From pizza joint to publication: the Northwestern Art Review faces some major changes

    Three years ago at a cheap pizza joint, Northwestern alum Timothy Wright and seven other students casually conversed about their shared passion, art. However, by the end of the night, the eight art students developed an idea fresh out of the oven: Together, they would start a publication about art and architecture.  The founding members of the journal, named the Northwestern Art Review (NAR), decided to take on the ambitious goal of “fostering discussions concerning art history and criticism at Northwestern University and among a global community of undergraduate art scholars,” according to current editor-in-chief Elliot Reichert.

    Now What? Photo courtesy of Northwestern Art Review.

    Since then, NAR has grown from a small student group into an established organization. The last of the founding members, Reichert and current publisher Cameron Henderson, launched the third biannual issue of NAR this past weekend online. Reichert and Henderson, both Weinberg seniors, consider the successful release of the third issue of NAR reason to reflect upon and celebrate the progress the publication has made thus far.

    Engaging in a national discussion

    The Northwestern Art Review publishes twice a year and solicits essays on art and architecture from college students across the country.  Art students from top universities such as Berkeley and Yale have previously contributed articles to NAR.

    Henderson believes that creating the publications together with students from outside of Evanston is an enlightening opportunity for him: “It’s inspirational to see what other undergraduates in universities are doing across the country, to see what they are capable of and shed a light on what you could be capable of.”

    After all submissions are in, NAR’s editorial board members review essays and pick around eight essays that share common themes. The most recent issue of NAR, titled “Now What?” focuses on “the experimental practices of present-day artists facing the unprecedented freedom that characterizes much of contemporary art making,” according to Reichert in the issue’s editor notes.

    Publishing beyond pages

    From its start, NAR has been published online exclusively. Henderson and Reichert attribute their decision to be an online publication due to high printing costs, a common problem that other art publications face: Northwestern’s literary magazine TriQuarterly, expects to publish exclusively online beginning in July 2010 to reduce costs. Henderson reasons, “If we were to print the publication, each issue would cost us around $15,000.”

    However, Reichert and Henderson, along with the original founders of NAR see many benefits of digital publishing. Reichert says that “art journals, like most media publications, are gradually moving online and we like to think that we are at the forefront of this movement”. 

    “Art is slowly becoming more political and reveals what matters to our generations. Art is wonderful and is very pretty to look at, but aesthetically pleasing isn’t enough anymore. Art has to contribute to the society.”

    Publishing online also allows NAR to track where its readers are. Since its inception three years ago, NAR’s website has seen sizeable popularity growth. Getting around a thousand hits online per month, from countries around the world, NAR is “finally seeing a tide turn in the success of our organization, going from an organization very much under-the-radar to becoming a known student-led art organization on campus and across the country,” according to Reichert.

    “Our online journal reaches a broader, nationwide audience than we would have been able to with a printed magazine. Since we publish essays by students from other universities, we want our publication to be able to reach them,” adds Henderson.

    Hosting a dialogue at Northwestern

    Northwestern Art Review’s dedication to promoting conversation about art goes beyond the journal itself as well.  “We try to create outlets for Northwestern undergraduates in general to experience the arts. We structure our programming of art events, such as guided tours of art museums, specifically for non-art students who still are interested in exploring any medium of art,” says Henderson.

    Reichert understands that art can be intimidating to people and believes that one of NAR’s goals is to make art approachable and enjoyable to each and every Northwestern student.  This past fall, this vision was met with success when NAR sponsored a trip to Pilsen’s art galleries.  Two hundred students showed up — many non-art majors — compared to the mere thirty students who turned up last year to a similar event.

    This winter, NAR plans to take a group of Northwestern students to attend an art gallery event in Wicker Park, where artists will show their art and answer any questions students may have. It is Henderson and Reichert’s hope that this event will allow Northwestern students to gain further insight and appreciation on various forms of art.

    “Art is slowly becoming more political and reveal what matters to our generations. Art is wonderful and is very pretty to look at, but aesthetically pleasing isn’t enough anymore. Art has to contribute to the society. It’s refreshing to see art returning to political, to see responsible artists represent the silenced voices and try to change the world,” says Reichert.

    Launching Now What?

    The title of NAR publication’s latest issue coincides perfectly with the daunting future of the organization — just as the unlimited possibilities of art inevitably create uncertainties, so is NAR’s future direction. ”We’re really at crossroads right now. The last three founding members have sought to make NAR more cemented and sustained on campus. We’re at a place right now where I feel comfortable leaving the organization this year in the hands of others, but there are just so many possibilities for our direction in the future,” says Henderson.

    Reichert adds that NAR’s future is “poised for success, and it’s just a matter of harnessing the possibilities and making our publication exceptional.”

    “Art journals, like most media publications, are gradually moving online and we like to think that we are at the forefront of this movement.”

    Though NAR’s future is likely “poised for success,” according to Reichert, the participation of Northwestern undergraduates who are passionate about art history, theory and criticism are needed to continue NAR’s mission. As most of its members are graduating this year, technically all positions — from editor-in-chief to director of public relations — at NAR are open. Henderson reiterates that it is NAR’s goal to be “the go-to organization for students at Northwestern who have even the slightest curiosity about art history and critique,” and welcome interested undergraduate students.

    In this issue’s editorial notes, Reichert reflects that “however confident [he and Henderson] are that the journal rests in able hands, [they] are proud to have seen it through its first few years, and it is not without some hesitation that [they] let it go.”  Following Reichert and Henderson’s graduation in June, it is the pair’s hope that “NAR will continue to provide a forum for undergrad students of art to exchange ideas worldwide, and that Northwestern will continue to benefit from its devotion to the arts.”


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