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Magazine Roundup: A Big Boost

Lust for the word on paper rages unabated. Take, for example, Annette Ferrara, so distracted by TENbyTEN, the square but hip little art and design magazine she launched five years ago, that she lost her administrative job at the Arts Club of Chicago last year. Ferrara had been subsidizing TENbyTEN out of her salary, publishing whenever she and her all-volunteer staff could get it together–sometimes twice a year, sometimes just once. Just when obstacles seemed “insurmountable,” she got a call from Margaret Malone, publisher of the Chicago Flame, a 15,000-circulation free weekly student newspaper distributed in the UIC area. Malone wanted advice on starting her own magazine and asked to see all of the TENbyTEN back issues. When Ferrara brought the magazines to lunch, Malone flipped through them, pulled out a Palm Pilot, and started grilling her about advertising rates and distribution. Two weeks later she followed up with an e-mail: “Why don’t I just publish your magazine?”

Now, the two say, they’re closing a deal that has Malone and a group of investors buying and backing the magazine, with Ferrara staying on as editor and a partner. (Malone declined to identify the investors–word is they’re putting up $500,000–but says they’re not her former employers at Chicago Social, where she was a production manager.) If all goes as planned, TENbyTEN will publish ten issues a year beginning in September, adding 50 percent more pages and making a breathtaking leap in circulation from 4,000 to 75,000 copies.

In January ’99, with a new MFA in art history and some “naivete and hubris,” Ferrara threw a party, announced that she wanted to start a magazine, and asked who among her guests would join her. She’d interned at New Art Examiner and thought that if they could do it, she could. (They couldn’t ultimately, of course, but she wouldn’t find that out till later.) Ten or so of her guests bit, all in their mid-20s and looking for a creative outlet beyond their jobs. None had any publishing experience. The idea was to cover emerging talent in art, architecture, fashion, and design: “There weren’t a lot of venues for that in Chicago,” Ferrara says. “We thought if we were lazy, we’d put out six issues a year.” Four years later, they’d put out six issues total, had 200 subscribers, and were selling the rest of their run in independent bookstores at $7 a copy. They’d received some national exposure, but had reached a point where “everything needed to be exponentially increased to make it viable,” Ferrara says. And “we didn’t have the business acumen to do that”–or the staff. Artists, she discovered, “don’t have the stomach or contacts for ad sales.”

Ferrara moved into the Flame’s offices on South Morgan in January and expects to be drawing a paycheck as soon as the contracts are inked. She says a number of her former volunteers–including editors Lars Soderkvist and Kevin Ripp and fashion editor Leslie Baum–will join her full-time, probably by April. TENbyTEN’s focus is not supposed to change with the relaunch, but it’ll have bigger helpings of everything, including 20 pages of fashion. Page size will go from nine and a half inches square to ten and a half, and photography will be spiffed up. The cover price will still be $7, but only about 10,000 copies will be for sale: the plan is to give away 40,000 at 400 locations in Chicago and mail 25,000 free to art-world professionals.

That’s just for now. Malone, buoyed by rising public interest in design (she cites Queer Eye as evidence), sees TENbyTEN mixing it up with Dwell, Artforum, Surface, Wallpaper, and Nest. Her three-year goal is a circulation of 150,000, with the growth to come in subscriptions.

A Big Pile

Are people doing anything else but becoming writers?” wonders S. Afzal Haider. Haider, a retired therapist, is the only remaining pillar supporting the Chicago Quarterly Review, a little magazine that publishes short fiction, poetry, essays, and art about once a year. The Review was launched in 1994 by members of a writers’ group who wanted to help new authors get published and discovered too late they’d created a monster. “We thought, how hard can it be to run a magazine?” says former publisher Brian Skinner. “After a couple of listings in Writer’s Market and Best American Short Fiction, we were inundated.” Now three of four editors have moved on, relocating to other parts of the country and other projects. (Skinner’s just begun his own CQR-style publication, the Manhattan Literary Review.) Haider, who wouldn’t mind moving on himself, is recruiting volunteers to carry on the Chicago mission–people who are willing to work without pay or glory and won’t mind chipping in when sales (at $7 each) don’t cover the modest printing costs for the run of 300 or so copies. “After every issue I say this is enough,” he says. “But we’ll already have 250 new manuscripts sitting there. I know how important it was to me to get my first, second, or third story published.”

A Start-up, a Shutdown, and More

There’s a desire among artists and curators to see a change in the way they’re covered,” says Gallery 400 director Lorelei Stewart, “a question about the daily and weekly newspaper writers and how engaged they are with the artists and the art being made here.” In an effort to provide something different, Stewart and artists Sara Conaway, Gregg Perkins, and Terence Hannum launched Coterie, an art criticism quarterly, last week, reaching into their pockets to pay for 1,500 copies of the eight-page tabloid and distributing it mostly in Wicker Park and Bucktown. The text-heavy first issue includes reviews, an essay on the role of art in culture, and a dozen annotated top-ten lists for 2003. Title notwithstanding, Stewart says submissions from outsiders are welcome….The ASCAP Foundation/Disney Musical Theatre Workshop is coming to Chicago in April. Up to four projects will be selected for critique by panels led by Stephen Schwartz and Craig Carnelia. Submissions (including four songs and a plot synopsis) are due March 19, and details are at ascap.com….Tuesday’s announcement that Chicago has been selected as the site of the 2006 Gay Games means that (barring a last-minute hitch) the city will be hosting the historically money-losing event in a year that will have competing gay games in Montreal.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Bruce Powell.