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How it all began…

By CORNELIA SECKEL
ART TIMES July/August 2008

This issue marks the beginning of our 25th year of publishing ART TIMES. Throughout the years we have met fine people, traveled to places I never expected to get to (e.g., Singapore and China), attended wonderful exhibitions, concerts, theater and dance performances. Doing this work has enriched my life, challenged and engaged my intellect, and fed my soul. I can only thank you, our readers and our advertisers, for encouraging us with your support. Raymond J. Steiner, co-founder, editor and arts writer makes sure that each month there are interesting essays, new poetry and short fiction for you to read. My job has always been to make the paper happen. I sell the ads, manage the business and create the final product each month. It is more work than I ever imagined but when I get feedback about how important the paper is to our readers I am encouraged to go on to the next issue.

I am often asked how ART TIMES got started and thought this to be a good time to repeat some of what I wrote in August 2003 for the beginning of our 20th year. 1984, the year we began ART TIMES, was one of the major turning points of my life. I had been Directing the Ulster County Chamber of Commerce Career Education Program for several years (previous to that I taught English at the High School level and worked as a Counselor at several different facilities) and found that I wanted a new challenge. I had developed the Career Education Program as far as I could and felt that I (I was then close to 40 — you can do the math) needed to do something that gave me new skills and stretched my abilities. I was open to any number of possibilities and, I must add, impatient to get going with “something.” Raymond Steiner was writing profiles about artists for a variety of publications, one of them an arts council. It was taking an extraordinary amount of time for this particular organization to pull their publication together and I, as was Ray, was anxious to see his profiles in print. It was probably March of 1984 when I approached this organization to inquire about the publication and was given a laundry list of problems that was preventing them from going to print. “What could be such a big deal?” I said. “You go around and get advertisement to pay for your costs, put the thing together and have it printed!” These were the first words that made ART TIMES a reality. Raymond and I started to toss the idea around of creating our own paper. I think it was his suggestion, he believes it was mine—we’ll never know. We wanted it to be a publication about all the arts, a resource and a literary journal with essays that would be of interest anywhere, crossing county and state lines. We’d give it away at art centers and galleries, bring it to the galleries in New York City, and, in essence, have it where people go who are already patrons and participants in the arts. We decided the support would be from advertisements since there were enough not-for-profit groups looking for funding.

Well, if this was such a good idea why hadn’t anyone else done it? Next step was research. We talked to several people who had been in the region for many years and asked about publications that might have been similar in some ways to what we were thinking of. The only one that came close was Ulster County Artist, a magazine founded in the 1970’s when Ceta money existed and lots of projects were begun. Well, why did it fail? Firstly, Ceta money dried up and most of the staff was cut. Secondly, and I think even more importantly, Allen Epstein, the man with the vision, was working with a board and energies were too easily dissipated. The lesson for me was that it takes a single strong vision and a person with the stamina to make it continue to happen.

To tell you that the thought of cutting loose from a regular job, one with weekly paychecks and defined responsibilities, created anxiety for me is a gross understatement. Never had I felt so frightened of the unknown (well, perhaps a divorce when I was 30 still holds #1 spot). The support and encouragement from Raymond and the knowledge that we both could and would meet any challenge put to us moved me along. On May 15, 1984, an organization called All Women in Business (basically a support and networking group for women in business who eventually honored me for my courage in beginning ART TIMES) held an expo at the Civic Center in Poughkeepsie, NY. I went to this expo and began methodically going around the room from right to left speaking with each woman and gaining strength from their achievements. Somewhere along the way I stopped saying that I was “thinking” of starting a publication and shifted to I am “going to” publish an Arts Journal for the region. I had made that transition when I got to a booth for Women’s News and met the publisher, Merna Popper. Merna was so excited with the idea and so supportive. She invited me to visit her at her office in Westchester and said she’d tell me everything I needed to know. She was so effusive and sure that I would be successful. I went to the office and spoke to everyone and began learning the language of the trade. I must interject here that I knew nothing about what it took to produce a newspaper; I had not even worked on a school paper or yearbook or substituted for a journalism teacher during my years as a substitute teacher. Five hours later, our heads spinning with all sorts of things to look at and study, we left — charged and ready to begin.

Raymond immediately got to work gathering experts in the various arts fields who were also fine writers. We started the incorporation process and I began to design what the paper would look like and what other resource information we would carry. So many things had to be decided. Ann Dulye, then President of Walden Printing Co., in Walden NY, sat with me and told me precisely what I needed to give her so that they could print the paper and for the first 10 years Bob Mitchell, the Production Manager, carefully explained what I needed to do in order to get the exact results that I wanted. For the past years Southern Dutchess News in Wappingers Falls has printed ART TIMES.

Vol. 1 No. 1, August 1984, came out on July 15, 1984 with the typesetting and printing costs met by our advertisers. 25 years later, with the support of our advertisers and subscribers, ART TIMES has become, as many say, the only honest voice in the art world today.

Thank you all for your kind words of support, your advertising and your subscriptions. It is truly a blessing to do that which nourishes not only my own soul but the soul of our culture.