Cornelia Seckel is the long time publisher of ART TIMES which is based just outside of New York City. As of this writing, Seckel is transforming this print publication into one that will be exclusively online. She appears to be getting ahead of the digital news curve which is great, but how exactly did she become publisher of ART TIMES and why does she continue to do it? Here’s our cool chat…
“…Art continues to play a major role in people's lives and we will all be in deep trouble if it stops … I have always felt that art feeds the soul of humanity and it is truly a blessing for me to support that which nourishes not only my own soul, but the soul of our culture and humanity …”
MICHAEL: Hello Cornelia, Let's just start with the most obvious question. In this time of ever-changing media and media business models and platforms, how has ART TIMES changed? Is it a struggle?
CORNELIA: It is always a struggle and a great pleasure. I am publishing in print for 32 years and each issue has a set of problems be it beating the bushes for advertising, compiling all the components of the publication, the design program not behaving, the printer in my office misbehaving and then there is dealing with distribution.
MICHAEL: I feel a headache coming on. LOL.
CORNELIA: I continue because it has provided a wonderful lifestyle. I've met many creative people, have access to places I would never get to go, and I am doing what I believe is important work - supporting the creative spirit and providing good resources and writing about all of the arts. For 32 years, the format and way I do business has remained pretty much the same except now, for the past 25 or so years, there is desk top publishing, the internet and website publishing. There will be a huge change after our Summer '16 issue when we will only publish online. We have been online for more than 10 years, but this begins a whole new adjustment in thinking, planning, reworking information, adjusting advertising rates and submission deadlines. It makes me nervous just to think about it.
MICHAEL: What has being online done for you and what you do at Art Times Journal? Also, what would you like to see happen online? Can you make it happen?
CORNELIA: Being online is the nature of doing business today; being online exclusively will make a big difference in our finances and content. Currently, I spend just under $3,000 just shipping 340 packages via UPS. The revenue from advertising is going down as distribution prices keep going up. Being online gives me an opportunity to have guest blogs, videos, more current opportunity, calendar listings and advertising as we have been printing issues that cover 3 months – for example, the Spring issue covered March, April and May.
As for what being online has done for my work load, it has had a big effect and there doesn't seem to be an end of my day what with keeping up with email and social media. I'd like to see the popularity of ART TIMES online grow in leaps and bounds, advertisers approaching us and to add additional bloggers and videos of openings. I expect to make it happen and do have techies I can tap into.
MICHAEL: Not too long ago, I heard a marketer liken the internet today to the Wild West in terms of government regulation (or lack thereof) and the Gold Rush. Everything is moving and continues to change. What do you think about this?
CORNELIA: It is all so new and without precedent. We're not selling things from the site and our content is arts and culture - how much trouble can that get me into?
CORNELIA: For me, SEO is a crap shoot. Today Google likes Key Words, tomorrow not. One day, shorter blogs are more apt to get a higher ranking and then we learn that longer ones are better. Rules keep changing and I just do what I can to keep my blog interesting and the website up to date. And then, whose analytics do you believe? The server? Google? Something else?
MICHAEL: Believe me, I totally understand. Were you involved with art as a child? What's the road that led you to what you're doing today?
CORNELIA: As a child, my parents brought us to the theater. It was a tradition for the family to celebrate birthdays. We'd sit up in the nose bleed section (after all we were six people) and I remember seeing wonderful musicals from the 1950's. My siblings and I all took piano lessons and I remember falling asleep while practicing. All these years later, I do like to sit at the piano and play from those early lesson books. It was when I was “on the road” in the mid 70's and hanging out with people in San Francisco that a friend brought me into an art gallery. I'm not sure - other than school trips to the Metropolitan Museum of Art - that I ever went into a gallery. He let me know that one could go into a gallery and only look, not feel obliged to buy and since then, I’ve wandered into galleries wherever I’ve been.
What brought me to where I am today is not specific to the arts, but to my work as a networker. Early on, I realized that my true work was connecting people with others who knew things that would be helpful to them. I did that as a teacher, a crisis counselor, career counselor and now as a publisher.
MICHAEL: Fantastic. And how did your publication come about?
CORNELIA: 1984, the year we began ART TIMES, was one of the major turning points of my life. I had been directing the Ulster County Chamber of Commerce Career Education Program for several years (previous to that I taught English at the High School level and worked as a counselor at several different facilities) and found that I wanted a new challenge.
I had developed the Career Education Program as far as I could and felt that I (I was then getting close to 40 — you can do the math) needed to do something that gave me new skills and stretched my abilities. I was open to any number of possibilities and, I must add, impatient to get going with “something.” Raymond Steiner was writing profiles about artists for a variety of publications, one of them an arts council. It was taking an extraordinary amount of time for this particular organization to pull their publication together and I, as was Ray, was anxious to see his profiles in print.
It was probably March of 1984 when I approached this organization to inquire about the publication and was given a laundry list of problems that was preventing them from going to print. “What could be such a big deal?” I said. “You go around and get advertising to pay for your costs, put the thing together and have it printed!”
Those were the first words that made ART TIMES a reality. Vol. 1 No. 1, August 1984, came out on July 15, 1984 with the typesetting and printing costs met by our advertisers.
MICHAEL: Very cool. Finally Cornelia, In this scattered, digital-obsessed world, what role do you think art plays and how do you facilitate that?
CORNELIA: Art continues to play a major role in people's lives and we will all be in deep trouble if it stops. There are just more ways to access it and create it. The smart phone apps for viewing exhibits in museums has taken over many of the rented headsets, artists are having exhibitions exclusively online, art and music is being created, viewed and sold using digital devices, and virtual tours of galleries, museums, historic sites, archeological finds can easily be found. Art (as well as books and music) is being purchased over the internet; auctions are being held online and live streams are available via the internet.
The digital world has allowed there to be more and note that I'm not saying better. More work can be seen, more artists (and I include writers, artists, actors, musicians, performers, filmmakers) can present and market their work to participants in the digital world. It is easier and cheaper than direct mail once you learn and become comfortable with this new marketing tool.
I have always felt that art feeds the soul of humanity and it is truly a blessing for me to support that which nourishes not only my own soul, but the soul of our culture and humanity. It is my hope that as ART TIMES steps into publishing exclusively online, after printing 314 issues, we can continue that support.
MICHAEL: Thanks Cornelia. Lovely chat. Good luck with the transition.
Check out out ART TIMES JOURNAL at http://www.arttimesjournal.com/.