This August marks 30 years of writing “Art Voices” for The Jamestown Sun newspaper.
Roughly a few dozen, that’s almost 1,500 columns since 1992. If all the columns were added from the years I was in Georgia and the universities where I taught and wrote, that would be more than double that number just for columns . That’s a lot of words.
Not all of the columns were newsworthy, but they filled the information gap and sometimes met a reader’s needs. “Art Voices” is about the arts, which includes much more than just the visual arts. Granted, visual arts and journalism are what I would end up teaching, but the arts include writing, architecture, and preservation; it is also gastronomy and culture, fashion and gardening. The fine arts include all the sounds that a voice or an instrument can produce. It includes poetry, short stories and oral histories, biographies and autobiographies. It’s foreign languages, chemistry (yes!) and mathematics. Without the sciences, the fine arts would be limited. Art is invention, creative innovations and solutions. To represent anything in the art world well, you need to know a little something about almost everything. And if you don’t, a writer needs to know how to locate someone who does the answers.
To learn how to write a story, we were told at J-school, “don’t study journalism alone; study history, religion, science, commerce and economics, foreign languages and fine arts. Learn enough about everything to ask relevant questions in an interview. And always follow the code of ethics for journalism: balanced, unbiased, direct news, quotes and keep it simple. Show both sides of a story and who said what. Whether it’s editorials, covering the cops, the city council, or a tragic accident, be compassionate and fair. Newspapers are the eyes and ears of voters and citizens in communities large and small. “
During my studies, then as a professor of journalism, I met people whose words and writings made the difference; not one was in the visual arts. Harry Wu, Elie Wiesel, Eric Sevareid, Edna Buchanan and Emilio Pucci come to mind. Through talks or meetings, their philosophies and advice have changed the way I teach, write, or do my own art. Author and activist Harry Wu, on the drive from Fargo to Jamestown, made me realize that my worst days in the United States would be the best of my life if you were “re-educated” as he had been for 19 years , in the Chinese gulag. Sevareid encouraged new writers not to be afraid when undertaking stories.
And mid-20th century fashion designer, 1920s University of Georgia graduate Emilio Pucci of Vinci, Italy, had some amazing stories to tell about a young painter named Leonardo. Students in art history classes have learned things that are not in our textbooks. Newspapers cover local and national sports, announce weddings, births, publish obituaries and give reports of actions, announce meetings, religious and civic news, as well as news stories, editorials, columnists and reports from Washington.
It was a passion for truth and learning that drew a young artist to the world of the press. My gratitude to all editors over the years cannot be measured. If the images I painted or sculpted weren’t understood, the words usually were. To all readers, I humbly acknowledge and thank you for your comments and story suggestions over the years. Hopefully the Jamestown Sun will continue to play its valuable role as the “official” organ of Stutsman County for the people for decades to come.
If anyone has an article for this column, please send it to Sharon Cox, PO Box 1559, Jamestown, ND 58402-1559.