Even in the most flexible of faculties, McGill keeps academia at the core of its curriculum. While this allows students to maintain the university’s reputation, it has the unfortunate side effect of keeping creative talent hidden. This is exacerbated by the lack of visual art classes at the school. As a result, art magazines (a surprisingly small number, though) have sprung up to fill the vacuum. A student interested in having their writing published has the choice between The Veg or Steps, while Folio curates artistic talents in visual and print media.
Can’t decide between The Veg and Steps for your newest chef d’œuvre? More traditional poetry and prose has a home in Steps, whose “focus is good writing, plain and simple.” On the other hand, more modern, radical, and experimental work can be found in the more alternative magazine The Veg, as they “aim to publish a diverse collection of writings that take risks and challenge readers.” To broaden its community and scope, The Veg does not make rules on who can submit to the magazine or join as a board member (it also offers a prize in “the hopes of encouraging […] literary pursuits”). Steps’ current board consists of two editor-in-chiefs, three prose editors, and two poetry editors. Folio’s non-hierarchical board is exclusively composed of undergraduates.
Folio is the most established of the three, something that comes through not only their past issues but also their relationships to the school and the city. The board keeps one or two editors to deal primarily with administration and funding, and it has forged relationships with the cultural community. Folio works with Montreal’s independent music community by promoting local musicians at their launch parties (if art and music is your thing, consider attending!). It also aligns with a more experimental artistic world, since it defines art broadly. In addition to traditional mediums, it also publishes music scores, film stills, and collages on its website. In their words, “your work doesn’t need to be ‘art’ – we’re interested in anything that can be captured and printed on a page. In fact, we love things that you wouldn’t ordinarily think of as art.”
The Veg prides itself on straying from academic writing, since they believe that school provides enough opportunities for the latter with its plethora of analytical essays, research papers, and honours theses. Additionally, The Veg seeks out diverse pieces with strong critical views. While there is no grading rubric to sort through submissions, more radical and controversial entries have been favoured. Then again, it comes down to the chemistry between the current editorial board and the pieces sent in for each edition, so this approach is never set in stone. Unlike Steps, which only publishes written pieces, The Veg does publish some black and white art, which makes it competitive with Folio as well.
Despite the differences between them, all the art magazines share a common value: fair and unbiased judgment. This principle is upheld by an anonymous submission policy, ensuring that only the work is being looked at, rather than the contributor’s personality or past submissions. Folio decides on only twelve pieces, but gives each person a two to four page spread. The other magazines are more flexible with the number of pieces published, since this tends to depend on the length of the work, while art takes up more space and usually has more colours, and is more expensive to print. For the editors, consensus is extremely important, which is why review sessions usually take hours. Steps sends an editor to work with the accepted authors if any revision is seen as necessary, while the other magazines do their editing independent of contributors.
Evidently, running an art magazine is difficult and time-consuming work. No wonder the editions of Folio, The Veg, and Steps only publish bi-annually. Works are submitted around February and March for the Winter editions, while October and November are the cut-offs for the Fall editions. After deciding on the entries, the editors spend weeks designing the layout of the magazine and working through the process of publishing, funding, and proliferating.
Perhaps funding is a reason why only three magazines exist for a campus of nearly thirty-five thousand. Folio, for example, expressed concern for its future as a magazine; while Folio has support from McGill’s Dean of Arts Development Fund, the Fine Arts Council of the McGill Arts Undergraduate Society, and the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU), they still depend on launch parties to raise money for printing costs.
While these three art magazines have put in substantial effort to accommodate the creative talents at McGill, there are still gaps that other new ventures could address. Not only do the magazines have specific writing styles that they look for, corresponding to each publication’s identity, but they can only publish a fraction of their submissions. By having more options for the McGill community, more opinions and ideas could be made available. The more involved students are in exploring their fellow students’ works, the more McGill will be able to have a cohesive art scene. While we definitely like the idea of having art magazines to represent our identities at the school, we do not make the effort to interact with and support these outlets. Having looked at these three entities, the lack of artistic appreciation McGill’s academic structure provides becomes apparent. We have adjusted by starting our own groups around campus; however, McGill needs to be more engaged with its students at a more fundamental level. While the editors I spoke with were clearly passionate about their work, they also lamented the difficulties of getting funding and recognition from the administration. With such a lack of creative experimentation within our classrooms, SSMU and the university administration should do more to encourage artistic expression by providing the means for current and future art magazines to exist.
You can find the archives for Folio (foliomagazine.ca), Steps (stepsmagazine.wordpress.com), and The Veg (thevegmagazine.tumblr.com) online. The Veg’s Fall edition will be published at the end of November, and you can attend their reader series on November 25 at Le Cagibi. Folio and Steps are still working on processing submissions and curating the pieces. You can also expect their Fall editions to appear in the next few weeks.