Baltimore’s most prominent arts-focused publication has a new managing editor in Rebekah Kirkman, formerly Baltimore City Paper’s visual arts editor.
Kirkman announced her new role with the magazine this morning.
some news: starting Feb. 4, I’ll be the Managing Editor of @bmoreart1. I want you to pitch me compelling, thoughtful, critical arts stories and, yeah, I want you to send me press releases, info, tips, concerns, questions etc too. don’t be shy! firstname.lastname@example.org
— rebekah kirkman (@rebekahkirkman) January 23, 2019
Kirkman told Baltimore Fishbowl she’s excited to expand coverage of art that isn’t showcased inside galleries, museums and other institutions.
“I’ve always been very interested in the way the arts interact with social issues, especially around Baltimore,” she said. “I hope to be able to seek out and write about people whose work is not just in a walled space. I’m interested in covering more of the arts that kind of goes outside of the gallery, if that makes sense.”
She’s also eyeing more coverage of the city DIY arts scene, “which has changed a lot over the years but it still exists.” While noting the closures of the Bell Foundry in late 2016 and other spaces thereafter, she said it’s “a really pessimistic view of things and is really unhealthy to be like Oh, it’s dead, let’s all stop caring.”
Among other goals, she hopes to bring on new writers who haven’t yet written for BmoreArt in its 12 years in publication, run more content on the website daily—including reviews, profiles and resources for artists—and make the website “more dynamic” overall.
Kirkman holds a bachelor of fine arts degree in painting from MICA. She began writing for City Paper in 2013 as an editorial intern, which is when she met and interviewed BmoreArt’s founder and publisher, Cara Ober. She went on to freelance for the publication after City Paper closed in late 2017, and she said her relationship with Ober has evolved since.
Ober will remain the magazine’s publisher. The publication has also recently hired a new marketing and distribution manager in artist Suzy Kopf, who’s written for BmoreArt since 2014 and took over her new post this past October.
“We’re trying to do more,” Kopf said today. “Now it’s more than just Cara. And we’re trying to cover as many local art happenings as we can.”
As head of marketing and distribution, Kopf hopes to find more vendors to sell the print magazine, as well as nonprofit institutions. As an example of the latter, she said they’re working on partnering with Baltimore City and County libraries to carry print copies.
Ober founded the publication as a website in 2007, and expanded it a print magazine in 2015 with the release of a print journal. BmoreArt has since continued to roll those out twice a year. The sixth and most recent one explored the theme of home for Baltimore-area artists; most past editions have also centered on a given theme, including money, beauty, legacy and community.
In an interview Thursday evening, Ober said that since the first print issue hit stands several years ago, “There’s been the assumption that we have been this sort of fully staffed organization, when the truth is that I’ve never really been full-time, and it’s always been an amazing, collaborative team of freelancers and part-time people.”
“It’s just gotten to the point where to do this really well, there need to be more hands on deck in a full-time, dedicated way.”
The publication receives grant funding from the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation, and Kopf said her position and Kirkman’s were both created thanks to funds from the Towson-based philanthropy.
“A little bit goes a long way in Baltimore,” Ober said. “Any investment in the arts and in independent media is quite significant.”
BmoreArt is one of the only remaining publications in Baltimore that regularly runs art reviews and criticism, thanks to Tribune Publishing’s shuttering of City Paper in 2017, the quick demise of the Baltimore Beat and recent cuts made to The Sun’s arts staff. (There are still others that publish criticism, too, including Baltimore magazine and, on occasion, Baltimore Fishbowl).
It also runs calendar listings for exhibitions, calls for entry and a guide to local galleries online, as well as other coverage of music, food, film and more. The brand has its own speaker series, too, co-hosted by Ober and local curator and artist Jeffrey Kent.
Kirkman said the aforementioned closures and cuts at the city’s paper of record put BmoreArt in a unique position, which she hopes they can use as an opportunity to draw more readers to the website.
“We’re in an interesting place where we kind of are the only ones with the dedication to arts coverage right now.”
This story has been updated.