Interviews

A Print Outpost for America’s Overlooked Art Metropolises

Outpost Journal, Issue 2: Baltimore, MD (courtesy Outpost Journal)
Outpost Journal, Issue 2: Baltimore, MD (all images courtesy Outpost Journal)

CHICAGO — The idea of a city-specific annual art magazine available only in a tightly bound assortment of chunky-thick pages, glossy front-and-back covers, and near-cardstock paper is the antithesis of what we at Hyperallergic present to you, dear reader. In a world of increasingly networked experiences — where we read stories online and and “meet” lots of people only to know them by their Facebook selfies — there is less physical detritus left behind. But Manya K. Rubinstein and Pete Oyler’s Outpost Journal longs to put the real ink  back into print.

With a mission to uncover America’s lesser-known art hubs, Outpost serves the cities that don’t have as much access to national press but no doubt deserve it. In Fall 2011, they published their Pittsburgh edition, and one year later Baltimore hit the stores. This upcoming fall, Outpost is launching its third edition with a focus on Kansas City, the “Paris of the Plains.” We talked with publisher/co-editor Manya K. Rubinstein and creative director/co-editor Pete Oyler about the publication, why print, what drew them to Kansas City, and where they’re headed next.

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Alicia Eler: I really enjoyed reading the Baltimore and Pittsburg editions. Why did you decide to start with Pittsburgh?

Manya K. Rubinstein and Pete Oyler: We knew some people who had friends there and had heard great things about the art scene — the Warhol museum and the installation-based art space the Mattress Factory were also excellent indicators that PGH had a unique arts culture.  We also learned that one of us was conceived there (!) though we didn’t learn that gory detail till later.

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Outpost Journal, Issue 1: Pittsburgh, PA

AE: The last time I was in Kansas City, David Ford handed me those first two issues of Outpost Journal. I remember reading the magazine while sitting in his studio, which was full of various dolls from parts of Central and South America, and cigarette butts and mystical altar arrangements. What drew you to Kansas City? Was it David’s studio? (Half joking)

MR: David’s studio was actually my first stop on my first trip to KCMO last fall and it was a pretty stellar introduction to the place! I’ve had a city-crush on Kansas City for many years—a former classmate of mine in grad school used to run a gallery there, and it seemed to me that some of the young artistic energy coming out of the city was not dissimilar to the kind of thing that was going on in my adopted hometown of Providence RI at the time.

Manya K. Rubeinstein, Publisher of Outpost Journal
Manya K. Rubinstein, Publisher/Co-editor of Outpost Journal

AE: Why did you choose to have such a broad focus on the city’s entire creative community rather than just narrow in on the artist community?

MR & PO: Outpost focuses on urban arts ecologies. Artists are a key part of that ecology, but so too are things like history, politics, urban design, and community based activism.  We like to provide our audience with a full and nuanced picture of each place we feature.

AE: Would you consider going to a small town, not just a small city? Why or why not?

MR & PO: Never say never. But for now, we focus on cities with a population of at least 200,000.

AE: Where will you go after Kansas City? Why?

MR & PO: We are considering an edition on Providence, RI. Time take a risk and go back to our roots by featuring a town we both have close ties to!

AE: So there is no online-version of the publication, correct? Why are you keeping this as a print-only publication? You seem to do a lot on social media…

MR & PO: Correct, no online version. We LOVE print and want to create an art object that is tangible and exists in the real world. We see social media as key to helping us build a community around what we are doing, helping to strengthen the ties between the artists and organizations we feature.  That said, we have ideas brewing for online content- but we are passionate about and dedicated to print.

AE: In your opinion, how do you think regional publications such as yours are impacting the broader art world discussion?

MR & PO: See Jerry Saltz’s NYmag piece on the Death of the NY Gallery Show, where he writes: “Art doesn’t have to be shown in New York to be validated. That requirement is long gone.” We agree and think that it is high time to take an in-depth look at art scenes across the country, providing broader exposure to artists working outside NY or LA.

Pete Oyler, Co-editor of Outpost Journal
Pete Oyler, Co-editor of Outpost Journal

AE: How much does each print version cost to produce? How much will the Kickstarter fund help?

MR & PO: Our budget is around $30K for each issue. We are a 501(c)(3) organization with a mission to shed light on underexposed art scenes and sell the publication for less than it costs us to produce it. We rely heavily on grant money from local and national individuals and organizations who see the value in what we are doing. We love Kickstarter because it is a great way to get a large number of people involved at the ground level- in other years, we have raised up to half our budget on Kickstarter. This year we raised less because of outstanding local support in Kansas City and a few outstanding individual supporters.

AE: While I appreciate the idea of Outpost Journal as a print-only art object and archive of a city during a certain time and place of its creative growth, I am curious about why you are so against putting it online. I agree with Saltz’s statement about art — and lots of it (!) — happening outside of major cities, but for people to truly see what these smaller cities are about, wouldn’t you say that the internet is key to dissemination and visibility? Doesn’t keeping it in-print only actually limit the audience and as such do a disservice to the communities that you are highlighting in such a beautiful, intimate and honest way?

Outpost Journal, Issue 3: Kansas City
Outpost Journal, Issue 3: Kansas City

MR & PO: We’re not against putting it online — we are a very small team with very limited resources and, at this point, we have to choose. Clearly, we’ve chosen to invest what we have in the print format– given our backgrounds, interests, and our core belief in the idea that the tangible connects (in some ways, literally) us to our audience it really makes the most sense. That said, we hope to eventually expand and have the resources to do an online version and if we have that opportunity, I’m sure we’ll use the medium of the internet in ways that aren’t possible with print. It would be a very different approach than our current one.

Outpost Journal is only available for sale at bookstores throughout the United States, and in Canada, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand. But if you really can’t get to any of these places, of course, you can buy — but not read it — on the internet. 

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