DIRT is an independent platform, collective, and resource for accessible critical arts discourse. Originally founded in the DC, Maryland, Virginia (DMV) area, DIRT focuses on direct engagement with artists, culture, and the forces that impact them. With that in mind, our approach is not limited by geography. We are interested in tracing the overlaps, exchanges, and conversations amongst our peer art communities.
In an increasingly jargon-ridden and inaccessible contemporary art field, DIRT is interested in alternative and critical approaches to addressing arts, politics, and culture. By way of our collective approach, DIRT creates a space in which our editors, contributors, readers, collaborators, and peers have the space to explore, discuss, interpret, question, critique, and share. DIRT’s mission is to push and challenge the idea of what critical arts discourse looks like while discovering our own individual critical voices.
WHAT’S IN OUR NAME
DIRT is a medium of exchange: porous, flexible, fertile, nourishing. Symbolically, dirt is essential, basic, needed for all things to flourish while containing key remnants of the past.
Paying homage to the history of DC arts, DIRT pulls its name from an exhibition archived from the Museum of Temporary Art (MoTA), one of DC’s first alternative art spaces which ran from 1974 to 1982. This show exhibited various forms of dirt taken from Washington, DC: construction sites, Rock Creek park, etc., and drew upon the urban fabric of the city to creatively and critically respond to gentrification in DC. We are inspired and driven by this spirit and aim to re-invigorate the art scene that MoTA participated in.
DIRT was founded as a result of a shared notion that DC desperately needed a platform for critical and alternative arts discourse. In the summer of 2016, four of our founding editors (Ani, Martina, Ikram and Georgie) met through Transformer’s Exercises for Emerging Artists program - E13: Discourse. Through this program, our editors engaged with a series of mentor editors and writers from national arts publications—BmoreArt, Miami/Brooklyn Rail, Arts.Black, Pelican Bomb, and Glasstire. Not only did the mentors help work through the editing process, they also shared how their publications started, how they found financial support, and how they served their communities.
At the conclusion of the program, the strong momentum among these four participants led to an open conversation about how DC could greatly benefit from an independent arts publication and a platform for critical arts discourse. From there, it was a natural progression of wanting to include others from within the arts community who shared a similar perspective and understanding of this need — bringing Jordan and Valerie to the table. Five months after our founding, Andy Johnson was brought on as a full-time editor.