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 history more accessible and discoverable. 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.
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 We will only consider previously unpublished work.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 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:
Our focus is on nonprofit fine, literary and performing arts, but we will consider pieces pertaining to vintage or obscure works of pop culture.