A Look At The Riverdale Review's Art Section Through The Years
The Riverdale Review has not always had named sections as it currently does, and while there have been articles about the arts in many early runs of the paper, they lacked an identifiable Arts section. As newfangled media forms like musicals and video games came into their own in modern culture, so too did they appear in the paper, and as the Arts section developed, it became clear that it was anything but limited in coverage. Here is a look at the arts section through the years.
In the 1930s and 40s, most of the arts-related articles focused on theater and book reviews. In February 1935, for instance, the paper reviewed “The Petrified Forest” by Robert E. Sherwood (a playwright of still-extant reputation), and the month after it reviewed the book “Condemned to Love” by Joseph Rabner. Movies and music make less prominent and regular appearances, but are given space. The May 1941 edition, for example, reviewed “Citizen Kane” upon its release. While this showing reflects the taste of affluent students who can afford to go to the theater, for instance, most of what they describe is relatively accessible.
Outside of pronouncements about school plays and a couple scattered Broadway reviews, the Arts section went into radio silence in the 1950s. The 1960s saw a few plays and movies in equal proportion with the October 1963 edition reviewing both the play adaptation of Edgar Lee Masters’ “Spoon River Anthology,” a play familiar to many drama students. The 60s also marks the beginning of Off-Broadway articles and the growth of Off-Broadway theater.
The 70s saw an influx of articles on plays, movies, music, and even television (which was new for a paper which started when the Ottoman Empire still existed). In December 1977, the paper reviewed both a production of Dylan Thomas’ “Under Milk Wood,” and the television adaption of “I, Claudius.” This trend mostly continued into the 80s, where the arts saw limited exposure in the paper, and the 90s where they rather languished. On November 9th, 2000, as if by revelation, the Arts section appears, for real, in all its glory! Later that november, the Arts section was mysteriously replaced with a “Movies” section, but by March 2001 it reappeared. This nomenclatural instability revealed a fundamental change: the era of Broadway dominance was over. Since the turn of the millenium, the paper has focused much more on film, music, and visual art. November 2004 saw the paper report on the Museum of Modern Art’s reopening right above a review of “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason,” while the September 2007 printing featured a review of “Transformers” and “Ocean’s Thirteen” flanked by a look back at “A Clockwork Orange.” Broadway shows still were (and are) featured, but they had their status as the predominant type of art article.
For a long time, the art section gave perhaps an undue weight to Broadway at the cost of de-emphasising other media like film. While Broadway shows can be expensive (and the price does seem to get more outrageous every hour), their special status in New York and artistic merit, in some cases, justify their inclusion. In the Arts section the Review has diversified, especially in its later years, and now a variety of affordable and accessible forms of artistic expression are represented. Art is the ultimate link between humans of all classes, peoples, and creeds. Art is produced by those who die penniless, like Vincent van Gogh, and those who started out poorer than that, like Frederick Douglass. Art has been made by the Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent and by people with lives lost to time, like Sappho. In every place, among every people, there is art. Not one kind of art, mind you, not at all.
In the variety of artistic expression we find a sort of unity. There is unity of passion, and a unity through the fact that art provokes everyone to some response, different as our responses may be. In reporting on art, the final product will always somehow reflect the prejudice of its producer, but we should not let that devalue the common understanding and self-betterment we can find through aesthetic study.