Mobile video booth lets anyone be an arts critic

Oct 10, 2011

A new form of “grass roots” arts journalism could soon be in store for Detroit.

Jennifer Conlin lives in Michigan and is one of the finalists in the Community Arts Journalism Challenge, a national competition to get more people engaged with the arts.

Her idea is called iCritic Detroit, and it would allow arts patrons to record their own reviews of an exhibit or event by hopping into a mobile video booth.

Conlin says the video booth "could sit in the lobby of a museum, it could be on the streets of the Heidelberg project, it can be moved around the city and it allows citizen journalism to take place for regular everyday people."

The videos would then be available for anyone to view online, so Conlin says "hopefully [people] will look at these reviews and say, 'I’m going to try that,' 'I’m going to go and experience that,' and 'I’ve never been to that part of Detroit.'"

Conlin, a freelance reporter for the New York Times, teamed up with the Barrington Stage Company in Massachusetts to develop iCritic Detroit.  The Barrington Stage Company alredy has an iCritic booth in its lobby; you can see the reviews on YouTube.

Conlin and the theater company received $17,500 from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Knight Foundation to come up with a business plan for the iCritic Detroit idea. They won’t know until next spring if their idea is one of the final winners of the competition, which comes with an award of up to $80,000.

Here's a list of the four other finalists in the NEA/Knight Community Arts Journalism Challenge:

  • In Charlotte, N.C., several major media outlets and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte will create the Charlotte Arts News Alliance, a collective of trained arts journalists who will publish across media platforms, including a newly developed app.

  • In Miami, ArtSpotMiami will be an online arts journalism marketplace and mobile application where citizen journalists pitch stories about the local arts scene, the public pays for the stories they like and traditional media organizations team with the citizen journalists to produce the stories.

  • In Philadelphia, through the use of staff, student, faculty, and affiliated journalists, Drexel University will partner with a for-profit newspaper, the Philadelphia Daily News, to greatly expand its arts coverage in Philadelphia. .

  • In San Jose, Calif., Silicon Valley Arts Technica is a three-part endeavor lead by The Bay Citizen that features a mapping component that will visually highlight arts events; a mobile app that will allow people to add comments, reviews and images; and a series of investigative reports probing the divide in arts funding between San Francisco and Silicon Valley.