urban culture

Focusing on street art, graffiti and creative urban culture, UP is a provocative cutting-edge NYC-based quarterly magazine.  Launched in spring 2019, each issue spotlights a specific theme. Its first (sold-out) issue features several articles on money-related issues, and its second highlights matters of travel and place, as they relate to urban culture.

Lower East Side-based photographer Anna Candelaria introduced me to UP, and I was impressed by its in-depth coverage of the contemporary global urban art scene. Last week, Ana joined me as I met up with its chief editor, T.K. Mills.

Can you tell us a bit about UP Magazine‘s mission?

Our mission is to provide the art community with provocative writing that reflects the critical issues of our generation. We strive to present to our readers high-quality articles that investigate, inform, and entertain. Like good art, UP Magazine is made to make you think and make you feel.

What attracted you to urban culture? Particularly street art and graffiti?

After I had received my Masters Degree in Global Affairs from NYU, I wasn’t quite sure what direction my life would take. Shortly after Trump was elected President, I decided to visit Cuba. That’s where I first discovered my love for graffiti. I kept seeing 2+2=5. It seemed to be written everywhere. At first I couldn’t figure it out, and then I realized it was a reference to George Orwell’s 1984  — which certainly seemed relevant at the time. I even got to meet the artist. From that point on, I began paying close attention to the writing on the wall!

Before launching UP Magazine, had you any experience writing on this topic for other publications?

Yes, I wrote for several platforms including Sold Magazine, Open Letter and Art Fuse. I was also hired by a company, Saga, to interview West Coast-based street artists. When the company ended up not publishing my interviews after taking a different direction, a few of us began thinking about starting a new publication that would focus on urban culture.

How did you assemble such a dedicated and talented staff? 

Awhile back, I met Vittoria Benzine, a Brooklyn-based street art journalist and personal essayist, outside McNally Jackson Bookstore in Soho. As we began talking, we discovered our common interest in urban art. She then introduced me to Christina Elia, a freelance writer with a BA in Art History Communications. From there the crew grew to close to a dozen people, including street photographer Lonnie Richards, our Director of  Videography.

You have produced two excellent issues, each over 100 pages. What were some of your challenges in seeing this through?

The biggest and main challenge is finding sponsors and raising money to make this magazine happen.

Where is Up headed?

The only direction is up. We plan to further develop and expand our print and online presence. And we are looking forward to the launch of our third edition — with its focus on community — this spring.

That sounds great! I’m certainly looking forward to your next issue. And good luck with it all!

Note: Be sure to check out Up Magazine’s website and online shop. And with the promo code streetartnyc you can purchase issue II of Up Magazine at 25% off.

Interview conducted and edited for brevity by Lois Stavsky with Anna Candelaria

Images

1 Illustration of T.K. Mills by Vanessa Kreytak

2 Cover of Issue #1 featuring artwork by Fumero

3 Spread from Issue #2,”The Banksy Tunnel,” written by Candelaria Barandiaran with photos by Sabrina Ortolani

UP pop-up in Miami

5 Photo of T.K. Mills by Gabriel Ortiz, Jr

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UBcover

A Brooklyn-based artist collective with a mission, unbag is planning to release its first arts publication this spring. I recently posed a few questions to unbag co-founder, artist and writer Andy Wentz.

Just what is unbag?  When and how did it all begin?

unbag is an arts organization that runs an ongoing critique group, curates shows with partner galleries, and is now producing its first publication. We started out as a small group of friends who wanted to do group studio visits about two years ago. It was always about supporting the folks within our small community. And this ethos of supporting artists that are underrepresented and share similar values to ours has continued to inspire us to expand the organization.

What is the significance of its title? It’s rather bizarre!

We needed a channel to organize members of our little critique groups, so early on we created a Facebook group to host events and announcements. Our idea to create the Facebook group came before we even saw a need to come up with a name for the group. So we just put it as Un-Named Brooklyn Artist Group and for some reason the acronym unbag stuck. I think it made sense to us as a name because it is a clunky synonym to ‘unpack’ which is what we were doing during the critique group. We’ve since dropped the long form title and are just unbag now.

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What prompted you to launch this particular project — a digital and print publication?

My friend, Aaron Cooper, and I were organizing the unbag critique group and leading some panel discussions at an experimental space called Sleep Center in Chinatown.  We started meeting a ton of artists from all over the world through these events, and that’s when we started to get the idea to have a project space of our own. But we weren’t interested in a brick and mortar gallery, and we thought that an interesting alternative would be to host artist projects online and in print. We realized early on that what we were doing wasn’t going to be a journal or a magazine in the traditional sense —  but rather something more malleable that would conform to the types of projects that our contributors are interested in sharing.

Who is your audience? Are their any particular groups you are targeting?

We are definitely targeting people in the art world, but folks who don’t take it too seriously. We’re not aspiring to be the next Art in America or anything like that. We hope to reach people who are interested in art, culture and political practice from artists who don’t necessarily already have a platform to share their work. We also hope that our readers are people who would become future contributors and join in the unbag community.

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How did you decide what to feature in Issue #1?

We started with an open call for projects that use trickery as a strategy in their artistic production. We were definitely thinking of artists like Sophie Calle and Jill Magid when we came up with the idea for the theme. These artists are subversive and obsessive, and their motivations are not always clear to the viewer. Along with the open call, we also reached out to some artists and writers who, we thought, could contribute great projects because they already had a more subversive practice. We ended up getting about a hundred submissions and finally narrowed it down to thirteen projects that we thought fit the theme and worked well together as a group.

When will your premier issue be officially released?

The project will officially be released in May, and we will be hosting a launch event at Quimby’s in Williamsburg. Stay tuned for an official date for that event.

Loney- Abrams

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in producing this first issue?

We’ve had to completely build everything from the ground up for this. So that means marketing, design, printing, fundraising, and more. All of these aspects have been a challenge. But we’re banking on the first issue being the most difficult to produce, and that in the future — with all these structures in place — it will be more about just finding the right contributors to feature. So we’re looking forward to the next issue for those reasons.

Note: The unbag Kickstarter continues through this Sunday, March 12.

Interview by Lois Stavsky & all photos of images courtesy Andy Wentz

Images

1. Haleigh Nickerson

2. Manuel Arturo Abreu

3. Peter Rostovsky

4. Loney Abrams & Johnny Stanish 

Hailed in a range of media from Wide Walls to the Huffington Post to the New York Times, our Street Art NYC App is now available for Android devices here.

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