GlassTire Transcript

There is nothing like Glasstire in Texas. There is not anything really like Glasstire in most of the country.

My name is Rainey Knudson, and I am the Founder and Director of Glasstire. We’re essentially an online magazine. We cover the whole state of Texas. We’re not doing just a city. We’re not doing performing arts. We’re doing the state of Texas, the visual art community.

The site has writing about the arts in Texas, so we commission original articles and blogs and we write about it, and we have events listings, so all the museums and galleries in Texas get their events listed if they make the cut.

Glasswire’s on the Web, so we are in operation 24/7. We have me. I’m the founder, and I used to be the editor, but I’m not the editor anymore. So we have an editor, [Kelly Classmire], who’s a long-time Houston arts writer, and then we have two other editors, [Bill Davenport], who does the news, and [Liz Ashebrenner], who does our events listings. And then we work with regular bloggers. And over the course of the year, we probably work with like 35, 40 writers.

Everybody at Glasswire is paid, and I — that is something I feel very strongly about. I think you get what you pay for (a), and (b), I think people should be rewarded for their work.

Glasswire is a 5013(c) so we do all the fundraising, grant writing. We have a big event we do every December, individual contributors, all that kind of stuff, board of directors, and then we also have advertising, so we have this nice earned income and unearned income component of our budget.

Financially, it hasn’t been that hard to keep things together until 2009, when all of nonprofits took a hit. Our total budget in 2008 was 198,000; 2009’s going to be down.

We get a lot of coverage to like the big shows that everyone knows about, like [Bruce Nowman] at the [Maneel] Collection or [Susan Rothenberg] at the Forth Worth Modern. But we like to find that — we like to uncover that story from under the rock that really deserves coverage, that is really — no one’s going to know about this, you know, and we’re going to like bring it to the light of day. That’s what we’re — that’s what I get most excited about.

What we’re trying to do is inform and entertain an audience about the best of Texas visual art, and some of that is institutional and in museums, and some of that is funky and grassroots.

Glasstire has always striven to embrace our — its Texanness. It really is a place that encourages people to start new projects and build new things and do whatever you want, go, go, and that’s a really — that’s a wonderful aspect of the culture there, and it certainly is part of the culture that enabled me to get Glasstire off the ground.

An Internet website was the ideal way to cover all of this territory, so I was kicking around different glass combinations — glass sponge, glass bottle — and then I remembered this [Rauchenberg] — [Robert Rauchenberg] big exhibit that was in ’98 that the three museums in Houston had done — the Contemporary Arts Museum, the MFAH, and the [Maneel] — and when you walked into the [Maneel] collection, right there as you walked in, just sort of beautifully lit, there was this glass — one of his glass tires. And I always remembered that piece and loved that piece, and I loved that [Rauchenberg] was referencing his older work, and I loved that it kind of evokes car culture and highway culture, and there’s this inherent tension in the title and so it’s an homage to [Robert Rauchenberg], who is from Texas.

I’m from Houston originally. I grew up there. I went to Rice University for undergrad there, and then I left and never ever thought I would come back to Texas ever, ever. And after a couple of years, I realized that I really loved Houston, and I loved living in Texas, and I loved the cities in Texas, and I ended up really just falling in love with the place that I was from and getting to know it in a way that I had never known it growing up.

What I had never wanted to do was an art magazine with a lot of white space that took itself really seriously. We really try to have a sense of irreverence about this whole thing. We want writing that is really smart but also entertaining to read.

Glasstire is a model for new arts journalism because we are one of the first regionally focused websites, and this seems like a pretty ordinary idea nowadays, but when we started, people were like, “Why on earth would you have this regional focus? You’re on the Internet. Do everything. Be everywhere.” But we decided really early on that we did not want to cover national and international arts events; we wanted to be the national/international source for Texas visual art. This is what everyone realizes about the Internet now is you want hyper-regionalism. You want that expert on the ground there to tell everybody else what’s cool.

We’re not a content aggregator, and I think a lot of websites feel like they are content aggregators, and that’s my job, and they want to be the go-to place for everything.

In business school, they always talk about the first-mover advantage or in the business world they talk about the first-mover advantage, the first company to take a new product out or to take an existing product into a new geographical region. And I’ve always with Glasstire used like a 20th-mover advantage. So we watch everybody else do stuff, and then we do something, particularly with the technical innovations of the site. You know, we all know that television and the Internet are becoming one, and so we’ve been watching this and watching how sites deal with this, and we are now like doing our bit for that because I don’t think websites are going to be just static text for long.

We all look at these sites that are doing traditional news sites, like the New York Times site that’s doing new Web-only stuff and new interactive and video and slide shows and all that stuff, and so I think we’re working towards that, as well, the 20th mover advantage.

We measure our success — 90% of it is our traffic, the growth of our traffic. I mean it’s very quantitative. We can look at it very statistically. We’ve had 60% more traffic over the past year, and we are probably about 60% Texas and 40% outside of Texas right now.

I definitely think Glasstire is a model that would work elsewhere. I would love to see Glasstire grow to other regions, but wherever it would ever end up if it ever did, I think it would always have a regional focus.

I think we’re a model for arts journalism also just because we’ve survived a really long time. We’re very stable now. Funders look at us, and they’re not worried is the founder going to be able to sustain this project, is she going to get bored. We’ve all been here for a while now.

We used to be more review focused, and then when [Kelly Classmire], our editor, came on board in 2007, she developed a few new series that were kind of getting away from that, and they were opportunities for art world people, artists, and curators specifically, and sometimes collectors and other people to talk about things in a different way, and so she came up with these three series —

“The worst piece of art I ever made,” which is where artists talk about the worst piece of art they ever made, and it’s very — it’s her effort to get — to sort of demystify the art making process.

Another series she’s introduced is the “10 List,” which is a way to — it’s not a list per se; it’s just like a way to let people put ideas together without having to write a whole essay.

As a website, we, from the very beginning, were kind of discovering, as everybody was discovering with the Internet, like, oh, you know, people are logging on at three in the morning. We need to have something for them. Even a daily newspaper, it’s yesterday’s news, and these days, that’s not good enough anymore.

I don’t believe that we’re entering this crazy new paradigm that people want to believe. I think people want their news. I think want their entertainment. They want their coverage. And because they’re getting it on a computer screen that’s, frankly, a lot easier to deal with than a printed newspaper is not a cause for dismay. On the contrary, I think it’s a painful transition.

The thing with the Internet is timeliness and bandwidth, and so we’re trying to do more multimedia. That’s the big thing. I feel very optimistic.

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