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Saturday, 15 November 2014 16:50

Art Outside of the Box

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In a city where there are endless ways to entertain your mind, you might not always gravitate to a Literary/Arts magazine. When you want to pick up a good story, you might head over to Subterranean Books or peruse the U City Library for the newest John Grisham. And if you’re hankering for a bit of the visual fine arts, you have plenty to choose from: maybe the hugely-expansive and recently renovated St. Louis Art Museum, or a cozy little coffee-stained basement exhibit off Washington Boulevard.

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But an Arts and Literary magazine might first appear unapprochable as sugarless decaf coffee. And uncomfortably personal. Poems about war and greed, stories about the first job at a sweaty factory, or a lunch box taken by a bully, and full of ads promising snowy, mountainside getaways for aspiring novelists and short fiction contests when you win a lifetime supply of fountain pens. You don’t usually see these magazines hanging around your doctor’s waiting room, and their content isn’t usually discussed around your office water cooler like the latest episode of The Walking Dead. Yet, an Arts and Literary magazine can be an unknown snippet of undiscovered and passionate voices, each picked from a pile of submissions of even more voices, all of whom have something important to say and who are struggling to be heard.

St. Louis boasts some of the top Literary Journals, such as River Styx (which has been in circulation for over thirty years), and Boulevard is considered to be one of the best in the country. Luckily, more and more Art and Literary Magazines have sprung up where emerging artists can express themselves in ways they never have before. Amateurs now recognize they have an available platform in which they can easily experience the works of others on their level and learn to share with audiences other than Great Aunt Rita. Seasoned professionals can work on building a fan base, exchanging marketing ideas, and expanding their repertoire.

More and more opportunities in which artists can share their experiences are being created. And as social media grows, connections grow between individuals as storytellers are realizing their voices are finally being heard.

I met with Kristie Wickwire and Rebecca Tochtrop on a windy evening in the Loop. Kristie Wickwire is Editor-and-Chief and Founder of Please Hold, a brand-new St. Louis based Arts and Literary Magazine designed specially for a particular audience: people who love the unexpected.

Kristie, Rebecca (Assistant Editor), and I chatted over hot soup and warm bread as we discussed the importance of keeping art available to the public, to people of all walks of life, of all experiences.

please hold logo

AR: First off, on your Kickstarter page, you mentioned PLEASE HOLD’s goal to exhibit art in an unexpected way. Can you tell me more about how it will be different than any other magazine as far as its format and distribution, and what do you hope to expect from your submissions?

Kristie: Expect the unexpected! (She laughs) For the first issue we plan to have a shallow presentation box just the size to hold jumbo playing cards. We'll put the work onto these cards and include various inserts: stickers, a notecard, and such, as well as a booklet (the part that will most resemble a traditional LitMag). And instead of having a bound book, individual cards can be taken out and interacted with, but the viewer can create their own experience. If they like one piece, they can hang it up or give it to somebody.

The format will take them beyond the standard and somewhat limited page,and makes them accessible in everyday life. Readers can extract the work that most resonates with them and arrange it themselves: display a card in their house, give a card away. This presentation allows the viewer to become a part of the curation process, so each person gets to personalize their experience with the work.​  

AR: I think it’s interesting that you used the word “bound” as far as magazines we are familiar with are bound together, and it’s difficult to separate them unless you actually tear them out. I think it’s really cool that you’re creating these individual pieces of art with a cohesive theme in a box, but that you can allow these ideas to “come out of the box” and exist on their own and trade them back and forth with other artists and the public.

Kristie: We’re really interested in experimental work, work that’s trying something new. We want to show people who buy these magazines something they’ve never seen before. We’re also having people consider what it means to be a magazine, like, why does it always come in a bound form?

AR: I know you were on staff with another magazine, and so you wanted to branch out?

Kristie: I started interning with the magazine [Pie Crust] because I wanted to start my own, and wanted to learn how to do it. And Rebecca (Tochtrop) got on board when we did a film festival together. So we decided to use the film fest to promote the magazine.

AR: Was there anything that inspired you to exhibit in this unusual format, as you saw something similar and you kind of wanted to expound on that [idea]?

Kristie: In March, I went to San Francisco for a printmaking conference, and there are a lot of Zines in San Francisco, and I bought all the ones that looked the most “different” from your typical magazine...and looked at the way other people were experimenting with that kind of thing. And I realized I was drawn to that. There was one that came in a coffee-grounds-bag. I really enjoyed looking through those and I picked one that I liked, and I have it out so I can look at it whenever I want. And the magazine became a part of my everyday life by coming out from the pages and being on display, on its own.

AR: Kind of like a mini gallery!

Kristie: Yeah, like little, tiny works of art! I do want it to exist beyond the boundaries of the magazine itself, so people who look at it can take something they like and put it in their everyday life. We’re planning on doing that with the online version as well. We have a piece that is a print-out, so people can take it and create something out of it.

AR: Rebecca, when Kristie was telling you, ‘hey, this is my idea, do you want to come on board?’ what was your initial thought. As in, ‘how am I going to contribute to this, how am I going to bring my experience as a film lover to this project?’

Rebecca: At that point I was [only] working on the film festival, and then she asked me to come on board with the magazine. And I said yes. I got into it because I get a kick out of watching what other people are doing “right now” and I think that’s something that tends to fuel my own creative process, so it’s not like something you think of as hard work, because you gain a lot from it personally. And that’s why I thought it was a very rewarding experience.

AR: How are you going to pull in an audience who may not be familiar with experimental art and how to keep yourself from being an exclusive Art and Literature magazine?

Kristie: I want to contact independent bookstores about selling the magazine. Since there is always an open call for the next issue, all the places people go to find calls for art will direct them to the online magazine as well. As an artist, all this publicity about other artists' work I'm publishing inspires me to make more, too. I make my own art, I write, and I try to experiment with form. I went through all the critiques of art school, so I have developed a critical eye. And I understand how it feels to submit work and to never hear back about it!

I know how much of oneself an artist might put into her/his work, so I respect the efforts of anyone who submits. We can't accept everything, but we do consider everything we receive, and we try to personalize the letters we send back, because we want to build relationships and communities with these people rather than just acting as the bouncer at the door of publication. We definitely intend to release an online issue once every three months.

Rebecca: Part of opening up to a larger audience is that it is free to submit to the magazine, so you don’t necessarily have to have thirty five, forty dollars on you at any given time to submit three to five works or whatever it may be for your typical art show or magazine, so I think it’s kind of opening it up to a lot more different perspectives.

Kristie: And we’re accepting people from all over the world!

Rebecca: I think it is very friendly, when it comes a word-of-mouth sort of thing, because you can tell anyone you know, and they can submit, [people who] only work in a certain media, you can actually tell ANYONE you know who creates something!

AR: And it opens up a lot of doors to people who are not sure what to do with this thing they created and they’re turned off by more conventional methods of sharing art, or they may not think they’re good enough.

Kristie: We’re very open-minded. We actually encourage people to experiment with things they’re not sure about and they’re taking risks, that they may not know there’s a place for that, and WE want to look at it and consider it. That’s really exciting to us, encouraging people to experiment and explore different media, and also discover new definitions of art.

AR: As far as reaching a specific audience and infiltrating the Art and Literary community, what does this mean to you personally as an artist, and what are your expectations of the magazine in the next year?

Kristie: I am excited about all the ways St. Louis has to showcase local publications! I plan to apply for a table at next year's Small Press Expo to sell copies of the magazine and reach a new audience. I have already been talking about the publication for months when I attend art openings and other events around town. We plan to post to local events calendars and to distribute postcards and flyers around town advertising for our release party on December 13.

And as of right now, we have a little bit of an audience, around 103 Facebook “likes” and 60 Twitter followers, and that’s without having any issues out! I think it would be our best way of getting a new and committed audience, but also I think our social media and flier-ing, and our release party will be a great place for people to look through it. I think we can attract people with the poetry readings and live music, look at the magazine and share it with people. Future issues might experiment with form even more, having an issue come wrapped in pantyhose or in a makeup container for a femininity theme, for example.

AR: Lastly, I am curious about the significance of the name ‘Please Hold’ and what it means to you!

Kristie: Please Hold represents being on someone else's time, the anxiety of waiting and uncertainty...while at the same time it could be read as "please hold me" or “please hold (the) magazine.” So it's a triple entendre that covers the gamut of interests of mine: anxiety, relationships between people/vulnerability and need to feel comforted, and humor. And the phrase "please hold" often precedes a connection between you and someone who might be able to help you. We want to connect artists and readers, so that element to do with connecting calls also fits nicely with our interests.

Please Hold Slide

To learn more about PLEASE HOLD magazine’s upcoming events, and/or submit your works, please visit their website at: www.pleaseholdmagazine.com

PLEASE HOLD’s Kickstarter Page can be found at:  http://www.pleaseholdmagazine.com/kickstarter.html

You can also Follow them via Twitter at: @PleaseHoldMag…

…and visit their Facebook Page:  https://www.facebook.com/pleaseholdmag

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