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You do have to wonder. After four decades of working for newspapers, including 30 years at The Register-Guard, I finally jumped at the chance last year to retire from the paper and stop writing about art and music.

Next thing you know, I’m starting an arts website — this one, EugeneArtTalk.com — which makes its quiet debut this coming month. That means I’m dealing with the same people, writing many of the same kinds of stories, and going back to much of the same life as I so happily left behind a year ago.

What happened?

I blame it all on Karen Pavelec, the executive director of Maude Kerns Art Center here in Eugene, whom I affectionately call “Maude.”

Maude and I were standing at one of those upstanding cocktail tables at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art one evening last May, sipping wine and looking around the room at a variety of art donated to the ShelterCare annual charity auction being held there — including, I might mention, one of my own hand-colored photographs — when she suddenly said, “I miss your writing. You need to start an arts blog.” Or, at least, words to that effect.

At first I was dismissive. “I’ve escaped,” I told her (or words to that effect). “And I’m not going back, not ever.”

In truth I had been enjoying my freedom from arts writing. I could go to a gallery or a play and not feel responsible for having an informed opinion of what I was seeing. But I had also begun to miss the engagement that comes with having to write about art on a regular basis.

On my way home that night from the Schnitzer I remembered a similar conversation I had had a few days previously with a friend who told me he missed my reviews of plays at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. “I don’t necessarily agree with what you say,” he said. “But I can read your review and know whether I’ll like the play.”

There had been more conversations like that in the past few months, enough to get me thinking: What if I really did start an arts website here in town to create a third voice — besides the excellent coverage of the R-G and the Eugene Weekly — looking at the arts scene in and around Eugene?

How would I do it?

What would it look like?

How could I make it pay for my work?

EugeneArtTalk.com is my answer to those questions, and more. While this is definitely a work in progress, and readers can expect some shifts in direction as I gain experience, here are some basic ideas that I don’t think are going to change:

My approach is going to lie somewhere between the formality of traditional articles, such as might appear in a newspaper or magazine, and what you might see in a blog. I won’t bore you with what I had for lunch, but I plan to use the informal nature of a website to take a more personally engaged approach to my subjects.

Major articles will be published on Thursday morning — yes, just like the R-G’s Arts section and the Weekly. Thursday is a day that makes sense in the arts world. Other, newsier stories may appear any time.

Eugene Art Talk won’t have a calendar of arts events, and I certainly won’t even try to cover everything that happens in town. I will from time to time post recommendations on what to do on a particular weekend, but for a full calendar of events, you should check out Travel Lane County, Eugene-a-Go-Go, the R-G or the Weekly.

And, finally, the matter of subscriptions. Starting Oct. 1, it will cost $5 a month to read most stories here.

I have thought long and hard about the matter of paying for all this, and have even conducted a bit of market research. As unlikely as it sounds, I am convinced that the best approach is to charge readers for access to Eugene Art Talk.

Why not solicit ads, donations and grants? That is how the larger and well established Oregon Arts Watch operates in Portland. (Arts Watch, if you aren’t familiar with it, basically consists of the laid-off arts writers of the once-proud Oregonian newspaper.)

I am a long-time skeptic of the value of online advertising in a small market. As such, accepting paid ads from local arts organizations would amount to taking donations from them. I’d rather not do that, as taking donations would mean being beholden to the small number of arts groups in town that could afford to pay for advertising.

Instead, I prefer to charge the people I am here to serve — the readers. Some people are going to resist paying a subscription fee. One friend I consulted wrote, “I am one of those people who doesn’t pay for any content on the internet.” 

In the real world, though, $5 a month isn’t very much, and I trust that I can persuade even a few hard-core skeptics to subscribe.

So welcome to Eugene Art Talk. Please do let me know how you like it — you can email me at EugeneArtTalk – at – gmail.com or even call me at 541-357-9262.

And thanks for reading.

Bob

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