Literature 10-6-2011

Arts Journalism 101: Anatomy of an Article (The Preview)

A primer for writers new to the field: A breakdown of the basic arts preview

Anatomy of an Article

The Preview

This is a great sort of article for beginning arts writers who are just starting to get their feet wet in arts journalism. This is a relatively uncritical piece that is intended, primarily, to offer interested readers/viewers a heads-up about a show/exhibition/film/etc they may want to see that’s opening in the near future. And, newspapers and local arts and culture rags and arts websites run these sorts of articles frequently, so you’ll find lots of outlets for this writing, too. The parameters of coverage are clear and confined to just one event/project, so your task is clean and straightforward.


You’re aiming to provide background info on the participants/project, a clear description of what the event will involve, and to offer some good quotes about the project from the principals involved. The objective behind this kind of piece is straightforward: you’re generally trying to give background and descriptive info about a show/event that will help potential audiences connect with the artwork/performance/music/film being offered. Be sure to confirm that you have accurate date/time/venue/ticket information; your editor will appreciate that information.

Define the audience

It helps if you can offer clear cues to readers that indicate who will find this event/project most appealing. Help the people who will most enjoy this understand that it’s for them.

Get some good behind-the-scenes quotes

You have a real advantage in getting some quotes for preview articles; the people you’ll need to talk to are motivated to get the word out and usually easily available for a chat.

Provide context

Provide context for the upcoming work by offering a bit of background on work the artist(s) has done prior to this, where does this fit into the larger scene? Tell a story, offer a sense of where this current piece fits into an artist’s career, and even more broadly, in the bigger regional and national field of work by similar artists.

Get links, photos, and any multimedia clips you can

There are often good PR materials to draw from for upcoming events-it’s always nice to gather photos, video clips, sound files, etc, that will augment your written work.

Susannah Schouweiler

Susannah Schouweiler is a writer, editor, and museum wonk. For 12 years, she was Editor-in-Chief of Mn Artists at the Walker Art Center and responsible for publication of original arts writing on the homepage, blog, and social media assets. Back in the day, she served as Editor of Ruminator magazine, a nationally distributed art and lit mag. She has written on the arts for a number of regional and national outlets, including Hyperallergic, Rain Taxi Review of Books, MinnPost, The Growler, …   read more