gallery owners Jessica Steeber (left) and Cassandra Smith have
channeled their art interests into producing a national art
There is a fine
line between running an art gallery and publishing an art magazine.
So, the best name for such a publication is, well, Fine Line, a hybrid
between a gallery and a traditional magazine. The new Milswaukee-based
publication is advertising-free and encourages the viewer to develop
an "understanding of and relationship to the ideas
presented," according to founder/friends Cassandra Smith and
Jessica Steeber. They had previously partnered in running the Armoury
Gallery, which closed in 2009.
being amateur connoisseurs of magazines and other printed materials,
neither of us have any previous experience in the publishing
industry," says Steeber about Fine Line, which debuted this past
summer. Subsequently, the first two issues were designed by a friend
with publishing experience, Jonathan Cassidy.
Yet Smith and
Steeber agree that managing the fabled, and much lamented, Armoury
Gallery contributed greatly to their approach and confidence. Being
working artists helped foster an additional level of trust and
The two funded
the gallery out their own pockets, holding down outside jobs to keep
both their art and the gallery alive. The gallery, which opened in
2008, hosted eight major exhibitions featuring 32 artists. But they
eventually agreed it was time to move on and focus their energy on
something more sustainable.
Steeber is a
native Milwaukeean and graduate of Mount Mary College, focusing on
history, literature and philosophy. Smith is from Rhinelander, moving
to Milwaukee for her BFA degree in sculpture from MIAD. They met while
interning at a Bay View boutique Fashion Ninja. Returning from a
six-month world jaunt, they dove almost immediately into organizing
the gallery, it took Smith and Steeber more than a year to narrow down
an approach they wanted to take, dabbling with the idea of blogs,
traveling curatorial projects, studio visits, restaurant/alternative
exhibition spaces and more formal approaches to art critique and
appreciation via SNAP Milwaukee. Figuring out what to do was naturally
a challenge, they admit. Yet they bravely took on every aspect of the
production, financing, promotion and development themselves, with
Cassidy helping make the leap between idea and execution.
Fine Line is
distributed in seven U.S. cities, as well as Berlin and Vancouver.
"Anyone who appreciates art and ideas could find something
worthwhile in Fine Line," Smith says.
issues under their collective belt, the women are changing their
approach for the next year, including more artist profiles,
biographies and interviews, as well as reducing the frequency of
publication to twice annually. "This will allow us to increase
and expand the content in each issue without saddling us further
financially," Smith says.
She handles a
majority of the contact with blogs, artists and venues. The research
is a joint effort and they maintain a private web album to store all
the artwork they are considering. "So, as we come across artists
we’re excited about, we both add images to the folder," she
featured artists have been David Maisel of San Francisco; Nina Nolte
from Dusseldorf; Brooklyn’s Angelina Gualdoni; and Sherif Elhage in
a majority of the design, image editing, research and inclusion of the
text, whether quotes, poetry and short excerpts from books or
For each issue,
they collectively choose the artists and the theme/title for the
issue. They revisit the layouts and image choices periodically through
the process, eventually coming to an agreement and sending it to the
printer under their self-imposed deadlines. Getting it all done makes
for another fine line.
Skinny on Fine Line
copies of Fine Line are $10 each, with a four-issue subscription
at $8.50 each. Shipping is additional. For more information, go