In this class, two longtime editors and writers will walk you through what you need to know to craft incisive, memorable, and expressive criticism about visual art, books, live arts, music, and film. From short-form reviews to essays to hybrid pieces that defy categorization, we will explore techniques to develop your craft and voice, the value of revision, and approaches to presenting an artist’s life work with both rigor and empathy.
Open to longtime practitioners and those new to arts criticism, we’ll explore these issues through in-class exercises, close readings, breakout sessions, and open conversations with the instructors.
Writers will leave this class with a deeper understanding of how to craft an effective, expressive work of cultural criticism, as well as with smart strategies for getting your writing out into the world.
A full scholarship will be awarded for this class. To apply, please send [email protected] a brief (100–250 words) statement on why taking this class is important to you by May 1st, with the subject line "The Art of Arts Writing Class Scholarship."
Class meetings will be held over video chat, using Zoom accessed from your private class page. While you can use Zoom from your browser, we recommend downloading the desktop client so you have access to all platform features.
Check out this page for details about payment plans and discount opportunities.
- Learn what makes an effective, expressive work of cultural criticism
- Get practical tips on how to strengthen your writerly chops
- Learn the distinct considerations and skill sets for writing about different art forms
- Understand how to effectively craft and send a pitch to catch an editor's attention
- Gain insight into the perils and pleasures of freelance writing
- Learn about the editorial process and what qualities publications look for in a contributor
- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes
Students will have optional weekly readings and there will be in-class assignments and breakout sessions for discussions with peers. This class is structured like a seminar and does not include any written instructor feedback on student writing.
Day 1: Introduction to arts writing
- The work of arts criticism: persuasion, perception, craft, context
- How to build an argument
- What makes an author’s style?
- Revision: how to see your own work with fresh eyes
Day 2: Visual Art
- Translating visual experience into language
- Putting a work of art into proper context: art history and theory
- In-class exercise: edit the genius
Day 3: Books
- Narrative in fiction and nonfiction reviews: what does the reader need to know?
- Transitions, word choice, quotations
- Approaches to the negative review
- How to situate a reader in an author's oeuvre
- Book criticism in an age of constant distraction
Day 4: Live arts, music, and film
- What do time-based art forms require from a writer?
- How to condense and compose an event for a reader.
- Critic as witness: the ethics, and practical matters, of representing a moment in time
Day 5: Building a career as a freelancer
- Now what? How to pitch, get paid, and network with writers and editors
- Working with print vs. online publications: what to expect
- When edits go wrong: how to recover your voice and words
David O'Neill is a writer and editor in New York City. He's an editor of Bookforum, where he's worked since 2009. His writing has appeared in Artforum, Affidavit, Bookforum, 4 Columns, the Times Literary Supplement, the Paris Review Daily, and other publications. In 2018, he co-edited Weight of the Earth: The Tape Journals of David Wojnarowicz, published by Semiotext(e).
Jennifer Krasinski is a writer and critic who also works as the digital editorial director for Artforum. Formerly an art columnist for the Village Voice, she is a frequent contributor to Artforum and Bookforum, and is a contributing editor to Yale University's Theater Magazine. She received a Creative Capital / Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant in 2013, and has written numerous catalog essays for figures such as critic Jill Johnston, theater maker Reza Abdoh, artists Jos DeGruyter and Harald Thys, and others.
"Dave is a kind, clear editor who treats my writing with respect and care. He works fast, and is nice when I don't. I'm always happier with a piece after he's had a hand in it."
"Dave is one of my favorite editors to work with—he's knowledgeable, patient, funny, creative, and excited about the possibilities of what a magazine and cultural criticism can do. (But not annoyingly excited—crucially, he's very low-key.) His light touch does not prevent him from pointing out horrific, glaring problems. I've never once felt wronged or that my pieces had irrevocably changed for the worse while working with him, and that is extremely rare."
"Dave has been my editor at BOOKFORUM since 2014. We’ve published fourteen pieces together, including essays and reviews. The writing I’ve done with Dave is the writing I’m most proud of. He expanded my sense of the topics I could cover, made my arguments more graceful, and refined my voice on the page. Respectful without being passive, he always asks the questions I haven’t thought of. It’s fun to work with Dave. I wish there were more editors like him."
"David O'Neill is a dream for an editor—and a reader. An exquisite thinker with a sharp eye, he writes with great generosity to produce truly gorgeous prose. Working with him is always a delight, made even more interesting by the fact that he's also a terrific editor, which means I learn a valuable thing or two every time I edit him. I can't recommend David highly enough. He's simply one of the best around."
"Dave cut his teeth in the unfeted trenches of short-form reviewing and it shows in all his writing—every word counts. But distilled prose doesn’t have to be dense. In his work, rascally asides, sleights of hand, and subtle provocations put pressure on the form (any form). He’s the best."
"Dave O'Neill was great! He was extremely thorough and helpful. He encouraged students to participate and share their experiences to help other students. He spent probably an hour or two just answering questions throughout the weekend, so that was wonderful."
"Dave was so so generous with his time – he stayed past 3 p.m. each session to answer all of our questions!"
"Jennifer has an uncanny sense of voice and it shows in the way she works with writers. I'm a poet and I HATE to be edited (prose and poetry are not different from each other in my mind -- change one word and the thing might crumble). Somehow, Jennifer understands that I think this way so we have a beautiful relationship that causes writing I bring her to expand. It's enormously fun to be in her hands. Her veteran professionalism, her sharpness, her willingness to be critical, her editorial curation have profoundly shaped the landscape of art writing in the US today. Truly the best in the business."
"Jennifer’s deep breadth of knowledge—she seems to have read and seen everything—combined with her sharp eye, wit, and grace make her an ideal editor."
"Jennifer Krasinski is a dream editor—thorough, kind, and unkind, when necessary. I've worked with her many times in the last decade, and she has been integral to several of my best experiences. She makes the writing stronger and indulges my fears while also reminding me to express what I allegedly thought when I pitched her. The most relevant thing I can say is that I look forward to Jennifer's emails. If you know any writers, or are one, you know there is no more reliable measure of trust."
Jennifer Krasinski is one of the nation's most astute cultural critics, writing of art, performance, film, and literature incisively, with gusto and verve; she also happens to be an attuned and caring editor, one with whom I've benefited from working for many years. The lucky know that she is a writer of strange, pointed, fictions, too. I have watched Jennifer at work with students in a classroom, and she is an exacting and lively teacher. It's hard to imagine how any writer wouldn't learn from working under her winsome guidance.