artist, but he was showing in St. George. Don’t know if that would satisfy both locales or neither. And the Artist Profile was an Ogden artist, who works in Logan.

    Yeah, okay, I’m at an advantage, I’ve got all these things stored up in my memory and so can find a few examples to bolster my argument. Which is why I conceded at the beginning that 15 Bytes, unfortunately, is SLC-centric.

    Let me explain a few reasons why I think that is.

    Capital cities like Salt Lake, especially ones that are also economic centers, have this tendency to attract and concentrate artistic talent and interest. Not that nothing else is happening elsewhere, but the majority of it does happen in Salt Lake. Over two-thirds of the venues in the state of Utah that will put up new shows this month are in one city: Salt Lake. My guess is that an equal percentage of the artists in the state live here.

    But sure, things are happening elsewhere. They just are harder to cover.

    Almost all of our regular writers, i.e. the ones that frequently volunteer to write articles, live in Salt Lake City. The stuff they know, the shows they see, are in Salt Lake. One of them used to live in Sanpete County, and during that time we had a lot more articles from there. Another lived in Utah County, and so we had a lot more coverage of that area. But both have ended up in Salt Lake.

    And it bears repeating, these are volunteers. I don’t sit around my big editorial table, a cigar in my mouth, ordering my cub reporters around, telling them what to write on, and then paying them a pittance they can use to pay the rent on their leaky apartment. Some of our writers might suggest that’s who I think I am, but the bland truth is:

    1) I have no big editorial desk, just a crowded hand-me-down item tucked into a corner of my house which so depressed one of my writers when he came by to visit that he immediately wanted the email list of the 15 Bytes writers so he could take up a collection to buy me something he wouldn’t be embarrassed by.
    2) I don’t smoke
    3) I do like to boss people around but it doesn’t work well because (see item 5)
    4) The writers get to decide what to write on and are frequently the ones pitching ideas.
    5) We don’t pay them anything. Leaky roof or not.

    So, if something is happening in Provo, Logan or St. George, first we have to hear about it (and that doesn’t always happen!) Then we either have to find someone there to cover it, or we have to convince one of our Salt Lake writers to go there. And, sure, we’re willing to dig up some gas money for them, but still we’re talking an hour there, an hour back, time to see the show or talk with the artist, then write the thing up, set it aside, polish it, send it to us, go over final edits, etc, etc. All for free. So yes, it’s unfortunately rarer than we would like that we can find a writer to cover things outside Salt Lake (though one of our writers did travel to Provo this month for an article that will appear in the February edition).

    Available writers are the main factors, but if we wanted to look for other reason things are the way they are, finances are another. From a business standpoint, it doesn’t make much sense for us to cover things outside of Salt Lake. Our overhead isn’t huge, but it does exist and most of the money that pays for it comes from Salt Lake. More than 70% of the individual contributions to 15 Bytes come from Salt Lake County (but hey, you other 30%, we love you too). Throw in money raised from our underwriting program, private foundations and municipalities and more than 90% of the money Artists of Utah operates on comes from Salt Lake.

    But don’t get me wrong. This is not an extortionist fundraising plea. It’s not a Jerry Maguire SHOW ME THE MONEY! moment. It’s really not. Whether or not we get another cent from Provo, Price or Panguitch, we REALLY want to cover what’s going on in the state. We really do. But here’s the thing, SHOW ME THE WRITERS! That’s what we need. Writers, photographers, filmmakers, people in your communities that want to work with us to reveal to the world all the cool things happening in your neighborhood. Should we rely on Salt Lake City writers to cover Provo, Moab or St. George? That would be just another form of Salt Lake-centrism. So, show us the writers. Please step up. Come forward. Be heard. Make this your community. Email us (editor@artistsofutah.org) . . .

    Well, talk about rants. No, it’s really not. I’m not angry or defensive, and certainly this isn’t directed at Lloyd, who I just assume is expressing something many of our readers have thought. Actually, I’m really excited (it might have something to do with the fact that I just came back from skiing with my daughter and for many hours was able to suck in air that wasn’t going to kill me). I’m excited about how far 15 Bytes has come and a lot of the things we have lined up for the future. And I want to convey that excitement (though don’t hold your breath for a video of me dancing around shirtless yelling “Show me the writers” ala Cuba Gooding Jr.) I want you writers out there, or photographers or videographers, to be excited, to join us, to have your voice heard.

    (editor@artistsofutah.org)

  5. Lloyd Knowles is my kind of whiner. “Sounds like you need . . . a volunteer,” he says, and thus blames 15 Bytes for not going out and . . . drafting one? And so it’s Rossiter’s fault no one from St George has volunteered. Whinge on, Lloyd!

    OK, Shawn is the editor and, like the manager of a retail store, he has to be nice so he doesn’t alienate folks. But I’m not and I don’t, so here goes. I’ve written articles for 15 Bytes about art in St. George, Rockville, Springville, Spring City, Springdale, Ephraim, Kanosh, Provo, Bountiful, and some places too small to have names. Ronald Wilkinson would recognize the name of the “grand old man and leading red rock painter” I was asked to profile a few years ago, but who, when I reached him at his desert home, told me he was tired of promoting himself and no longer saw the point, so No Interview, and No Thanks.

    Here’s the scoop, gentlemen: I didn’t consider the arts writing in Utah adequate, so I started contributing. Now I have earned a right to complain, but I don’t and I won’t. Fact is, Shawn Rossiter has pulled together a heck of a magazine. We in Utah have a monthly about our local artists that you don’t have to have a Ph.D. to write for — something few states have to complain about, or for that matter, to read and look at. The staff includes eager and engaging writers, photographers, computer jocks, artists, all of whom will one day look back at 15 Bytes from whatever success they make in life and realize that they started with one of the best jobs they could ever hope for. If you don’t think they . . . WE . . . are doing it right, why don’t you show us how it’s done? Unless you’re willing to get out and cover the art we should be covering, why should we?

  6. While scanning newspaper articles for the Mixed Media column, I’ve read some excellent writing in smaller papers along the Wasatch front and beyond. Perhaps we could contact those writers about contributing to 15 Bytes. I could send names.

  7. Thanks Shawn! Really, I mean it. It’s an eye opener and one that may help expand 15 bytes. That would be to the benefit of all. I must admit that during the last fundraiser I was biting my lip every time I read about it. Do I donate 15 bucks to a great organization or buy another panel for my next project. The panel won and got exhibited. I promise, scouts honor, that next time, I’ll chip in. I applied for the State Fellowship (a long shot), but if I were to land it you’ve got a new desk, or whatever you need. Like a lot of artists, my work isn’t the kind that falls off of the walls into buyers hands – you know what I mean. And now I really can’t complain – I actually got my name in 15 Bytes, and I consider it an honor no matter how it gets there.

    Geoff: It’s not a rant; it was an observation – and you made your own conclusion. We apparently need a writer from Utah County, Cache and others around the state. And I’m not suggesting that is Shawn’s job to recruit – therefore the term “volunteer”. Perhaps a request for such and the kind of people you are looking for in 15 bytes would help. Yes 15 bytes is doing it right!

    This conversation should be positive and constructive. Tell us what you need, obviously someone who can write and does so for the love of writing and art. Perhaps we can find someone here. Perhaps a problem is that writers aren’t reading 15 Bytes, artists and art supporters are – I may be wrong there. Artists usually, in my experience, aren’t great writers; they are visual.

    I’ll poke around. The Provo Arts Council may be a resource. The purpose of the Provo Arts Council is to act as a citizen advisory board for the Covey Center for the Arts and for the arts in Provo. The goal is for the Arts Council to help gather information concerning arts and arts programming throughout Provo and then help disseminate that information to the citizens.

    I’m on the County Art Board, I’ll ask there. I’ve been pushing for a fairly major art venue in the Provo/Orem area and have been trying to get the County to look at using walls at the new Convention Center – a lot of finger pointing and shoulder shrugging there. Most galleries here are very conservative. The Springville museum will be starting their Spring Salon next month. Always something good there. The BYU museum (beautiful place) mostly has traveling exhibits.

    I’m just rambling now, thinking on the keyboard. So I’ll get back to work. Terrece’s suggestion is very worthwhile if the right people would do it at the right price.

  8. Dynamite, Lloyd! Is it too soon to say Welcome Aboard? If you add your shoulder, the burden is lighter for us all. Thank you for taking the trouble to comment, which too few of our readers do, and anything you want to add, anything you have to say, is your right, because the only criterion for admission to 15 Bytes is your desire to be a part.

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