Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Arts & Lit - What does that even mean?

"I had no idea there were so many magazines published in Alberta," is a refrain the AMPA staff hear all the time at events. We heard it again at the Calgary Folk Music Festival last weekend, at our booth with Alberta arts, literary and cultural magazines. A lot of you had questions about these particular mags. I hope to elucidate a few things here.

What are arts & literary magazines?
Simply put: magazines that promote art, culture and literature. This often includes a mixture of visual arts (drawing, painting, photography, design) and literary arts (creative writing, non-fiction, poetry, prose, experimental).

Though published on a regular basis like any magazine, the content itself is not bound by time constraints; the purpose is usually to enlighten and showcase the creative talents of writers and visual artists in a local community, country, or worldwide.

In Alberta alone, there are at least a dozen such magazines that operate from government grants, donations, and volunteer hours like dandelion, filling Station, FreeFall, Galleries West, Legacy, Notebook, Other Voices, Penguin Eggs, Prairie Journal, to name a few.

Why do they matter?
Arts and literary magazines have a place in the mag-scape because they provide an alternative voice to content creators and they serve as a forum for creative arts in a paper form. They are often operated by volunteers or collectives, with a specific mandate to provide exposure to a particular group of artists or content (i.e.: contemporary writers in Canada).

Most arts and literary magazines have formed a supportive and active community around them. They hold events like readings, spoken word poetry slams, arts fairs, fundraising events. Magazines like filling Station even promote a Poet's Hotel, where willing participants provide accommodations for visiting writers.

I love them not least because they are so diverse, but also because like any magazine, an editor has done the work for me in selecting quality submissions. Like what all art should do, I find that arts and lit mags elicit emotions, provoke thought, provide inspiration. Knowing the passionate folks who work tirelessly behind the pages helps, too. But really, the content speaks for itself.

Where can I buy an arts and literary magazine?
Distribution for small magazines can be a challenge, and you perhaps you've seen one at an AMPA event that you haven't found anywhere else. I suggest looking at your local independent bookstore. In Calgary, try Pages in Kensington and Owl's Nest Books; in Edmonton, check out Audrey's Books or Greenwood's Bookshoppe.

Go to to see a comprehensive listing of arts and literary magazines in Alberta. Subscribe today and support your arts community, one word at a time.