Guest post by Thea Liberty Nichols
Email interview conducted with Laura Fox
Laura Fox is interested in the ways that art builds community, whether through local artists and organizations, urban (re)development plans, and nation-building efforts. Besides for writing about art and teaching at 826CHI, she works full-time in marketing and is on the board of directors at Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, among lots of other pursuits. Her friends sometimes call her ’20 Questions’ for her insatiable curiosity, and she loves good conversations and adventure.
TLN: As a freelance writer for both a print publication (Newcity) and an online web magazine (Flavorpill), can you tell us if or how the format impacts the form of your writing? Does the ability to edit after deadline or hyperlink things with digital pieces, or the chance to isolate and retain a copy of your columns with print ones weight them differently in terms of importance and impermanence?
LF: Nothing can beat the thrill of seeing a piece in print, or hearing from friends that they read your work while flipping through Newcity on the El. But digital forms—for both Flavorpill and Newcity—are especially empowering when trying to capture visual art. I have an education-oriented bent when I write, and online content allows me to better contextualize work for readers by hyperlinking to more images of the artists’ work or relevant articles. Especially when the word count is limited, this helps me narrate the bigger story.
TLN: I’m always interested in how the ‘comments’ section of a digital publication can spark dialogue– have you gotten any feedback on pieces you’ve written this way? Do you participate in this type of dialogue by commenting on other things yourself? How do you think the anonymity of the comments section impacts their tone, if at all?
LF: I started writing because I was seeing so much work and discussing it with friends, but wanted to engage in a larger conversation. The ‘Comments’ section is certainly an area confirming that dialogue is two-sided—people have given me some great feedback, and I love to post comments on others’ writing as well. I’ve had the most sustained, interesting conversations through forms of social media, though. A few months ago, for example, I wrote a piece on a national issue—the removal of David Wojnarowicz’s work from the Smithsonian (and Chicago’s response) for Newcity. Not only did I receive an influx of comments, recent news, and insightful postings from people I know, but also from interested students, activists, and academics. It was inspiring to participate in a dialogue that anchored the arts so firmly in our civic consciousness.
TLN: Why don’t we wrap up by you telling us a little bit about your work with 826CHI please?
LF: Teaching creative writing workshops to students at 826CHI really connects me to the pure joy of creative expression. The students express themselves with unfettered enthusiasm, and it’s so energizing to help them learn about different ways to channel that creativity, whether through writing, performance, or art. I love taking students to art galleries or small museums for art-based writing workshops, or inviting interesting people as interview subjects for ones focused on narrative non-fiction. On one workshop field trip to the Roger Brown Study Collection, a student said, “This art is so cool. Can I just talk about it all the time?” I couldn’t agree more.
Thea Liberty Nichols is an arts administrator, independent curator and freelance writer.