Tuesday, October 8, 2013


I realized recently why this blog doesn't get the attention it used to. Sure, it's been over 3 years now and some of the thrill is gone, but there isn't a day that goes by that I see something I could possibly blog about. I still carry my camera with me most days just in case I see something I haven't seen, yet I only get a new post up once a month if I'm lucky.

The reason this blog is so neglected is because of [b]racket. I helped start this magazine a year ago on a whim with some friends, and it has officially monopolized my time. And I love it.

When I got here in 2010, I realized that I needed some art friends. I found a few like-minded souls via facebook and started a small collective dubbed (by Lucas) "Art Beans." We organized a few gallery shows, taught some art classes to kids, and even published our own zine. It was good while it lasted, but with a rotating cast of characters with varying degrees of commitment, it became a whole lot of work without much reward.

I saw an art magazine while visiting friends in Gwangju in our first year here. I was so impressed, and wanted to know more. I was also frustrated that my city, of similar size, didn't have an equivalent. Oh well. What was I going to do, publish my own version?

One night, on our friend Greg's rooftop after a few drinks, decided to do just that. Greg Laychak, Chris Cote, and myself threw caution to the wind and came up with [b]racket. We had no idea what we were doing,  or how to do it. But what was the risk? We could do a giant bellyflop but there really wasn't anyone to witness it. Who cares?

Our first issue.

Through Greg's connections we found financing for the first issue. We didn't have to spend any of our own money to pay for it, and that was a big mark in the "win" category for us. We printed 200 of the first issue, and distributed them to spots we thought were cool. Surely everyone in town (a city of nearly 3 million ) would hear about the magazine and rally around it, right?

That wasn't exactly the case. Though we managed to stay afloat with advertising, barely paying for the cost of printing, we were determined. Greg put in an amazing amount of work, work that I simply took for granted. His vision for the design for the magazine and attention to detail set us apart from everything else in town. Chris and I scrambled to fill roles of finding artists and getting advertisers, but it seemed through Greg's connections and design prowess that everything (somehow) was going smoothly. We hadn't worked out all the kinks yet, but we also had no idea that we hadn't.

Then Greg left. One of our founders flew the coop (though we had prior knowledge to this departure, it still came as a shock). Chris and I were left to tackle all the responsibilities. Greg had a car. How would we distribute? Greg designed the mag. How would we do layout? Luckily Chris picked up where Greg left off with an issue of training. Chris was a quick study, and started to layout the issues with his own voice. We started getting the magazine out on our bikes. Things were rocky but okay.We started looking for writers instead of asking the artist to write their own pieces. Then Sharon entered the picture.

Sharon is one of my wife's best friends, but Sharon and I had a history of butting heads every now and again. At this point it's hard for me to remember that time, but it was definitely there. Nevertheless she, an English major, offered to work with us on the magazine. We needed writers badly and agreed to see what happened with her as part of it.

[b]racket blossomed once Sharon was on board. We had no idea how our magazine would improve with a dedicated words editor. Sharon helped to broaden our magazine and to make it not only something aesthetically pleasing (Chris was doing all the work on that) but also a good read. She made [b]racket feel more than just self indulgent; now it felt important.

As proud as we were, and as good as the magazine was, we were still struggling for advertising. From day one we'd agreed that we weren't looking to make any money on this, just enough to cover the cost of printing. What seemed an easy task of finding advertisers turned out to be a lot of work, especially since all the connections that Greg had made dried up the minute he'd left.

I'd beaten the streets looking for money, but the truth is there are only so many people you can ask when you can't speak Korean (and that is completely my fault). Just when we thought we might not be able to continue though, the clouds parted. Over the past few months I'd interviewed some important people in the arts for another magazine in town and they were interested my magazine. I'd also made a few connections at the university I worked at, and the combination of those connections turned into a government sponsor, covering the full cost of printing.

That was 6 months ago. Since then, we've been featured in two different national newspapers, been on a major network TV, done an international broadcast in Seoul, and held an art exhibition at a major university in Daegu. We're printing 500 issues a month now, and have plans to expand that to 800 in March. We've done quite a lot in a year.

Setting up our gallery show, [b]list.

[b]racket takes a ton of my time, but it comes with an enormous sense of accomplishment. We have started something that people truly look forward to each month, and we have ambitions of moving to other cities in the peninsula. What started out as a drunken goof on a rooftop a year ago has now become a monthly art magazine with an editor (me), a designer (Chris Cote), a words editor (Sharon Reichstadter), an online guru (Kita Mendolia), and 6 other monthly contributors. We have a website  and a facebook page that you should visit and like.

Lisa, Sharon, Chris and myself (Kita is missing from this photo somehow).

So don't expect much from this blog.


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