Cultured.GR is a new digital publication focused on telling great stories, providing thoughtful criticism and celebrating the visual and performing arts culture of Grand Rapids.
The two entrepreneurs behind this new venture are Marjorie Steele and Holly Bechiri, both of whom have deep roots in the cultural, creative and media scene in West Michigan. For five years, Bechiri served as The Rapidian’s managing editor until her recent departure
, and Steele has worked as a freelance writer and communications consultant with startup experience, as well as a reporter at The Rapidian during Bechiri’s tenure.
The inspiration behind cultured.GR is grounded in the seismic changes to the media landscape
over the last several years. When is the last time you have read a newspaper? Or read any serious, visual and performing arts criticism? These are the stories that today’s traditional news sources rarely cover in any detail or with any expertise.
Steele says cultured.GR represents a new media business model for the area. It will have an NPR-style revenue support: corporate sponsorship, individual support and grants -- and it’s focus will be 100 percent on the Grand Rapids art scene. “We are designed to support the art community and it is a community effort,” she says. “The sponsorship will come from the local non-profits that we serve.”
However, and this is a big however, sponsorship does not mean that these organizations get coverage. “It is not pay-to-play model. It’s a very important part for us and sponsors. This is not a cheerleading platform,” Steele stresses. She explains cultured.GR will not shy away from writing negative reviews, even if it is from an event hosted by a sponsor -- which is exactly what the sponsors want. “Arts criticism is welcome. In fact, our sponsors say, ‘We want you to bring actual art criticism and honest discourse to the readers.”
Initially, cultured.GR will be focused on Grand Rapids and its environs, and its content will cover the fine arts. “Our coverage will be on arts and culture, not arts and entertainment,” Steele says. (Sorry, no Kanye or Garth Brooks reviews.) “We have other media that do a good job of covering those types of events."
Both Steele and Bechiri will be providing content, as well as local freelance journalists. “It’s not been a problem finding writers and photographers. We have great voices in the community. If you can’t go to the opera but want to read a serious review, we have writers that have expertise in writing those types of events.” Bechiri says besides commissioned content, there will be opportunities for submitted op-ed pieces.
Stories will be added to cultured.GR on an ongoing basis, and there will be a Thursday email sent to subscribers providing an overview of the upcoming cultural events in West Michigan.
To learn more about cultured.GR, you can visit their site here
or Facebook page here
Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News editor