Critical Read brings the true stories behind works of the fine, literary and performing arts to a wide readership. Our artwork biographies are grounded in fact, with an emphasis on the people, places and things that make the  arts an important part of American life. Our stories emphasize that the arts are all around  us, and that we’re living in connection with art history.

We accept submissions year-round. 

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 features. 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 considered canonical. 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. 

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