In 2005, I was invited to participate in a series of discussions for artistic directors and executive directors of local dance companies. A significant foundation – longtime local dance funders – were interested in doing more than funding individual companies, and convened ten meetings over twelve months to discuss how the local dance community could be strengthened. Ideas related to building new dance audiences were among the topics discussed. Audience education can’t really happen at performances, because attendees want to just enjoy art. How can practitioners encourage understanding of new work? How can practitioners support a community generates new work? During those conversations, I had the idea for an arts magazine that would connect artists and audiences, and in July 2005, we published the first issue of Bourgeon.
We published seven printed issues of the magazine between 2005 and 2007. In 2008, we moved the magazine online to reduce expenses. Over the last dozen years we have published several hundred articles by artists. Most of the articles are about the art particular artists is (or was) in that moment making. We also have published the occasional feature, and about a hundred answers to the question, “what is art?” Bourgeon is now a record of the D.C. arts community, and more broadly, the art making process.
Bourgeon was created to fill the void left by declining traditional coverage of the arts. We aim to do that by helping to project the voices of individual art makers, assisting them in documenting their work, and encouraging readers toward personal understanding of arts’ issues and art forms.
Since the first printed issue, the magazine has included poetry. With the addition of poetry editor Jessie Wilde (2014-15), followed by Gregory Luce (2016 – present), Bourgeon increasingly became a literary magazine. In 2020, poets Anne Becker and Jeffrey Banks joined Gregory Luce as poetry editors, and in 2022 Regie Cabico, Serena Agusto-Cox, and Sarah Katz joined in the same capacity.
Robert Bettmann, founder and managing editor