Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A death in the online family

If you're a regular reader of Arts a la Mode, you already know what I'm about to tell you. If not, you're never going to be. After seven years, the website has shut down.

Founder Ann Marie Oliva has been running it since the beginning, and I understand her exhaustion: I used to see her covering movie screenings and plays and wondered how she did that in addition to keeping the site going and having a busy life. (She's also a writer in other fields, most notably drama.)

She wrote a lot of pieces for her own site, though other contributors weighed in: UNC Charlotte theater professor Mark Pizzato and Limestone College theater professor Tim Baxter-Ferguson did some of the heavy lifting. Their work was always contemplative and occasionally made me see movies or plays in a new way.

And now that stops. Although the site remains up for a while, and you can browse the back catalog of reviews, no new ones will be added. A one-paragraph farewell on the home page will remain the last posting.

​A friend​ asked half-jokingly if I was happy to have less competition. But I never did consider Arts a la Mode or Charlotte Viewpoint or even Creative Loafing competition. Maybe I would if I covered banks or schools and wanted desperately to be the first person to share some tidbit of news. But criticism is one of the few areas in journalism where, to use an old economic phrase, a rising tide really does lift all boats.

The more people read about the arts, the more they're likely to attend performances. The more performances they attend, the more local companies thrive. The more those thrive, they more they can do material that stretches them artistically and challenges audiences -- and the more interesting a critic's job becomes.

The flip side is also true: Silence an advocate for the arts, and you may lose a reader whose life could have been transformed by a cultural experience, the way mine has been changed many times. That's a sad thing indeed.


Michael Solender said...

another arts platform shuttered. and a very insightful one at that. Thanks to Ann Marie for the yeoman's job arts a la mode was a gem of a site and will be missed. sigh..

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for the sentiment, Larry. You are a class act.

And thank you, too, Michael. I am proud of the work we did.

Ann Marie

Meg Whalen, College of Arts + Architecture said...

The UNC Charlotte College of Arts + Architecture was a proud sponsor of Arts a la Mode. Artists, as well as their audiences, need critical insight into the work they are producing. The more interpretive voices, the better! Arts a la Mode will be missed.