The future of Mormon Artist

This next issue of Mormon Artist (#16, June/July 2011) will be our last.

It’s been a good three years — in our seventeen issues (including #16 and our contest issue), we’ll have featured over 130 Latter-day Saint artists. We published some important special issues (New York City, international, and science fiction and fantasy), and I hope we accomplished our goal of showing that there’s a lot more going on in the Latter-day Saint arts world than many of us realized.

Why it’s ending

While I’ve loved doing Mormon Artist, it’s time for me to move on to other projects.

And no, this isn’t because we ran out of content. The field is just as white as ever, and there are still scads of people to interview — more than we could ever hope to feature. Even though we’re laying Mormon Artist to rest, it’s my hope that others will join sites like Linescratchers and The Cricket and Seagull in filling the niche. (A few of my editors will be starting a new venture covering LDS arts, by the way. I’ll have more details on that when they’re ready to launch.)

Some of you may be wondering why I’m shutting the whole thing down instead of just getting someone else to run the magazine. Even if it were easy to find someone to helm a non-profit gig like this, I’d much rather see fresh approaches — new variations on the theme, if you will. The way we’ve done things with Mormon Artist isn’t the only way to cover the Mormon arts world.

What’s going to happen next

Sometime in June, we’ll publish Issue 16 (this time all our interviewees are female, by the way — mostly since in Issue 15 they were all male). And then the curtain will fall.

I’ll keep the website up for the foreseeable future, of course, and comments will stay open, but we won’t be creating any new content under the Mormon Artist banner.

I do want to say thanks to everyone who has been involved with Mormon Artist over the last three years — readers, volunteers, interviewees, all y’all. It’s been wonderful. The magazine has been a huge part of my life, not to mention its role in helping me meet my future wife, and I’ll always look back on these days with fondness. But there are exciting new things ahead, too. Onward ho.

Comments

Thanks for all you’ve done Ben! It’s meant a lot to all of us. Fun to read the issues and comment in here.

And there’s got to be easier ways to find a wife :) ..but happy for you!

Nooooooooo! Okay, really, I understand. This will probably leave an empty hole for a while, but in some ways, I suppose I’ve hoped for more anyway. Perhaps someone will come along and figure out how to fill the gap. Thanks for all the hard work.

So, you take three years and build a good, loyal and interested audience, and then give it up?

IMO, in order to build interest in the arts among Mormons, to overcome the widely-spread opinion that what gets produced and distributed is largely junk, we need longevity measured in decades, not just a few years.

Of course, I wouldn’t obligate anyone to do this kind of work (as if I even could). But I don’t think its what the audience needs.

Very sad to hear this, I really thought this would be an awesome long-term resource. At any rate, thanks so much Ben for all you’ve done, you’ve helped connect artists to a lot more people and contributed to a lot of inspiration.

Ben, I don’t understand one thing about this — why aren’t you simply passing the name and domain onto the editors who are planning a new LDS arts venture? It would be a lot better if they could benefit from the audience that has been created!

Thanks, everybody, for all your kind words.

There’s a discussion about this going on over at [A Motley Vision](http://www.motleyvision.org/2011/mormon-artist-shutting-down-after-next-issue/), by the way.

Robert: There will be more, and someone (hopefully many someones) will fill in the gap. There’s a lot of room for innovation here.

Kent: I’m not _really_ giving it up — once Katherine has her gig up and running, I’m going to transfer the RSS feed, Facebook group, and Twitter account over to her (with appropriate messages to each group explaining what’s happening), so she’ll inherit the subscribed audience. Also, mormonartist.net will have a notice at the top linking readers to the new site. The community isn’t going to evaporate in a puff of smoke.

As for why I’m not passing on the name/domain, there are a couple of reasons. First, I want them to have a clean start, the freedom to innovate without the expectation that they’ll be exactly like _Mormon Artist_ has been in the past. Second, _Mormon Artist_ is my baby. I want to preserve it in the state it was in when I made it (and by it I mean the issues of the magazine, not the community). That means holding on to the name/domain. Third, if I passed it on to someone else and it ended up tanking after that, the name would be kind of tarnished. I’d rather go out strong. So yes, I’m a little possessive, but hopefully it’s understandable why.

And I should add that there are two distinct parts to _Mormon Artist_, as I briefly mentioned above — there’s the existing content, which I want to preserve as-is on my server, and there’s the community, which I’m passing on to my successors. Giving away the latter should make up for keeping the former to myself, I hope. I do want the community to live on, and that’s why I’m encouraging Katherine with her venture. She’s doing something slightly different, and a new name will signal that to the readers.

Most readers won’t have to do anything, since the mechanism they’re subscribed to the magazine through will automatically reroute them to the new venture. And those who hit the site directly will still see the banner at the top letting them know where the new stuff is happening at. I hope that’s fair.

You’re clearly someone who’s very creative and imaginative and is always working on dozens of projects simultaneously. However, such people often get bored with individual projects in the long term, because new projects look more interesting. I don’t think your reasons for not wanting to pass on the name and domain are valid, and I’ll address your points individually.

(1) If the new editors want to have a clean start with a new magazine, that’s their prerogative. However, don’t make the mistake of idealizing starting a new project over continuing a current project. Some people are good at starting new projects (like you) and some people are good at carrying on existing projects. Don’t make other people start from scratch just because that’s what you value and enjoy.

(2) Babies grow up. You’d really rather kill this project than let it leave the Garden?

(3) The idea that a project will change or evolve or tank or die is the risk you take when you hand the reins over to someone else. I agree that it’s hard, particularly when you’re the one who created the project in the first place. Sometimes a hard choice is still the right choice.

In short, if this is the attitude you maintain towards all your projects, you’ll never create something that’s bigger than yourself. I’m very disappointed.

Thanks for explaining, Ben. That helps.

I’m quite pessimistic about how much of the audience will actually transfer. Seems like you could loose 50% in the process, IMO, mostly from those who don’t pay attention and then drop following the feed, etc. when they see its something different.

I understand the disappointment. I also understand Ben’s decision. I’ve had similar thoughts myself (and even more radical ones [although be assured that nothing’s changing with AMV]).

I think the fact that Ben is willing to redirect the RSS feed and, more importantly, pass on the Facebook page (and the Twitter account) is a very good thing, and, yes, some part of the audience may be lost, but I think there will still be a robust carry over, and that’s more than many projects get.

Katya’s right. I’ve been thinking a lot about this all day and somewhere in there, I came to terms with letting my baby leave the Garden.

My decision to keep the name and domain made sense in my personal context, but in the larger community context, I now see that I was somewhat selfish, acting on pride and fear, not faith. And that’s not the kind of person I want to be.

So, effective once we release Issue 16, I’m turning the name/domain over to Katherine (along with the rest of the keys of the kingdom). Mormon Artist will live on after all.

Katya: Thanks for your comments.

Kent: Though the transfer is a moot point now, I really doubt that the attrition rate would be that high. 10%, maybe. The people who are subscribed to Mormon Artist are interested in Mormon arts, and the new venture would have to be wildly different for it to stop appealing to them.

Wm: Thanks, and I’m glad you understand.

Ben,
I’m so sad to see Mormon Artist go. I always looked forward to each issue and thought you did such an excellent job both with content and design. What are your new projects going to be?

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