How Crosscut is filling the gap in local arts criticism

A Crosscut critic of music and theater talks about the unusual freedom and scope he enjoys. And now is a good time for you to become a Member and help boost these efforts.

Crosscut archive image.

Stephen Milling as King Marke in 'Tristan und Isolde.'

A Crosscut critic of music and theater talks about the unusual freedom and scope he enjoys. And now is a good time for you to become a Member and help boost these efforts.

The performing arts, in Seattle and in our culture at large, have undeniably reached a crossroads. It’s hardly a coincidence that, as we try to navigate the interesting times we live in, journalistically speaking, the familiar old institutions in the arts and in the media alike are grappling with a profound identity crisis.

Art can’t sustain itself in a vacuum: It needs to establish a vibrant, meaningful, ongoing relationship with the community. And one of the most important functions of arts criticism and reporting is to take stock of what a theater company, museum, chamber ensemble, or symphony orchestra is bringing to its audiences. Crosscut also can't thrive in a vacuum, so it needs your help as an annual Member. Please consider joining during the fall Membership drive.

What I treasure most about Crosscut is the scope it provides to kindle that conversation and to keep it alive. This has become more important than ever as we come to terms with a double dilemma in the media landscape. On the one hand, mainstream journalistic outlets are becoming increasingly bland in their homogenization. In blogville and the world of social media, on the other, the balkanizing tendency of partisan self-selection tends to hold sway.

By “scope” I mean several aspects that Crosscut has established as integral to its mission. First, Crosscut has been building a loyal readership, with a diverse range of interests, from those in the Puget Sound area and well beyond who enjoy engaging with a topic in depth.
The persistent decree to “dumb down” content that has been gaining such traction among mainstream newspaper and magazine managers is scorned by Crosscut’s constituency for being the ridiculous insult to readers’ intelligence that it is.

And that means that Crosscut writers and critics, such as myself, feel at liberty to fill in contours, to align a particular arts event or happening with the bigger picture, to consider it in terms of a larger tradition, and to render tough judgments when called for.

There’s also more scope because Crosscut writers are not limited to focusing all the attention on the “big spenders” whose advertising dollars keep them dominant in the coverage of for-profit media. The reader-supported model at Crosscut helps ensure a healthy independence in editorial content and review coverage, which is becoming perilously indistinguishable from press office puffery as the “official” media outlets continue to dwindle. At the same time, so much of the formidable talent and creativity in our region —
smaller start-up theater companies, chamber music ensembles, off-Broadway opera groups, and the like — has been going unrecognized because of cutbacks in arts coverage at large. Crosscut is determined to shed more light on these stories and to bring them into the conversation of the arts and how they impact us.

I urge those of you who value Crosscut’s efforts to provide this kind of coverage to participate in this good cause by becoming annual  members. Please donate today and become part of the conversation. On the Donate page, you'll also see details about ticket drawings that can help send you to some of the arts events we're writing about.


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