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 We will only consider previously unpublished work.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. 

As we all adjust to life indoors, isolated from the world, we grow more aware of what gives our lives meaning. Art is perhaps even more urgent at this time, as we turn to the people and places most important to us in order to find a sense of normalcy and safety. 

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 a publically held work created by an American artist—be it visual art, performing art, or literature—that you are turning to 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 will be publishing a collection of essays every month. Selected essays will be awarded $25. 

In September Critical Read exceeded its limit for unpaid submissions. We now much charge a $3 submission fee. The fee gets you a free Critical Read ebook download. 

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. Ex.: How To Tell a Dance on Film, a look at the practice of recording dance on film. 

Origin -- Researched and reported pieces about the unknown and/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.  Ex.: Fuller Credit, a look at Loie Fuller's little-acknowledged contributions to cinema. 

Commentary -- Voice-driven and opinionated essays on an issue in contemporary art. This is the place for criticism and writing that takes a stand on a matter of particular interest to the writer. Ex.: Stuffed, an examination of the politics of taxidermy-as-art. 

Revisionary -- Profiles of people seeing the arts in a new way. Ex.: Begin at the End, a profile of musician Ken Thomson. 

Hidden Highbrow -- Tell us about the literary, artistic, and other highbrow cultural references lurking in works of pop culture. 

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. Ex.: Drop Out. Tune In. Start a Revolution

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

Critical Read seeks 800-1200-word true stories about life-changing experiences with art.

Tell us about a time when art saved you. Were you in danger? Were you desperate? Did art come to you in a time of great need? What was happening in your life? How did you encounter art and how did it save you?

We’re particularly interested to hear high-stakes stories that had real consequences. Maybe a disagreement over a favorite album ended a long friendship. Maybe a passion for art caused you to break the law or put yourself at risk. How did the art bring you back to yourself? How did the experience change your life? How did art help you make a difficult decision? Did it present a choice? Let us into your thoughts and actions in that moment and describe how you got there. 

We want you to think beyond the art you hang on walls. Everything from music, dance, film, or architecture—if you think it’s art, we are interested.

Creative projects often come from the idea that you just can't let go. 

But what happens when you have to? 

As the world is on pause, we want to hear your story about when your creative project didn't proceed linearly. Yes, we want to hear about the dreaded creative block. Tell us a story about your circumstances and what was going through your head as you put down your work. Was it a relief to put aside your art? A regret? Is it still an idea that you kept coming back to, unable to shake? Was it too encompassing in your life that you just had to let it go for a while? Was your pause motivated by finances or family? Maybe you even walked away forever and began something new. Or perhaps it was something you had always wanted to do but put off until picking it up later in life. 

We want to hear the triumphant stories of perseverance, the difficult decisions to walk away from something dear to you, and those projects that are still paused, awaiting an ending. 

We are seeking previously unpublished personal essays up to 2,000 words about the creative endeavor that you paused. The winner will receive $650, and the submission fee is $10. The contest is open to writers worldwide until November 30. 

Critical Read