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Staff and Board Members Leave Brooklyn Rail En Masse

More than a dozen people, including all the current senior editorial staff, are leaving the revered culture journal.

The cover of the July/August 2009 issue of the <em>Brooklyn Rail</em> (via Wikimedia Commons)
The cover of the July/August 2009 issue of the Brooklyn Rail (via Wikimedia Commons)

On Friday, more than a dozen members of the current staff and board of directors of the Brooklyn Rail — a nonprofit art and culture publication that has grown into something of a New York institution since its launch as a weekly broadsheet in 1998 — announced their imminent departure from the journal. They did not give a reason for their sudden, collective exit.

A press release stated that May 26 will be the last day for the board’s “independent members,” all the Rail’s day-to-day senior staff members, and six additional members of its staff. Among those departing are the current Managing Editor Laila Pedro, Managing Director Sara Christoph, Consulting Editorial Director Amy Ontiveros, and Art Director Maggie Barrett. Under their tenure, the publication implemented a policy of paying all contributors for their work, which was not the case previously. The current board of directors includes Meghan Carleton, John Koegel, Abby Leigh, Will Ryman, and Merrill Wagner, with Chris Apgar serving as chairman; the board’s only non-independent member is artist Phong Bui, the publication’s current artistic director.

“The June 2017 issue of the Brooklyn Rail will be the last produced by the current team, and will appear as usual at the beginning of the month,” the statement said. Current and past Rail staff members contacted by Hyperallergic declined to comment on the current situation.

Bui claims that a new team is waiting in the wings and ready to take over operations. “We have already and seamlessly hired a new and enlarged staff team, as well as secured additional board support,” he said in a statement sent to artnet. “The Rail will therefore fully continue its ongoing mission to enliven the arts and writing community.” He did not respond to Hyperallergic’s request for comment and has not publicly shared any information about new staff and board members.

The Rail currently publishes 10 issues per year, with each edition’s 20,000 copies distributed primarily to galleries, museums, nonprofit art spaces, and bookstores. The publication does not have an editor-in-chief, allowing the editors of its various sections (from film, theater, and dance to fiction and poetry) to operate with relative autonomy. Within the art community it is best known for its reviews of exhibitions and publications, as well as its extensive interviews. How exactly the sudden and extensive change of staff will be reflected in its July issue and others going forward is anybody’s guess.

The Rail is funded largely through grants and donations, and many artists’ foundations are listed among its most prominent supporters, from the Alex Katz Foundation to the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation. It has sister publications in Miami and Minneapolis. It also publishes books through its Rail Editions imprint and puts on exhibitions through its Rail Curatorial Projects initiative. Long based in North Brooklyn, it relocated to Sunset Park’s Industry City complex in 2012, where it organized the vast exhibition Come Together: Surviving Sandy.

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