Critical Read brings the true stories of the fine, literary and performing arts to a wide readership. We publish artwork biographies, reported stories, profiles, cultural history, essay, interviews and first person stories. 

Our mission is to re-imagine critical writing about the arts, and to make American art and art history more accessible and discoverable. Before you pitch us, please take the time to read the work on our site.

We read pitches and unsolicited submissions. We accept submissions year-round. Please allow up to six months for response. We will only consider previously unpublished work. 

We pay our writers. Rates vary by assignment. 

We're looking for artists to profile. 

In March of this year Critical Read began our Art Is Essential campaign with a  flash essay series. We now invite visual artists to join the campaign  and show the world that Art Is Essential.  

We’re asking them to create an original work of art that includes the  phrase “Art Is Essential” in a visibly legible manner. 

We will collect design submissions from May 26, 2020 through June 30,  2020. The first-prize winner will be awarded $650 and will have their  design used on a limited-edition tote bag. A portion of the sales  proceeds will go to groups that support both artists and arts  organizations that are suffering hardships because of the novel  coronavirus pandemic.  

Three runners up will each receive $25 each and a subscription to Critical Read. 

For any submission, the final format must be a 14W x 11H image scanned  as a high-res jpeg or psd file at 300 dpi. For example, you can draw an  image and scan it. No vector files will be accepted. No more than one  design can be submitted per applicant. The winning design will be  printed on a white tote bag using a heat transfer method. 

Please read the complete terms and conditions here.  

As we all adjust to life indoors, isolated from the world, we grow more aware of what gives our lives meaning. Art remains inseparable from our lives. Art is perhaps even more urgent in this time, as we turn to the people and places most important to us in order to find a sense of normalcy and safety. Museums are going digital, cultural venues are streaming past performances, and bucket list novels are finally being read. 

At Critical Read, we know that art is essential. We have always known this. We're asking you to help us spread the word.  

We are looking for essays of around 300 words on the particular work of art—be it a work of visual art, performing art, or literature—that you are turning to right now. It could be an appreciation of the art you have access to from your home. It can also be a remembrance of the art you wish you could see or hear right now, or a trip to a museum or arts organization that you wish you could relive. How is this work of art sustaining you right now? How has it transformed you? Why does it drive you? 

We are primarily interested in American art or art presented by an American institution. 

We will be publishing a group of essays every other week. Selected essays will be awarded $25. There is no entry fee. 

Examples for what we are looking for can be seen here:

We accept both submissions and pitches for  reported stories, scenes, interviews, and cultural history essays. These stories should be grounded in fact, not opinion, with an emphasis on the people, places and things that make the arts what they are.

In order to be a good fit for Critical Read the story should exhibit the following:

  • The subject pertains to American art and art history. 
  • It's an original story that has not been covered in another publication. 
  • It is not tied to the publicity cycle.  

The stories should fit into one of these verticals: 

Craft -- Explanatory stories about the craft behind the arts. 

Origin -- Researched and reported pieces about the unknown or hidden history behind the arts. These stories should explain the unusual beginnings and/or forgotten histories of an artwork or art discipline we all think we know. 

Revisionary -- Profiles of people seeing the arts in a new way.

Immersion -- On the scene reports of the work artists and arts groups are doing to compete in the attention economy. What technical innovations are artists or arts groups making to rethink their discipline and their impact?

Far Out -- Interviews with artists and arts professionals who consider themselves outsiders. We want to know how these mavericks got where they are, specifically what work of art or artist inspires them the most and how they describe their artistic processes. 

Artwork biographies are our deep dives. These stories are fact-based and narrative-driven. They balance opinion with  research and reporting, but their emphasis is on storytelling. 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.   

Artwork biographies are typically assigned at 4,000-5,000 words.  

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 complete the form. This will tell us which work of art you want to profile, define the characters in the story, explain 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:

  • A draft outline of how you would treat the subject
  • A sample introduction to the work – ~500 words

We publish first person stories in our Perspective series. 

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.  

For these submissions we're looking for writers who can go deep into themselves and tell us how art has changed their lives. 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.

 As part of our mission to re-imagine critical writing about the arts, Critical Read is invested in discovering and supporting arts writers. We want to make writing about the arts an exciting journalistic and creative writing discipline, while raising the profile of arts writing and expanding its possibilities. 

The Critical Read Blogging Fellowship program is a one-year program aimed at discovering and developing talented arts writers. As part of the fellowship, each writer will be given the space to develop their voice. Each writer will work with us to define their beat or focus. We hope that those selected for the fellowship will develop an understanding of the rigors of arts writing that they can take with them to magazines, literary projects, and newsrooms around the country. 

Writers, journalists, and photographers are welcome to apply. We welcome applications from those who have not previously written about the arts or those who are returning to the workforce. We encourage writers who have an alternative work experience that they can draw from, for example lawyers, business professionals, or mental health practitioners who can bring their experience to writing about the arts. 

Each writer will be asked to contribute a 500-800 word article or story every six weeks between September 8, 2020 and May 31, 2021. The writers will work with our team on revisions and edits. The position is remote. 

The application is open from April 13, 2020 to July 31, 2020. Selected writers and journalists will be notified in August. The fellowship pays $750. If you have questions, please write 

Critical Read