Critical Read brings the true stories of the fine, literary and performing arts to a wide readership. Our stories emphasize that the arts are all around us, and that we’re living in connection with art history.
Our mission is to reimagine critical writing about the arts for the digital age. 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.
The best way to get to know what we're looking for is to read a variety of stories 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.
Our personal stories explore transformative experiences with art. These are voice-driven and personal stories that only the writer can tell.
We accept submissions year-round.
In the fall of 1705, a 20-year-old man left his home in Arnstadt, Germany to walk to the city of Lübeck to hear 68-year old Dietrich Buxtehude play the organ. But it wasn’t a short walk. It was around 250 miles.
That man was Johann Sebastian Bach.
Bach was given permission to leave his job as a church organist for four weeks to hear Buxtehude play. He stayed for almost four months. Bach said he made the trek “to comprehend one thing and another about his art.”
But you don’t have to be an artist to want to comprehend something about art. To seek beauty is human. We at Critical Read want to celebrate beauty. Have you gone on a journey in the pursuit of beauty? Was there a piece of art or a performance you just had to see or hear? Simply put, what do you think is the most beautiful artistic journey you have been on? Maybe it was a piece of art you had known about your entire life and always wanted to see. Perhaps it was a piece of art you were unfamiliar with but you still think back on its beauty to this day. We want to hear about it.
We are seeking personal essays up to 2000 words on what you have done in the pursuit of beauty. The deadline is July 15. Compensation is $250.
Our focus is on nonprofit fine, literary, and performing arts, but we will consider pieces pertaining to vintage or obscure works of pop culture. We aren’t looking for a travelogue of your trip to Europe or a stroll though a museum. We want stories on art that changed your life, art that you would walk 250 miles for.
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