THE VISUAL ARTS IN THE UNITED STATES have recently experienced a period of dynamic growth and professionalization, prompting the timely question: Do the news media provide sufficient exposure for art, artists and art institutions?
In early 2002, the National Arts Journalism Program set out to answer this question, inviting art critics at general-interest news publications around the country to complete an online questionnaire about their backgrounds, educational credentials, work habits, tastes and opinions on issues concerning art in America today. The survey's 169 critics—drawn from 96 daily newspapers, 34 alternative weeklies and 3 national newsmagazines—write for a combined audience of approximately 60 million readers. The findings suggest that although art critics have carved out important roles at many publications, criticism is struggling to keep up with the swift evolution of the art world.
The Visual Art Critic draws a portrait of a profession that is deeply committed to advancing the national discussion about art, yet hampered by job insecurity, vagueness of ethical standards and uncertainty of mission. Accompanied by insightful comments from artists, art-world professionals and the surveyed critics themselves, the findings of this report call attention to the need within newsrooms for continued investment and support for the enterprise of art criticism, especially in smaller communities, where some of the most noteworthy artistic developments are taking root.