Starving Artists 

A struggling arts magazine hopes you’ll be able to Listen? to its message.

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An ominous-looking winged figure peers out from the cover of the latest issue of Listen?, accompanied by the caption “Seraphim” in flaming letters. For editor-in-chief Emily Muntz, that juxtaposition between soaring with angels and dancing with the devil may hit a bit too close to home.


Listen?, which touts itself as a magazine of “literature, art, music, politics,” is also a magazine with a mission—to be a place for new artists to gain a voice. But just as you can’t live on love alone, apparently neither artistic integrity nor a strong purpose are enough to survive. Three issues into Listen?’s run, Muntz had to scramble to find enough money to publish a fourth.


Listen? is obviously a cause Muntz believes in. An English major at the University of Utah, Muntz is making her first venture into the publishing business. She freely admits she had no idea of what she was getting herself into when she signed on as editor, but has always had a “really good feeling about it.” She sees the magazine as a sort of spiritual calling, and an opportunity—not only for her, but for unknown artists across the valley.


The magazine is called Listen? for this very reason: It’s a metaphor for the magazine’s message. “Artists have something to say,” Muntz says. “Even something as bold as a political essay is a form of expression. We are asking you to listen.”


But she’s asking you to listen on her terms, which never makes things easy. The challenging content ranges from a CD review, written in the form of a break-up letter, to an argument for the existence of seraphim by a local pastor.


One piece analyzes the Book of Enoch, a book no longer included in the Bible, which deals with the creation and destruction of a race of giants. Another, “Hopefully Jesus is Too Busy,” is a sort of rant about the apocalypse. Muntz herself even contributed a full two-page essay on the black humor of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.


Right now Muntz and her editorial staff are compiling work for future issues, which could address such topics as education, cultural diversity, spirituality and war. Nothing has to deal directly with the topic of the issue—just as long as it is good. “I want stuff that blows my hair back,” Muntz says.


Another piece—a profile of the local clothing business Us Against One—points to Listen?’s goal of supporting the local community, which includes refusing to sell advertising to national companies. It’s about not getting involved with corporate America, says Muntz, but it also makes things a lot harder. Local businesses have smaller advertising budgets and are much warier about investing in a start-up publication.


The magazine managed to support itself through the first two issues on advertising; the third was published after Muntz supplemented the budget with her personal money. And the fourth—currently scheduled for mid-April—will be made possible by donations picking up the slack for what advertising can’t provide.


She’d be happy to find a reliable source for funding Listen? She lives off her student loans while she works about 40 hours a week, gathering grant applications and looking for investors.


Muntz said she doesn’t want to turn a profit but just to be able to pay her own staff and, at some point, her contributors. “They’re starving artists, too,” she notes. “Anyone who’s contributed, it’s probably cost them money.”


In a way, for Muntz, the magazine’s struggle mirrors the artist’s struggle. “I like the fact that we’re broke,” she says. “It’s not about the money for the artist, it’s about the art. You’ve got to love the cause.”


She certainly seems to. For her, the magazine signifies nothing less than freedom, a liberation of artists and a means for them to gain exposure.


And all problems will iron themselves out in the end, Muntz believes: “Anytime I’ve worried about anything in this magazine, it’s been all right.”

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About The Author

Bobbi Parry

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