Q&A With Charlotte Magazine’s Andy Smith

Posted on Jun 27, 2017


pic

 

Q: Tell me about your path to digital editor, as well as arts editor, at Charlotte Magazine.
It’s interesting. I moved here 4 years ago as a freelancer. Then I became the freelance web editor in the summer of 2013 and then a couple months later (because of my arts writing background), they said, “Hey, our freelance arts editor position is coming open, would you want to take that?” So, for the last 4 years, until a few months ago, I’d made a full-time role out of being a freelance digital editor and being a freelance arts editor. Then, earlier this year, they asked if I wanted to come on staff and do what I’m doing but from the office and put a ring on it—along with some new duties. So pretty much my day to day is to manage all the web editorial projects; assign stories to freelancers on the digital side; manage our digital outlets; to help translate the product from print to web and to try to amplify the things that work in print—while also living this life as an arts writer.
I also maintain a career as a freelance arts journalist and critic for a few national publications. One is called Hi-Fructose Magazine, another New Noise Magazine, and a few others. Most people do this in reverse, but I was a national arts critic before I was a local one. I was a local arts journalist in newspapers and online for a number of years, too.

Q: The big question is, out of all the hats you wear, which is your favorite?
I am very lucky in that I can’t really pick. I really enjoy working with people. I really enjoy getting up every morning and seeing what’s happening in Charlotte and beyond. Charlotte magazine has been around for almost 50 years now. For the magazine, I consider part of my job as looking at things we’ve done in the past and trying to recontextualize or marry what we do to the digital sphere. Sometimes that’s assigning stories and trying to figure out how to tackle something. And there’s sorting through a lot of pitches. I enjoy all of it. Being an arts writer is a lot of fun but I think it’s hard for me to break all of these things apart because they are all tethered in a way. But I am very lucky to be able to do them all together.

Q: Why the arts?
As a kid, from the moment I gripped a pencil to high school, I wanted to be a comic book artist. Then at one point I gravitated to this magazine called Wizard: The Guide to Comics. It’s no longer in business because comics journalism isn’t easy, but I always enjoyed writing and eventually discovered that I could be immersed in all of these worlds in a different way. I was one of those kids who from an early age was a “generalist.” We would have called it being “annoying” at the time. I was into marching band, theatre, art club, all these different areas of the arts. I wasn’t great at any of it — mediocre, really — but I loved this idea of process. I felt like I had a knack for sharing the arts with folks in a conversational way.

Q: What is your recommendation for folks who like arts but don’t really know where to start – for the novice?
When we talk about the arts, on a practical level, we’re really talking about a handful of disparate industries. They intersect, but from person to person, theatre could be a major love while paintings just don’t interest you. If you have an interest in visual arts, go to the free Uptown crawl. It is the third Thursday of every month and they have a trolley that goes in between each museum or gallery on the line-up. If you’ve always wanted to check out certain spots in Uptown, that’s a good entry point. Galleries are open all the time and free any way, but if you’re hesitant on any museum, look on their schedule to see what days are discounted or free. Otherwise, look for the galleries or programs in the pockets of Charlotte: Jerald Melberg Gallery in Cotswold, Goodyear Arts soon in North End, Gallery Twenty-Two in Plaza Midwood.

For theater, I would say it depends on what you are in to. We have these big musicals, national touring productions, that run at Belk Theater. But Blumenthal also rents out its smaller theaters to local productions and troupes. Tom Gabbard, president of Blumenthal, once told me he sees Blumenthal as just as necessary as Theatre of Charlotte, Three Bones, CTC — to have an ecosystem that’s thriving you have to have it on every level and you must have localized theatre. XOXO’s experimental works and Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte say so much about the talent here.

Q: Switching gears slightly, because of your print and digital side, what are your thoughts on print form as far as dying and going away?
Considering I primarily work for print publications, it’s safe to say I very much believe in its power. There is a lot of strength in print, and we need to lean on those strengths. I think what people are finding now is that you have to make a lot more cutthroat decisions about what goes where, where to allocate resources. You also must understand which stories are worth giving which treatment. It’s a precious thing. When we put something into print whether it’s fun or extremely serious, we are deciding about what we think is important for you to have in your hands this month in Charlotte. Vital stories happen in print and online, but the products have—and I’m sorry for using this word—a synergistic relationship. We are always analyzing what works where.
Sure, print is not in the same place as it was when I was reading Wizard Magazine as a kid, but there is just something about reading it in your hands that is different and part of our job is to make it worth it for you. Like a book, you keep coming back to them and hold on to them. And I think we have that mindset sometimes – what are the things that are going to make me want to revisit it?
As a side note – Andy mentioned: “To really write about art, you should pay for it sometimes and know what it’s like to hand someone money and ask, ‘can I have this experience?’ You have to know what it’s like to sacrifice part of your income in order to experience culture. I won’t go as Andy Smith, the arts journalist. I’ll just go as me, the geek who likes art.”

Q: What is one thing that you want people to know about you?
What I’m trying to do every day is contribute to an entity that is trying to tell Charlotte’s story. For the arts, it’s daily conversations with people who are accomplishing things with an enormous amount of obstacles, like the rest of us. Sometimes it works; sometimes it’s amazing. Everyone deserves that opportunity to express. And the journey of discovering what’s here continues to excite me.

And I want people to tell me about what excites them. What am I not covering? What am I not doing a good job of? There is always room to grow. There are always things to write about that we aren’t. Whether through email or social media, tell me about what excites you and what I’m missing. And I’d love to talk to anyone about that.