Our place, your voices: Citizen journalist Jenn Schaub interviews community organizer Jenn Schaub
As one of the first approved content providers for The Rapidian, and dedicated CMC enthusiast, Jenn Schaub spends her days building community in Heartside and connecting artists to show opportunities. As part of the Avenue programing, Jenn has helped to oversee the creation of over 80 (!!!) Rapidian articles, engaging young artists to help spread the stories of peer artists. It was no surprise when she accepted this challenge to sit down with herself and discuss the impact of five years of The Rapidian on the local arts community, lady-to-self.
JS: How did you first get involved with The Rapidian?
Jenn Schaub: Well, as you know, The Rapidian was really a citizen led effort, built on a great CMC technology platform. George Wietor (CMC project guru) got me involved at the very start. In fact, our very first article also featured a PSA shot at the CMC’s GRTV studio, and featured an upcoming winter event. At the beginning, I was drunk on Laurie Cirivello’s special brand of citizen journalism lemonade, and we were just excited to have a place to share information about Avenue for the Arts events.
JS: But my question really is, like, why is The Rapidian SO important to the creative community? Aren’t there a TON of events magazines in GR telling people what events are coming up? Does there really need to be an online version written by citizen reporters?
Jenn Schaub: Well, of course, there are great online calendar resources in GR, but The Rapidian is SO MUCH more. Sure, we started out promoting events, but we realized pretty quickly that stories about the artists themselves and their creative processes, or profiles about business owners in the Heartside district, were so much more meaningful. If we were writing the stories, we could really clarify points that were important to the artists and tell a robust story about the people in our community. I mean, look at all of the artists’ profiles we have created over the years talking about form, function and the intersection of aesthetics and community. Also, citizen reporters write about issues, topics and people that are exciting to them. I would way rather read about what my neighbors are passionate about than watch the newest Buzzfeed video!
JS: So you seem like a cheerleader for The Rapidian, all supportive and shit. Do they PAY you to be their spokesperson? (narrows eyes suspiciously)
Jenn Schaub: Of course not! The Rapidian is GRASSROOTS, the real deal! It exists outside the power structure of mainstream paid advertizing media and is driven by the community’s politics and interests. Staff resources are spent connecting to new content providers and working alongside writers to create better pieces. They really act as curators helping to support the growth and creation of quality content. I am excited about The Rapidian because I see the positive impact citizen journalism in the community. Besides, I hardly get to write articles for The Rapidian any more…. well with the exception of this one.
JS: Yeah, what is with all of this “we” talk? Who is we? Who exactly writes the Avenue articles?
Jenn Schaub: Well the Avenue has a ton of AMAZING artists who participate and some of them are interested in art criticism, reviewing shows along the Avenue or writing about upcoming exhibitions. Inquisitive, insightful people- like Leah Burke, Claudia Armijo or most recently Dustin Coon- write the articles that the Avenue publishes. Often I work alongside them to help develop ideas and get the format uploaded, but luckily The Rapidan staff keep an eye out to make sure our content stays classy and is well written. The entire process results in individual artists growing better writing skills by sharing what is happening around them! And it’s a good thing they take the lead, because you aren’t that great of an interviewer…
JS: Hey, be nice!
Jenn Schaub: (Smiles)
JS: The Avenue for the Arts has had a pretty successful winter/spring season with a large Break it Down. Make it Better event, several successful First Fridays and Art.Downtown. which took place in April. How was The Rapidian important in supporting each of those events?
Jenn Schaub: Well, there are a few ways the Rapidian supports our community directly.
First, you might have heard that the Avenue has a pretty tight budget, we don’t have very many marketing dollars and so we try and raise awareness about our events and reach new audiences through all of the CMC’s resources. The Rapidian really lets us tell a complete story. As a content partner this last year we published over 20 interviews with artists and arts professionals, stories often being left out of mainstream publications, and those articles got 28% more readers because they were featured! Finally, we have been really lucky to partner with The Rapidian several times to help educate artists about how The Rapidian can act as a place to share art criticism: a necessary, sometimes lacking component of a healthy arts community.
JS: WHOA, did you just say the Grand Rapids arts community is somehow UNHEALTHY?
Jenn Schaub: No! Luckily this is a Rapidian article and I can clarify to let everyone know that what I meant was The Rapidian fills a need that isn’t filled by other outlets. And the Grand Rapids art community is the BEST. Geez! Stop putting words in my mouth!
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The Avenue for the Arts is a neighborhood title for the South Division commercial corridor. We are residential, commercial and nonprofit groups working together in a creative community. We are residents in Heartside, and active participants in shaping change in our neighborhood. In 2005, we chose the “Avenue for the Arts” as a title to represent our commercial corridor and the projects and events that we create. Because the Avenue is powered by volunteers, guest writers create our Rapidian content. Special thanks to Jenn Schaub for her contribution to this piece. Jenn is the Avenue for the Arts Coordinator, loves pizza, her super hot writer boyfriend Rickey, is obsessed with making pinch pots out of clay and spends her summers incessantly searching out new beaches and seeing art exhibitions. See more the Avenue’s articles by searching Avenue for the Arts in the Rapidian search bar!