Feed The Beast. Support The Arts Paper.

 Lior Trestman and Sawyer Christmann help each other get the hard-to-reach spots earlier this year, as they paint a community mural at the vacant Strong School. For me, this image has always reflected what  The Arts Paper  stands for: Supporting community members to civically-oriented work—and doing that work ourselves—with small but steady hands. Lucy Gellman Photo. 

Lior Trestman and Sawyer Christmann help each other get the hard-to-reach spots earlier this year, as they paint a community mural at the vacant Strong School. For me, this image has always reflected what The Arts Paper stands for: Supporting community members to civically-oriented work—and doing that work ourselves—with small but steady hands. Lucy Gellman Photo. 

There’s this saying in newsrooms. I don’t know where it came from, and I don’t know when it started. But every day, you’ve got to feed the beast

It means that you’ve got to produce content for your readers. It means: The news cycle is always shifting, and today’s economic development story will be old news by tomorrow. It means: That 11 p.m. play you just covered? Finish the article by 2 a.m. please. It means: If you don’t get to a story first, someone else will. 

The thing is, the beast is always hungry. There is always a local story to cover, and then another, and then another after that. And all of them are worthwhile, because all of them happen in the place you call home. We call home.

Maybe feeding the beast began in response to hard news—police, city government, education, crime. But as editor at The Arts Paper, I absolutely believe that the beast is alive and well in the arts. At least, if we’re doing our jobs the right way. And I’m asking you to help me feed it. 

In August of this year, we launched a website and promised readers a new kind of arts coverage that touched communities, and pushed inclusion as a first priority. In four months, we raised coverage from 10 print issues (that’s about 60 articles) a year to a minimum of two stories a day, forming new partnerships with the New Haven Independent, WNHH Community Radio, and The Inner-City News

With that new model, we ran close to 200 stories online. Over 150 of them were original content. We brought in new, sharp-eyed and sharp-penned freelancers, who were willing to challenge the meaning of “arts” for themselves and for our readers. And we experimented (a lot!), with coverage focused on politics, social justice, spirituality, and economic development in the arts, getting the first scoop more than once. While print readership has held steady, we’ve brought in 36,417 new online visitors, and gotten over 51,000 reads. 

I love feeding the beast. It makes me tick in a way that nothing else ever has, and nothing else ever will. The beast is wicked, yes, but it is also a magical being. It carries you on gold-flecked wings to every neighborhood of the city and some in the region, exposing the good that is happening in blackbox theaters and police substations, writing workshops and arts incubators and community gardens

But I can’t do it alone. While our output has increased dramatically, our budget has not—at all, in fact. Currently, The Arts Council of Greater New Haven allots $400 a month toward freelance, for print and online articles. That’s four articles max, and sometimes more like three if there’s a long-form story in there. We—I and reporter Stephen Urchick, who is paid nothing by the organization—do the rest.

We're trying to fundraise. We're writing grant applications. I'm busting my butt because I think Stephen should have a set stipend, and that unpaid internships in the arts perpetuate dangerous cycles. So far, this has meant all-nighters, long fact-checking sessions, and a constant, brutal decision-making process, where we skip events that we could make if there were more paid writers. And a paid Stephen. 

So help me feed the beast. There are a few ways to support The Arts Paper, and not all of them are monetary. But the first is to donate to The Arts Council of Greater New Haven, and specify that the funds should go directly to the reporting we do. 

The second is to support us with your readership. When we launched the website, it was (and continues to be) important to me that our coverage was free and open to all, with a comments section where the community could weigh in. If you don’t already, visit us at artspaper.org. There are new stories every single day. If you like what you see, consider subscribing to our free weekly newsletter—all the hyper-local arts we’ve been able to hit in a week.

The third is to send me a “citizen contribution.” If you have an community-focused, arts or cultural event that we can’t make (and we are probably trying to make it, I promise!), send me a couple paragraphs, some photos, or an event link and I’ll put together a file and publish it on the website. Here’s an example that moved me profoundly, from photographer and #NHVDrag progenitor Daniel Eugene. 

From Dec. 25 through Jan. 1, we’re taking a break. Then we’re coming back with exciting new collaborations I can’t wait to share with you. Until then, I encourage you to check out our archive, that you might get a glimpse of the goodness I get to see each day. 

To the artists, activists, community members, writers and readers I’ve worked with this year, thank you. Thank you so much. In a world that can feel incredibly dark, you have helped me find and carry light a thousand times over.

To you, I owe everything I do. Let’s kick some ass next year. 

With wishes for all good things,

Lucy Gellman, Editor
lucy@newhavenarts.org