The death of print arts and culture reviews

When I started at The Detroit News in 2002, the paper employed a dedicated restaurant critic, a dance critic, two film critics, a couple of music critics, a theater, jazz and classical music critic, a fine/visual arts critic, a TV critic, a book reviewer, and an abundance of freelance arts critics and generalists, at least.

By the time I became arts and entertainment editor the next year, three critics retired and a music critic/musician went on tour and never came back. However, because we understood that readers looked to these paragons of criticism for unbiased, enthusiastic (or skeptical) and educated observations of a show, we found capable freelancers to carry on and trusted heavily on wire copy by capable critics at other newspapers.

Sometimes readers attended shows based on a reviewer’s recommendation; sometimes they went in spite of it, because reviews — good criticism written by experts in music, theater, visual arts, dance, film or opera — don’t just sell tickets. They attract populations of people to communities, jump-start conversations, enlighten and draw attention to cultural shifts.

If the newspaper didn’t run a review, my phone rang with readers demanding our critics’ views. If I directed them to a review online, older readers took offense; and rightly so, they did not have the internet or sometimes a computer, and as far as they could tell no one seemed to care.

Read the full story here.

Improving Outcomes for Native Americans

Dr. Dean Chavers considers himself a lucky man. He was reading every book he could get his hands on by the time he was in fourth grade and his mother attended college.

Though generations younger, Rory Taylor calls himself an anomaly in Indian country. The 19-year-old Minnesota native from the Pawnee Nation is a sophomore at Pomona College in Claremont, Calif., and his parents are college educated.

For some, this isn’t unusual; but too many “Indian students leave high school with only part of an education,” says Chavers, a Lumbee Indian from North Carolina. “The assumption remains what it was when the first federal schools for Indians started in the 1880s. Indian students are good with their hands, but the higher subjects of science, arts, language, and mathematics are considered too hard for them. Everyone expected Indians to be brick masons, hotel maids and mechanics; and some parents and teachers bought that.”

Read the full story here.

From the Masonic Temple to Mojo’s Mothership, Prince marked Detroit – and a life

Some rock and a whole lot of funk, that was “Soft and Wet,” a track from the 1978 album “For You” that put Prince on the cover of Right On magazine. That cover was my introduction to the artist I would romance in my dreams for the next 30 years.

Over the course of Prince’s career — one cut short too early with his death Thursday at the age of 57  — the singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist had many names and no name at all. He was Jamie Starr, Alexander Nevermind, The Purple One and a symbol we replaced with The Artist Formerly Known As. He started bands, refreshed flagging careers, created cult classics and brought us to a new level of understanding when it came to creativity.

He wore guy-liner, a term that hadn’t been applied when started, frilly purple threads and platform boots; but he oozed a manly cool that had me plastering his photos — posters, album covers, magazine tear sheets — on every flat surface of my bedroom, windows included. Every year, I would walk the mile or so from my University District home to the record store on Curtis just west of Livernois to buy the latest Prince album. Whether he was in costume singing in falsetto on “I Wanna Be Your Lover” or taking it deep and serious in a T-shirt and jeans on “4 the Tears in Your Eyes,” on the “We Are the World” benefit album, his music was charged with unrivaled passion and a freakish level of originality.

Read the full story here.