Critical Read brings the true stories of the fine, literary and performing arts to a wide readership. 

Our mission is to re-imagine critical writing about the arts, and to make art history more accessible and discoverable for the general interest reader. We look for narrative-driven stories that combine research, reporting and analysis to reveal the hidden or forgotten history of the nonprofit arts. Our stories are grounded in fact, and place an emphasis on the people who make the arts an important part of American life. That includes the people who experience art in its finished form. Our stories emphasize that the arts are all around  us, and that we’re living in connection with art history. 

The best way to get to know what we're looking for is to read a variety of stories on our site. Before you pitch us, please take the time to read the work on our site.

Our artwork biographies examine the importance of art to the way we live now. Offering a contrary take, revealing a lost history, or revisiting a controversy, they look at works of art that endured and ask, Why?  It’s an in-depth analysis of a work of art that explains art in the terms of and relating to how we live today. You can think of them as non-academic criticism aimed at the general interest reader, or as the best program notes you've ever read. For these stories we are particularly interested in non-canonical American artists whose legacies have not been adequately protected.  

***If you are pitching an artwork biography, it is imperative that you read our previously published artwork biographies to have an understanding of what we do. These articles stand alone as e-books, and they are behind a paywall. 

Our personal stories explore transformative experiences with art. These are voice-driven and personal stories that only the writer can tell. For these submissions we're looking for writers who can go deep into themselves and tell us how art has changed their lives.

We accept submissions year-round. Please allow 10 - 12 weeks for response. We will only consider previously unpublished work. 

Critical Read Artwork Biographies establish the facts of  the work of art within a narrative framework. They balance opinion with  research and reporting, but their emphasis is on storytelling. The work of art, not the writer's opinion on it, should be the subject of the story. 

***We're not looking for essays here but for narrative nonfiction. There needs to be a story. Your pitch should identify the conflict and the main characters of the story you propose to tell.*** 

Artwork biographies are typically assigned at 4,000-5,000 words. We pay up to $1 a word for these stories. 

Critical Read is a nonprofit organization supporting the promotion of the arts and culture in the United States. By 'art' we mean nonprofit arts including but not limited to ballet, drama, classical music, opera, jazz, performance, installation, visual art and more. We have a particular interest in deserving works of art that are not (yet) considered canonical. Our priority is works of art by American artists. We are very interested in pitches about works of art by American artists whose legacies have not been adequately protected. 

We will consider pitches for stories that touch on works of obscure or vintage pop culture and Americana. Your pitch should not be tied to the publicity cycle.  

To pitch an artwork biography, please send a paragraph telling us which work of art you want to profile, explaining the central conflict and themes of the story you want to tell. If we are interested we'll ask you to submit a formal pitch, including the following:

  • Your CV/resume and relevant clips
  • A brief analysis of why is this work of art important – ~250 words
  • A draft outline of how you would treat the subject
  • A  list of the major books, commentaries, and films on your subject, if  any. Tell us why your take on this work of art will be different – ~250  words
  • A sample introduction to the work – ~500 words
  • A list of events this title could tie to, e.g. upcoming exhibitions, retrospectives, or revivals
  • Date you would be able to deliver your draft

We want 800–1200 word personal narratives explaining your transformative experience with a work of art. Did a work of visual art cause you to see the world in a different way? Did a song or symphony open your ears to new sounds? Tell us about how your life was changed after encountering this work of art. 

We're looking for stories about American art. Is there an underappreciated American artist whose work really speaks to you? Have you gone far out of your way to experience a beautiful painting, sculpture, opera, ballet, installation, spoken word or other artwork? 

Here are examples of stories we love:

To Bobby, With Love

Interloper, After Albert Bierstadt's "Dawn at Donner Lake, California" and "Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast" 

Stepping, In Time

Stop and Stare

The Space Between

Our focus is on nonprofit fine, literary and performing arts, but we will consider pieces pertaining to  vintage or obscure works of pop culture.

Critical Read