Left at the Altar
DePaul’s last-minute decision in July to not pursue a publishing partnership with the New Art Examiner (NAE) felt akin to the groom who has
spent months of courting only to find his beloved has gotten cold feet. All that now remains of a bold idea is disappointment.
When our editorial team of Derek Guthrie, Tom Mullaney and Annie Markovich first met with DePaul’s Mary Ann Papanek-Miller (Chair of Art,
Media and Design) and Joanna Gardner-Huggett (Chair of Art History) in January, 2015, the mood was one of excitement.
NAE’s hard-won reputation as an independent voice for the visual arts was recognized as precisely the editorial connection DePaul sought for
its students and its plans to develop a minor in Arts Criticism.
Annie and I began discussions that February, exploring items that needed to go into an agreement.
Skype discussions were held with Derek in England and many email messages flew among the five of us.
Ms. Papanek-Miller spent a year crafting multiple drafts. We began with the idea of a two-year partnership in which DePaul would be responsible
for design, art and copy layout along with production and printing costs.
NAE’s commitment was to produce a respectable publication, offer writing and publishing mentorship to DePaul interns and writers each week and work on raising funds via advertising, subscriptions and grants.
By April of this year, the fourth draft agreement was ready. Our independence was reaffirmed in the draft’s Article 4 which stated, “DePaul University will not be responsible for the content of the NAE….All content oversight of each issue is the responsibility of the NAE founding publisher,
Derek Guthrie, who is not a DePaul employee. The NAE founding publisher assumes all responsibility for content, including editorials.”
Over the course of our courtship, however, we sensed major university reservations. The initial trial commitment was reduced from six to
three academic quarters. More favorable financial assistance was eliminated and stipends for myself and Ms. Markovich kept being postponed.
Our emails seeking clarification on vital points went unanswered or answered after long delays.
However, we felt that NAE would pass the six month inspection and the partnership would be renewed.
Between the April draft agreement and June, a major change occurred. A new Dean assumed the leadership of the College of Liberal Arts and
Social Sciences. Papanek-Miller and Gardner-Huggett supposedly made their recommendation and left the scene.
Guthrie returned from England with high expectations for the final meeting with the Dean.
During that meeting, Dean Guillermo Vasquez de Velasco informed him that DePaul would need to play a stronger role beyond “layout improvements and providing infrastructure and financial support.”
He reportedly said DePaul needed to see all editorial content prior to publication, effectively compromising our independent editorial identity.
Guthrie felt that demand would violate the NAE’s integrity and refused. On July 20th, he received a letter from Vasquez de Velasco canceling the
Our ability to produce the art magazine Chicago deserves has taken a hit but we are determined to press on. The bigger loss to DePaul is twofold:
Its students have lost a respected platform for their writing and learning about real-world practice. More importantly, it betrayed the core
academic value of protected free speech. After agreeing to our editorial independence, DePaul has shown no faith in a respected publisher
and editor, each with three decades of experience, to exercise fair, impartial judgment.
Their action personifies the adage that freedom of the press only belongs to whoever owns one. It shows an act borne out of fear rather than
freedom. If a university is afraid to air contested, unsettling ideas but insists on playing censor, it commits a grave disservice to its students and
the greater society.
Tom Mullaney is NAE’s US editor. His articles have
also appeared in The New York Times, Chicago
Tribune, Chicago Magazine and The Art Newspaper.
He has edited an arts blog, Arts and About.com,
Tom Mullaney, Chicago Editor (retr’d)
Volume 31 No. 1 September/October 2016 p 4