Jay Handelman, arts editor at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, sometimes feels like one of the last survivors of a critically endangered species. And he’s not wrong. Over the last couple of decades, the number of full-time, health-insurance-enrolled, 401(k)-contributing newspaper arts critics has declined more precipitously than the Siberian tiger population.
There’s no question that the arts criticism world is primarily a white world, with few BIPOC (Black, Indiginous and people of color) voices in the mix. Frustrated by that fact, Jose Solís, co-founder and co-host of the Token Theatre Friends podcast, decided to take matters into his own hands by creating the BIPOC Critics Lab, meeting for 10 weeks via Zoom with eight future critics from around the country.