In 2005 I was invited to participate in a series of discussions for Artistic Directors and Executive Directors of local dance companies. A local foundation – longtime local dance funders – were interested in doing more than funding individual companies, and convened 10 meetings over 12 months to discuss how the local dance community could be strengthened. The idea of how to build new dance audiences was discussed over and over. Audience education can’t really happen at performances, because attendees want to just enjoy art. How do you encourage understanding of new work? How do you support a community that makes new work?
At that time I had a full time job, was on scholarship at the Washington Ballet, and was in rehearsal with choreographer Maida Withers, but I decided that in my spare time I’d produce a magazine. The idea was – and is – to facilitate an arts magazine written by artists. I got four artists to write about their work, I laid out the publication in Microsoft Word, and I photocopied and stapled 50 copies, which I proudly handed out and left around the District. Four months later I did another. Editorial feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and I decided to incorporate as a not-for-profit.
Bourgeon’s mission, through our online publication and community initiatives, is twofold: to increase participation in the arts and to improve access to the arts. Bourgeon serves as a bridge-builder between contemporary artists and audiences.
With significant contributions from many – in money, time, advertising, and focus – we continued that way through seven printed seven issues. Each issue was larger than the next. But donations, subscriptions and advertising weren’t covering growing real costs, and we decided to move online to reduce expenses.
Moving online has reduced our direct costs tremendously, but it has also made new problems. We now have to help people find the content. We have to promote more. And online readers expect to find fresh content all the time. We had been publishing three times a year. Every four months for a week before a print deadline we’d have a crush, but going online creates consistent editorial pressure. We broadened our content program from dance to begin covering all of the arts in the beginning of 2009, and then in 2010, we began aggregating content as well. (Before 2010 we only published articles commissioned by the magazine.)
At the same time, the economic crisis has hit. Non-profit institutions of all types are struggling, and Bourgeon is one of them. Responsibilities managing the publication have grown, and we need additional support.
I am so proud – personally – to be in our sixth year of publication, and I hope you’ll browse through and comment on what is now a record of artist work in development. This coming year we will publish a “best of the first five years” book, and if you are willing to help with the book please be in touch. If you’re an artist and would like to write about your work, please contact us.
Bourgeon leverages artists’ own investments in audience development. Each artist that writes helps drive traffic for every other artist. With declining print coverage, Bourgeon projects the voices of artists, helping them document their work, and leading audience toward personal and social understanding of arts issues and art-forms. Although artists and audiences are diverse, often they are not equally represented in the mainstream press. The word Bourgeon is French for ‘bud’, as, ‘a bud on the limb of a tree’. Writing about art is not the flower itself; it is the bud.
Bourgeon still needs your help to continue. If you like the publication, please donate to keep it going. All contributions are tax deductible.
Day Eight is grateful for past support provided by private and foundation donors in support of Bourgeon, including the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, and the Humanities Council of Greater Washington.