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The Post and Courier's new arts critic 'talks tactics'

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Maura Hogan. Provided

You never know when that "Jerry Maguire" impulse may strike. For those fuzzy on the 1996 film starring Tom Cruise, I refer to the sequence when the titular sports agent feverishly pens a manifesto regarding the lofty promise of his chosen profession. Calamity, of course, ensues.

If you prefer your rallying cries to hew to the highbrow, Shakespeare serves up a die-hard doozy in “Henry V” as the king steels his men for battle. You might also consider “Saint Joan,” in which playwright George Bernard Shaw does the same for a fiercely determined Joan of Arc in the face of some serious heat.

With this in mind, I hereby issue my own declaration of intent, which, with any luck, won’t land me atop a funeral pyre. In the newly created role of arts critic at The Post and Courier, I aim to illuminate the work of artists across disciplines, with the express hope of igniting conversation throughout this community and beyond.

First, let’s talk tactics. My plan is to guide you to cultural experiences that nurse curiosities, provoke thoughts, stir emotions or just plain entertain. I’ll distill and demystify each work, assessing its success in delivering on its own intentions. In doing so, I’ll weigh whether or not engaging with that work merits your investment of time, travail and outlay.

From there, I’ll dive deeper. I’ll examine its insights into complex contemporary challenges, its inroads into other ways of living, its ability to offer a new lens on the world or its facility in eliciting a collective laugh.

I’ll go local, highlighting the voices and visions emerging from our own storied turf. Homegrown artists are the life force of a thriving, healthy arts community, whether they draw from local traditions or shed light on our present urban circumstance. At the same time, I’ll size up the curatorial picks of theater companies, music presenters, galleries and museums to consider the ways in which those choices lend to the cultural conversation.

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Then I’ll go global, exploring how these works play into broader trends. After all, Charleston’s acclaim as an international arts hub was established centuries ago, and its current prominence on the global map is evidenced regularly by happenings, including a long established international arts festival and a recent uptick in transatlantic flights.

Is there a prerequisite for joining this conversation? A pulse and a heart are essential. What is not required is a breadth of knowledge of Baroque opera or the underpinnings of abstract expressionism or an encyclopedic recall of the past few decades of Tony Award winners. That being said, a desire to make sense of today by way of compelling, considered works of art is heartily encouraged.

On the other hand, please check at the door the belief that the opinion of a critic is more valid or valuable than your own. From my point of view, effective criticism offers an informed perspective that gets the conversation started. That way, the numerous, diverse works of art can come together to provide the connective tissue that strengthens and shapes our ever-shifting, oh-so-mushrooming community.

To borrow from a final cultural reference, I’ll wend journalistic and call up “Citizen Kane.” In the Orson Welles' blockbuster, a would-be publishing titan runs a front-page declaration of principles in his newly acquired newspaper. Others keep it on hand to ensure that he remains firm of purpose. Feel free to likewise dredge up this declaration should you spot me veering off course — and hold my feet to that aforementioned fire.

In the meantime, I’ll get writing, so we can get talking.

Follow Maura Hogan on Twitter at @msmaurahogan.

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