Let’s just get the bad news out of the way up front: Art Papers, the venerable Atlanta-based magazine, will cease publication and operations in 2026, which happens to be its 50th anniversary.
But before the lights are switched off, there’s still much to be done, according to new executive/artistic director Sarah Higgins. Art Papers announced Higgins for the newly created role this week, and it will be her mission to oversee the implementation of a “radical new strategic plan,” which will lead to the organization’s “controlled conclusion of operations” in 2026.
Higgins, who joined Art Papers in 2018 as interim editor, said the three-year strategic plan is designed to celebrate the legacy of the publication and arrive at a meaningful end after 50 years of covering the art world.
Higgins said the decision to ease out of existence was prompted by systemic challenges that are not unique to Art Papers, but hopes that the next three years will be a catalyst to fertilize the ground for new arts platforms and practices to emerge.
“Sustainability is not in the cards for us,” Higgins said in a candid interview with Rough Draft. “But we don’t want to simply disappear or retreat and retreat with survival in mind until we fade into obsolescence. We don’t want people to say, ‘Oh, Art Papers is still around?’ So, we’re asking people to come along with us on an emotional roller coaster.”
Higgins said the three-year strategic plan allows Art Papers to “do something really different and exciting.”
“There’s still time to do something ambitious. We are going to continue publishing meaningful and thoughtful essays, interviews, and reviews at ArtPapers.org. We’re going to dive into our archive and revisit our history,” she said.
There will also be a series of public programs to acknowledge that arts organizations are facing sustainability issues all over the country.
“We’re going to use the reality of Art Papers’ challenge to host conversations, then use our publishing infrastructure to create a resource for what comes next,” Higgins said. “We want these last three years to be something people talk about and for future arts organizations to point back and say this is the time when seeds were planted for ideas that will work and keep us sustainable. That’s part of our legacy work.”
Another part of the legacy is completing an extensive archive, which is held by Emory University, and creating a hardback book called “50 Years of Art Papers.” Higgins said a fundraiser will be conducted for the publication of the book, which she envisions as “a kind of family reunion.”
“We want past editors, contributors, artists who have been central to Art Papers to be involved,” she said, likening the book to a greatest hits with some new tunes thrown in.
Higgins acknowledges that starting a new role that will lead to shutdown is unusual, but also an exciting challenge. She said she’s embracing the metaphor of “fire ecology – where old growth must burn to enrich the soil and fertilize new growth.”