The Power of Print

If you are holding CAN Journal in your hands as you read—printed on paper, in the familiar, long-understood format of a magazine—it is entirely possible that you have never looked at its website, blog, weekly e-newsletter on a computer screen. Indeed, the staff and board of directors learned through the strategic planning process that one of the first things readers of CAN think of regarding CAN Journal is its gorgeous, luxurious existence in print.

This fall, we are celebrating ten years in print—a little more than that, actually—with a party to honor archiving relationships with Cleveland Public Library, Case Western Reserve University Kelvin Smith Library and Cleveland Institute of Art Jessica R. Gund Memorial Library, and the Artists Archives of the Western Reserve. As archiving partners, each of those institutions will have in their collections complete, archivally-boxed sets of the first ten years of CAN Journal—boxes lined with papers handmade by Cleveland artists. There’s a digital component of these relationships, too, making the whole thing searchable in a form beyond CAN’s own website. We imagine that if anyone wanted to research the impact of public funding on art, or the way galleries and studios and museums coped with the COVID-19 pandemic, or how they evolved and responded to the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement, they could find all that on the pages of CAN Journal. Fittingly, the party is at Cleveland Public Library’s sensational old reading room, Brett Hall, designed by Walker and Weeks, graced by Rebecca Louise Law’s magnificent floral installation, The Archive. We hope you’ll come.

Print is not only durable, but its tangible presence in the real world gives it another power, too. We know teachers and artists working in the community often give CAN Journal to students to show them specific stories or connect them to local art. CAN board member Mary K. Thomas does this when she works with students in East Cleveland. Mister Soul gives it away in classes he visits while doing outreach on behalf of the Inspire Your City project. It works because they can hand the students a physical object.

Print has power to make other connections, too. We learned that one of the stories we told earlier this year got amplified nationally: “The ABCs of Rediscovery”—the story of Langston Hughes and Cleveland artist Elmer Brown’s collaboration on an almost-forgotten abecedarium, presented in an exhibit curated by students of the Cleveland Museum of Art’s Currently Under Curation program, on view at ARTneo—reached the hands of a producer for Ideastream Public Media, who made their own radio story, which was picked up by National Public Radio. Similarly, a writer for the New York Times saw our story in print and wrote their own for one of the nation’s most important and widely-read newspapers.

We’re not Luddites. We know the power and contagion of the digital age, too: the way stories and pictures spread around the world in an instant, the way the entire online record can be searched with a few keystrokes. One of our own most powerful tools is the CAN Weekly e-newsletter, sent free to anyone who signs up, with a 42 to 45 percent “open” rate. We know people want and read this content.

And besides that, we’re keenly aware that print is expensive. In fact, the cost of printing CAN Journal has increased 25 percent in the last two years. And while CAN prints on paper from sustainably-managed forests, of course we share your concern for the trees.

For all those reasons, we’re planning to reach out to stakeholders—from artists to readers to the organizations who tell their stories on these pages—to get their input about the role of print versus digital publication as we go deeper into the twenty-first century. Watch for details.

In the meantime, we’re thrilled to bring you the Fall 2023 issue of CAN Journal. We look forward to seeing you.

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