Having been a regular reader of ARABELLA, the quarterly magazine featuring the best in art, design and architecture, I thought my own readers would like to learn more about this gorgeous glossy mag and meet the publishers who bring us the beautiful images and stories of those who create and exhibit such masterpieces. You can view the magazine here: www.arabelladesign.com
Debra and Brian Usher have been supporting Canadian and international artists and galleries with their magazine for many years – in fact, I first met them at Westmount Gallery in Toronto several years back when I was working with artist Bruce Lawes whose stunning hyper-realistic equine paintings were being showcased there at the time. While gallery visitors ooo’d and aaah’d at Bruce’s work, I quietly sat in a corner eagerly thumbing through the current issue of Arabella, intrigued by the contents and marveling at the new artist discoveries to be had inside the covers. (2 of Bruce Lawes’ equine paintings have been featured on the cover – below) After many years of living and publishing their magazine in Toronto, a couple of years ago Debra and Brian decided the time was right for a move down east so they purchased an historic home and barn in the seaside town of St. Andrews, New Brunswick and established their business in this picturesque new location. I recently caught up with them via phone and asked them to share their thoughts on the art world, publishing and their new home amidst the salt air and crashing Atlantic waves….
What first inspired you to launch a big glossy art magazine? We didn’t start with the idea of “big and glossy” but instead looked at what other art magazines were doing and tried to determine how well they provided art consumers and art lovers with an experience that portrayed both the art and the artist in the most effective way. The artists and galleries we talked to were concerned about reaching a wider audience as the standard “art tours” had pretty much ran their course and their audiences were dwindling. We started with the business idea – how can we best promote and support the sale of art? To accomplish this we needed to really reach a national and international audience.
A magazine with national and international distribution required a look and feel unlike anything on the book-shelves. While “big and glossy” is often seen as a waste of a natural forestry resource, it in fact was an important feature for ensuring that ARABELLA was going to be treated much like a coffee-book, a keepsake that could take readers on an artistic and engaging journey that lasts beyond a quick scan and becomes a lasting visual and narrative treasure.
When we looked at “the competition” for the most part, other art related publications seemed to be more focused on “critical dialogue” as this was central to their not-for-profit, charitable commitments to “educating the public”. As a result their editorial content tends to place more of an emphasis on thoughtful, academic analysis and less on the raw, emotional experience of the visual. We knew we had to get beyond the boundaries of conventional art publications. ARABELLA had to be about beauty in all its forms and provide readers with an unforgettable reading experience! It was a gamble on our part but we had all sorts of feedback that the audience for critical dialogue was much smaller than the audience of those who want to be visually and emotionally engaged by the art, the artists and their stories. Maybe it’s just a different audience, but we now believe they overlap. So, we started ARABELLA in order to help support and promote artists and galleries from a commercial perspective first and recognized that in order to sell art the consumer or reader had to get as close to the art as possible. In designing our format, we emphasized the visual through full colour large scale imagery which requires the highest quality of printing – or as you say “big and glossy”.
As opposed to presenting “analysis and critical dialogue” from an external, expert perspective, we decided to focus on what is now pretty much accepted as the most critical aspect of selling – i.e. namely to tell stories, particularly from the perspective of the artists and the gallery owners. ARABELLA gives artists and galleries their own voice and helps readers connect with the people behind the art.Are you both artists yourselves? Have you dabbled in any creative arts? Both our careers have involved multiple aspects of creative arts. Brian and I have been involved in painting, photography, and creative crafts.
For the most part, these activities have been secondary to us pursuing business careers that focused on helping entrepreneurs grow their businesses through effective change management and leadership development. Anyone involved in these aspects of businesses will recognize and identify with the creative processes and innovation required for success.
With so many newspapers and magazines going out of business on almost a monthly basis, how do you keep Arabella relevant & popular? Well actually that’s two questions. I’ll deal with last one first. The relevance and popularity factors are pretty much driven by having a strong network in the commercial side of the art world. We are constantly monitoring and research trends and patterns through direct contacts; as many forms of media as possible; and feedback from artists, as well as our readers.
The format and editorial focus on the magazine, as outlined above, is built on understanding what is popular and relevant with our readership. It pretty much follows that we have a very strong chance of addressing customer needs.
The issue of newspapers and magazines going out of business is really a direct result of these mediums failing to understand what readers are looking for in their lives. ARABELLA recognizes a critical reality – namely that we are in the entertainment business. Our readers are looking for an opportunity to take a journey, to appreciate beauty and make it a part of their lives.
Having said that, our biggest challenge is funding the production of the magazine through direct advertising revenue. This is a problem that we share with newspapers and other magazines.
Brian, a couple of years ago, you moved home & business out to St. Andrews, New Brunswick, from Ontario – how did this move impact your work and lives? And can you tell us about your lovely new home? Our move to St. Andrews was first and foremost a lifestyle decision. We were first enchanted by the people, and the architectural and cultural charm of the town and the region. Something about moving to the sea seemed almost like a natural at this point in our lives.
There’s no denying that there were clear economics involved as the real estate values were significantly more affordable. But at the same time we realized that a lot of what we do to produce the magazine is actually done via the internet and we actually had already established a virtual team of writers, photographers, and designers. With access to “relatively high-speed” internet we thought the move was well worth it.
There have been some limitations – but most of these are now under control as we have now established a local New Brunswick production team and we are looking to reach a wider audience by using a Toronto-based publicity specialist and targeted advertising to continue to expand our footprint in the market. The one limitation Debra will be sure to mention is access to the range of food stuffs we were used to in Ontario. But no question the seafood is bountiful and we have a much better appreciation for what’s involved in being a part of the fishing industry on the East Coast. It’s certainly not an easy occupation, particularly given the amount of time spent on the ocean in winter months.Our new home (pictured above) is locally described as a Maritime Gothic Revival residence and is listed in the Canadian Registry of Historic Places. The original house was built in 1825 as a rectory for the first Roman Catholic priest and the house is now known as The Anchorage.
This style is characterized by the three Gothic gables that break the plane of the roof-line. The central and largest cross-gable, with a pitched roof, is flanked by two smaller cross-gables with jerkin head roofs. The cross-gables are heavily molded and each contains Gothic Revival windows. Gable returns and single-story bay windows are used in the side façade. This attractive property has beautiful grounds which, when built, occupied an entire block-face.It has both the charms and the wrinkles of a building that age. One of St. Andrews most historically significant homes, The Anchorage has been fully restored and up-dated while remaining faithful to its design and character. The main house has undergone several renovations and extensions over the years with the addition of a major size barn/garage now adjoining the swimming pool area. This building is almost critical for housing all of Debra’s various
Your gallery advertisers are treated to lots of non-traditional perks such as editorial coverage of their shows and individual artist profiles – how has this impacted your relationships with advertisers? You’re right! The promotional aspects of the business involve a combination of advertising placement; features on galleries and artists; and social media promotion for artists, galleries and events. It’s an extensive package and the editorials are extensive (usually 16 pages) and provide an excellent marketing vehicle for individual artists and their galleries. This service is not offered by other Canadian or US art magazines. With more and more magazines going strictly online, have your subscribers remained loyal to the quarterly hardcopies? Let’s face it, Arabella is more like a collectors’ coffee table book than a regular magazine. ARABELLA is available both in print and online versions. You’re right about the magazine being more like a collectors’ coffee table book. That was our intent from the get-go. We have both print and online subscribers but the unanimous feedback we get is that there’s nothing like the print version. Only print can present the visually stunning content and readers consistently remarks about the importance of “touch” and physically turning pages. You’ve just released a new hard-cover art book, The Love of Flowers, and previously had published It Starts With a Dream, your first hard-cover book highlighting images of Canadian art, architecture and design. What’s next on your book publishing agenda – can you give us a hint or two?
We are currently planning the creation of a book to be released in the spring of 2018, as homage to the coastal areas of Canada and the artists who capture its mystery and its siren call. Four hundred (400) pages of extraordinary art and artist profiles will be showcased through a myriad of forms, styles, and mediums. At the forefront of the book, Canada’s legendary artists – both living and remembered – will be featured. These will include Alex Colville, Mary Pratt, Christopher Pratt, Tom Forrestal, William Forrestal, Fred Ross, David Blackwood, and Maude Lewis. Following these featured Canadian icons will be 40 other Maritime artists, each celebrated with an eight-page profile, with full-bleed images of their best art and words to describe their own personal stories. This book will heighten any art collection, jump off bookshelves in Indigo and Barnes and Nobles stores across the continent, become gracious gifts for family and friends, and will have a special spot on coffee tables everywhere.And any exciting new artists or galleries being featured in the next Arabella (and when is it due for publication)? Frank Hyder is truly one of our more unique artists to grace the pages of Arabella Spring 2017. His unique sculptural heads and swimming fish are bound to capture our readers’ attention.
Spring 2017 will have an assortment of artists but this issue more than any other will showcase the work of artists across the country as well as their will be quite a selection of 3 dimensional work as well as paintings and craft.
We are bringing back two stunning architectural homes – one from Paris and the other from California.
A new feature is the gallery listings and shows at the back of the periodical. We are trying to make each issue more in keeping with a book, and the cover will be slightly heavier – more life a soft cover book.
We introduce in this issue the start of Gallery Owners and Collectors Comments which should interest a lot of readers to hear different points of view from around the country.
To read the current issue online, plus subscription and advertising information, visit: www.arabelladesign.com
A little more about ARABELLA magazine:
ARABELLA’s mission is to produce the most exquisite Canadian Art, Architecture & Design magazine edited for those with a passion for transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary and living life well. A truly unique Canadian magazine created for people who aspire, are achieving, or have already accomplished a luxury style of life reflecting what it means to be Canadian.
Each issue presents original, in-depth editorial on the best of Canadian contemporary and historical fine art; galleries to visit; artists to collect; architecture and living spaces; unique stores to visit; business and personal life style profiles, landscaping and interior design; luxury properties for sale; unique travel destinations; and food and wine to savour.
ARABELLA is dedicated to supporting and promoting creative talent and related businesses through specialty print and digital media publishing, special events/destination marketing, and professional development programs. We believe in the power of arts and culture in building stronger communities, national identity and economic development.
ARABELLA, our major quarterly magazine publication, is now in its ninth year and is distributed across Canada (Chapters & Indigo, Coles and Smith Books) and the US (Barnes & Noble, Books a Million) and has a global digital circulation on all major platforms. With each quarterly issue we reach 350,000+ readers.
ARABELLA’s print and digital publications play a critical role in presenting Canadian creative talent to the widest possible audience while providing in-depth, visually compelling insight into the best of art, residential architecture, landscaping, interior design and luxury lifestyle products and services.
ARABELLA’s vision is to go beyond the boundaries of conventional publications and produce the most exquisite Canadian Art, Architecture & Design magazine for consumers who aspire, are achieving, or have already accomplished a luxury life style and have a passion for transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary and living life well. It’s about beauty in all its forms and providing readers with an unforgettable reading experience!
With layout and design features unlike any other North American print or digital magazine, each issue (which is more like a book) provides visually compelling, in-depth information and insight on the best of art, residential architecture, landscaping, interior design and luxury lifestyle products and services from the traditional to the contemporary, from the local to the internationally inspired.