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J anet K opolos The Way We Were Most of the good things in my professional life were not planned. I stumbled into or backed into some fabulous experiences, and certainly the New Art Examiner counts among the most rewarding. I was a graduate of the University of Minnesota School of Journalism and Mass Communication and was editing the Minnesota Crafts Council’s Craft Connection and freelancing art reviews for the Minneapolis Star when my then-husband’s job necessitated a move to the Chicago area. I said farewell in my last issue of Craft Connection, and before we actually left I got a call from Chicago: it was Derek Guthrie, inviting me to contribute to the Examiner. That he even saw the little newsprint bimonthly published by a crafts nonprofit organization says something about his interest, intensity and outreach. I had seen the Examiner and felt thrilled to have that door opened for me. I thought everyone there was more sophisticated than I was. Always I was acutely conscious of being outside the city, exiled out in the suburbs, and it was even worse when we moved downstate, to Peoria. But Derek would call and talk about things. When I drove into the city I would go to the Examiner office to discuss the shows I should see. There or occasionally accompanying Derek to a nearby coffee shop, I would be introduced to other writers. I was always treated more seriously than I thought I deserved. I was less constantly involved with Jane until I was invited to edit an issue on crafts, which meant spending more time in Chicago. Both of them were completely receptive to my interest in contemporary crafts and my lack of interest in politics; you didn’t have to pass a dogma test or a fashionability measure to write for the Examiner. I had no contact at all with Chicago’s power structure, and I wasn’t even particularly aware at the time that the Examiner was subject to hostilities. I just saw and admired it as a feisty periodical reflecting 4   T h e E s s e n t i a l N ew A rt E xaminer an intellectually aware world that I admired and aspired to. If it was low-budget, well, I had worked on underground newspapers in college, which were no-budget. The kind of energy that now goes into Internet blogs and chats was then channeled into counter-culture broadsheets. The amazing thing is how long the Examiner survived. My association was always with Derek and Jane, and the relationship grew more personal when they moved to Washington, D.C. I stayed with them once while attending a seminar on the language of craft. Then, after a gap of a few years (and moves to Atlanta and then Tokyo), when I was living in New York City and working at Art in America, I would regularly visit them in Washington. I even—turnabout!—edited Jane when she wrote a feature for A.i.A. on a junket to Indonesia. Busy with other things, I no longer closely followed the Examiner in its later incarnations, when they were not involved, although I still thought of it fondly. From a professional perspective, I valued the Examiner because of its breadth of coverage both in terms of subjects and in terms of geography. Even before I came on the scene there was a ceramics editor. Derek, having lived in Cornwall where he knew Bernard Leach, was open to all mediums, and although he had been a painter, he didn’t privilege it. The Examiner was richly and delightfully unpredictable—following the interests of its writers. Even more important is that it was not New York-based (for a time I thought of its attitude as “anything but New York” and since I am more interested in underdogs than top dogs, I appreciated that). The Examiner didn’t just trade New York arrogance for Chicago hegemony but proved that art which repaid attention could be found anywhere, not just on the coasts, not just in the major cities, but anywhere. The regional reporting and especially the regional editions supported public awareness and critical dialogue in an amazing number of locations. (Contrast that to the emphasis on the biennial circuits in New York art magazines today, the traveling artists and curators who ship their art or their ideas from one interchangeable city to another.) Jane and Derek were important to me personally...


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