Judith Ann Moriarty
Milwaukee Artist Pocket Collection

Redefining Hip

By - Mar 7th, 2011 04:00 am
Sign-up for the Urban Milwaukee daily email

All photos courtesy Carrie Ann Seymour/MAPC

Carrie Ann Seymour is the founder of Milwaukee Artist Pocket Collection (MAPC), a local arts-focused publication that will soon make its debut, hopefully in April. An artist, musician and a bicycle- riding, 40-year-old mom, Seymour lives next door to the Hi-Hat on Brady, and well, somehow that seems totally cool…and vaguely familiar.

In the late 80s and 90s, I labored at Art Muscle magazine, a large format, ad-supported bi-monthly focusing on area artists. Our offices were on the corner of 10th & National and our distribution ranged from 10,000 to 15,000, dropping precipitously to 5,000 just before I was forced to sell the last inch of scotch tape and lock the door. We were “old style” publishers — that is, our meager staff of mostly maverick artists sweated for crumbs, brewed killer Bustelo coffee, and on one forgettable morning, called Roger (our landlord) with pleas to please haul a huge dead rat out of our toilet.

Rats aside, we had Frank Ford as our art director, and Nick Frank (now a curator at Inova) who, along with Tom Ford, designed splendid ads. Deb Brehmer, the magazine’s co-founder, currently runs Portrait Society Gallery and continues to write for various publications. Tom Bamberger, a thorn in my side because he wouldn’t contribute articles unless he was paid (the nerve!), writes for Milwaukee Magazine where I assume he is paid.

Art Muscle was smoking, but we had our detractors — those moaning artists who felt personally cheated because they weren’t included in any issues, and as such wee were accused of being snobs, elites, etc.

Nevertheless, the magazines were literally grabbed out of our hands on distribution days. To be seen with a copy of Art Muscle was to be hip. In that era, Seymour lived on the lower east side, and “when one of our artist friends would make it into Art Muscle, we’d celebrate,” she recalls.

Carrie Ann Seymour

Yeah, we were elitist.

Though we didn’t wear green eye-shades and manipulate quill pens, we did hand paste all the text and exquisitely designed images up on big boards and after multiple proofings, sent it to be printed by Port Publications, a family-owned business. The publication was free, and our yearly budget was $70,000 — hardly enough in the days when ink and paper costs were rocketing and our average per-issue printing bill was $7,000 and upward. To that, add rent, utilities, salary crumbs, maintaining multiple machines, taxes, unemployment insurance and all other manner of profit-devouring demons and well, you get the idea. If some one of our stalwarts tripped and stabbed themselves with a mat-cutter, we could be sued.

And there, on the grim horizon, loomed desktop publishing pushed along by the computer revolution that took down (and is still taking down) piles of publications. Suddenly, everyone was a writer; everyone was an artist, and bloggers could be had for little or nothing. The scene was either a publisher’s wet dream, or a publisher’s worst nightmare.

But hope springs eternal…

“I have very little experience in this area (publishing), and I’ve hired a couple of people to help me,” Seymour notes in an email. Meanwhile, I’m thinking, “Uh, oh. Another dreamer doomed.”

In late February, Seymour visited me in my condo unit. I was eager to show her the most obvious holes she might fall into in her adventures in publishing land, where Mad Hatters are numerous and wily.

“I Know What You’re Thinking” by MAPC featured artist Rebecca Venn

For starters, her goal is to raise enough monies ($5,000) to print and distribute 10,000 copies of 32 pages each for the initial outing. “Facebook makes everything very easy,” she says. “It puts me in immediate touch with artists submitting content and advertiser’s seeking space. Luxi Hill designs our ads.” Seymour adds that local publication Footlights is keeping the printing costs down and the distribution list up.

So what are the printing costs per issue?

“It’s about $3,000 per issue, but that doesn’t include my labor time which I figure at $8 per hour,” she says.

Actually, it’s possible to figure the total cost per copy; just factor in everything and be honest or you’ll sink before you swim, I advise. When I say everything I mean everything: toilet paper, insect spray, ink, etc. It’s easy to ignore reality when the dream is warm and cuddly.

Artists selected for inclusion are not charged for that privilege, and MAPC is solely advertising/subscription supported. A year’s subscription to the quarterly is $10 and at this writing, a couple  hundred subscribers from all over the country are waiting for the first issue, which (surprisingly) is geared toward collectors rather than artists.

The Nomad is a sponsor,  perhaps because Seymour used to play guitar there. The Art Bar has set up a June 17 fundraiser to defray printing costs for the summer issue.

The magazine format will be 4¼”x 5½” — think INFO magazine, sideways. Full color. Saddlestitch. Two insightful sentences per artist, as in “artist statement.” Thank heavens only two, as there’s nothing worse than artists who began holding crayons at age two and who are more than happy to ramble on about it.

“I love art, I love Milwaukee,” says this mother of two, adding “We’re trying to keep an open door policy, and if the work submitted is good, we’ll print it.” So far, over fifty submissions have rolled in. But who’s in charge of saying what’s “good” and what’s not? She says she’s in charge of that.

Does anyone out there give a virtual hoot about this effort? Seymour does.

The first issue is due out for Spring 2011. In the meantime, snag a sneak peek of MAPC here.

Ms. Moriarty pens for insidemilwaukee community blogs, INFO magazine, urbanmilwaukeedial.com and is a contributor to the Shepherd Express. She also, in the name of liberal thinking, writes a weekly column for her hometown Iowa newspaper.

Categories: Art

0 thoughts on “Milwaukee Artist Pocket Collection: Redefining Hip”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I’m happy to hear about this. I miss Art Muscle. Much success to Ms. Seymour!

  2. Anonymous says:

    I published MidWest Art for 4 years in the late 1970s. Couldn’t make it go … no support. I published it for Wisconsin, Illinois, Minneapolis. I guess it was too spread out. I was trying to get all these artist factions together to know one another. I think it cost me about $60 an issue and was a monthly publication. So the best of luck to you all. Give it a try. I had the time of my life publishing it and I met a lot of nice people in all those States.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Bill Zuback gave me a copy of the latest issue (first?). Great job Ms. Seymour. The art is wonderful, design amazing, and overall presentation lovely. Long live MAPC! Well done and best of luck to all. Thanks, TF

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us