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Opinion/Multi-arts

Four years on… Seesaw’s birthday wish

4 August 2021

As Seesaw Magazine celebrates its fourth birthday, its managing editors reflect on the lessons they’ve learned since pressing the publish button for the first time.

Back in August 2017, freelance arts journalists Varnya Bromilow and Nina Levy hit “publish” on Seesaw Magazine, and a new website dedicated to covering Western Australia’s arts scene was born.

Four years down the track, Seesaw’s current managing editors Rosalind Appleby and Nina Levy continue to cover WA’s vibrant arts community in an online magazine that is enjoyed by thousands of arts lovers. As they celebrate another birthday, the pair reflect on the journey so far.

Seesaw Magazine’s beginnings were the definition of humble – for the first two years we ran on the back of pure passion with the support of volunteers; no salaries for the editors, no fees for contributors. In the two years that have followed, we’ve become a not-for-profit association with four part-time salaried staff members, and a bevy of paid contributors who represent some of the best arts writers in the State.

We’ve published over 1100 articles since our inception, of which over 800 are reviews of WA-based shows, concerts, and exhibitions. We’ve expanded our features coverage to include issues facing the WA arts sector; in collaboration with Perth Festival we’ve run a mentoring program for emerging First Nations critics; we’ve launched a podcast… and we’re surviving a global pandemic that has seen repeated cancellations of the shows, exhibitions and concerts that are at the heart of our existence.

Seesaw editors Rosalind Appleby and Nina Levy in May 2019. Photo: Fionn Mulholland

Four years on, we’ve learned some valuable lessons. Here are some of the highlights:

It’s time to retire Perth’s “dullsville” label
There’s a perception that our capital city’s arts scene blossoms in summer, during the Fringe World and Perth Festival seasons, and then hibernates for the rest of the year, but we’re here to tell you, IT’S NOT TRUE.

There is no quiet time at Seesaw Magazine because there are, quite literally, shows, concerts and exhibitions opening every week, with the possible (but not definite!) exception of the week between Christmas and New Year.

World class local talent
It’s not just that there’s a lot of dance, music, theatre, and visual arts happening in WA, much of it is also world class. With borders shut, this year’s Perth Festival had no choice but to be almost entirely home-grown. Though we missed having international and interstate visitors, our local companies and artists rose to the challenge, providing a Festival as diverse and dynamic as any of its predecessors.

A thriving arts ecosystem
There’s a reason why the quality of WA arts is so high. With training institutions, a rich community of independent artists plus a number of institutions aimed at supporting and showcasing their work, many small-to-medium companies and galleries, and flagship companies/galleries across the genres, our state’s arts ecosystem is well fertilised.

There’s plenty to write about but…
Once upon a time, media publications made money from sales and advertising. In the era of online media, however, many prospective readers don’t want to pay for content. And with the rise of social media and the relatively cheap advertising options available on those platforms, advertising isn’t the cash cow it once was. The biggest challenge Seesaw faces is staying afloat financially because traditional financial models for media are failing.

Birthday “wishing well”
Our income streams currently include state government grants, philanthropic donations, private sponsorship, donations from arts organisations and donations from readers. That’s why for our birthday month we are creating a “wishing well”. If you love what we do, we’d love the support by way of a small donation to keep Seesaw Magazine alive.

We’ve come a long way from our humble beginnings. And we look forward to continuing to bring our readers more from #YourArtsPlayground for years to come!

Pictured top are Seesaw Managing Editors Rosalind Appleby and Nina Levy. Photo: Nardia Plumridge

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Rosalind Appleby & Nina Levy

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