I was having a conversation the other day about how I got started writing arts criticism. Sometimes, breaking a process down helps me take it less for granted and it occurred to me how lucky I am to have generally felt welcome in the context of art spaces like galleries and museums—and that it is perhaps unusual to feel entitled to think and express opinions or reflections on works of art. But if my time writing about the arts in Detroit has taught me anything, it is that there is a real hunger in this city for critical thinking and writing about the arts and, if that’s going to happen, we’re going to need more people engaged in arts criticism.
Why aren’t more people already writing about art in Detroit? It is not for lack of a vibrant, thriving art environment. In my opinion, there are three major reasons.
- It is easier to think and feel things about art than to parlay those feelings into cogent, written analysis or argument
- People feel, perhaps, that they lack some sort of specialized skill set that qualifies them to participate in arts writing as a discipline
- A prevailing sense within Detroit that there can only be a limited number of something, that anyone redoubling efforts is diluting the overall effect or stealing resources from another, similar project, effectively creating a zero-sum gain