On November 7, 2010, artist Katherine Sweetman made an inflammatory and controversial blog post on the San Diego Union Tribune‘s new Sketchbook blog. The post lasted only 13 hours on the newspaper’s website, but by that time it had already gone viral.
The blog post, its repercussions, and its interpretations have been written about by the Los Angeles Times’ Culture Monster blog; ARTINFO.com’s Modern Art Notes section; VoiceofSanDiego.org (and response by Union-Tribune Editor Jeff Light); San Diego City Beat; San Diego Reader, the Bay Area Observer blog; the Fishbowl LA blog; San Diego Visual Arts Network blog; the OB RAG blog; EditorsWeblog.org; fnewsmagazine.com; and others.
Ms. Sweetman will discuss her San Diego Union Tribune blog post at the Media Infrastructure session of the Americans for the Arts Public Art Preconference.
I am still perplexed by the amount of attention Sweetman's actions garnered (at least, not since Émile Zola), which leads me to believe there exists a surprise element to it, a first in contemporary journalistic history so to speak, and perhaps a little bit of "sticking it to the man" - after all, everyone likes an underdog. So do we. And while Sweetman will always have a home here on SDVAN, I wonder about the implications of such a tactic and how it might inform or detract from a larger audience's understanding of why we (globally) write about the arts.
It might simply come down to figuring out who that audience is, especially in San Diego, and once found try to determine what their readership needs and desires are. There is the risk however, we could discover that this audience is not as diverse or as large as we think and is instead comprised of our own professional colleagues and peers. What then, is it still our "civic duty to try and inform my fellow citizens — no matter their politics — about what art can do at its best" as one fervent commentator suggested?
I don't have the answer, yet. I do believe culturally, San Diego is a bit of an artistic anonamly, a microcosm within a larger microcosm known as the art world. And while there are plenty of excellent artists, galleries, a few museums and a growing vitality in the ranks of its participants, I do think we should be attentive to the fact - whether you agree with Sweetman or not - that the arts community has yet to establish a firm foundation to support or even cater to diverging opinions, methods, or criticism.
A dose of relevant and professional arts writing on par with what is occuring in other major cities across the US and establishing a critical platform for its distribution, could open more doors to a vibrant arts community here instead of being continuously distracted by bells-and-whistles.