To quote my letter of resignation:
"At a Board Meeting on Thursday, May 11, 2000, it was with sincere and humble regret that I announced to the Board of Intermission for the Arts my desire to resign from Intermission Magazine.
There is no doubt that I sincerely believe in the potential of Intermission, and that my dedication for the past 1 year and 8 months has evolved into a tried and true passion for the arts, the magazine, and the city of St. Louis. Yet, my personal resources are exhausted. I cannot continue to dedicate every waking hour to the Magazine anymore."
Cats Have Nine Lives (Intermission Magazine had four)
As I made that announcement in the office of Intermission Magazine, I studied the faces of the five most important people in my life, and without a sound their expressions spoke the same words to me: "Well, that's it." Still, every one of us loved that newspaper. I often referred to Intermission as our "troubled, adopted teenager."
Since 1988, Intermission had inhabited three previous foster homes. Before the Board created Intermission for the Arts, the not-for-profit organization, which would incubate other programs like Venus Envy and the St. Louis poetry SLAM!, Verna Kerans "gave birth" to Intermission Magazine; Jeannie Breeze housed it for four years, and Michael O'Brian harbored it for one. Each time it changed hands it also changed identities.
On that day, we agreed that if the magazine had not yet resurfaced by September 2001, we would put it to rest forever.
Why Did I Open My Mouth?
I had no idea what I was doing when I jumped up at a "last-straw" staff meeting called by Michael O'Brian and said, "...I'll do it." At that time, I had written a total of five stories for the paper. I had moved to St. Louis from Arkansas only a year prior to that meeting, and all I had was a BFA in studio art and a year of making corporate art under my belt.
In a matter of months, I learned so much about publishing, computers and the not-for-profit industry that I thought I'd explode. I gave myself the titles of Editor-in-Chief and President of the Board. Kevin McCameron became Executive Director and Treasurer of the Board. This is a near-illegal conflict of interest had we ever actually paid ourselves.
Is This Hell?
Kevin and I practically lived in that office. We breathed, ate and slept Intermission Magazine. We worked part time jobs at the City Museum and Millstone Fine Arts Gallery to survive. I'll never forget the day when I interviewed 13 influential women in the visual arts for our Women's History Month issue. Gail Cassilly sat down, looked at me, seemingly fascinated, and said, "You work for me, don't you?" Then there was the time when Kevin and I laid bubble wrap out on the reception table in the lobby of the Midtown Arts Center and slept.
This is Hell
Month after month, we tortured ourselves sacrificing our mental and physical health. Between mail, fax and e-mail we received an average of 100 press releases a day. We worked with 30-50 volunteers a month. Volunteer staff members began to affectionately refer to the week of production as "Hell Week." This probably had something to do with the Manson-like crazed look in our eyes. We stared at a computer screen for 10-12 hours at a time. And as I was half-toning photos, editing stories and typing calendar listings, I was simultaneously planning the content of the next month's issue. Finally, I began to understand what it was that nearly killed Jeannie Breeze and destroyed Michael O'Brian's will to continue.
We strove to cover virtually every cultural event and artistic personality that came across our desks. It was our duty. We were obligated to our volunteers, our subscribers, our advertisers and to St. Louis as a whole. Unfortunately, the obligation was not reciprocated sufficiently. We always paid our bills, but there was never anything left for our staff or ourselves.
The Cost of Free Speech
Ever since the PMRC threatened my right to listen to heavy metal and rap music in the early '80s, I have been obsessively passionate about our freedom of expression.
Intermission gave me a forum and turned me into an activist for the arts. It was the opportunity of a lifetime. Little did I know, people were actually reading the words we printed.
In the wake of Ed Golterman's crusade to save the Kiel Opera House and just after Grand Center, Inc. released their arts district feasibility study, I chose this topic for an editorial column. My words, "Grand Center and the Fox Theatre do not play well with others," cost us a $2,000 per year ad contract with the Fox Theatre.
Twelve years of perceived instability, unfounded criticism from our constituents (I am all too amazed by how negative St. Louisans can be), and the lack of funding are the reasons we were not able to revive the magazine after a one-year hiatus. The Board vowed to pay magazine staff appropriately. We determined that we would need at least $18,000 to operate the magazine with paid staff for three months. Since my resignation, all of Intermission's Board Members have adopted lots of other responsibilities. Raising the funds to begin publishing again slowly became less of a priority. It was clear. We had to let it go.
This is the End
I'll try to sum it up in two sets of 12 little letters.
The first set: Sell. Sell. Sell. Whether you're publishing a newspaper or soliciting investors or raising funds, those three little words are the foundation for any successful business venture. The bottom line: it is a business. No organization can survive without a "salesman" busting his or her ass at least 40 hours a week.
The second set: Keep the Faith. This closing statement that I've used in many letters and columns has also been my mantra since Junior High. I stole it from a Billy Joel song. I hate Billy Joel, but I find solace knowing he did not invent this phrase or define the meaning of it in my life. When you're pursuing a dream with raw, youthful and naïve energy like we were, faith is all you have.
Mallarie Zimmer is the communications coordinator for Craft Alliance.