This year I had the honor of having a few pieces of writing published in Prometheus, the UW-Stout literary magazine, and I couldn’t have been more excited. It’s not a well known magazine on campus, but it is certainly worth notice.
The magazine consists of all forms of art, sculpture and literary works. One issue is published each year by a group of students who work throughout the year to create the contest, select pieces, edit and publish the magazine. Joan Menefee and Robert Atwell are the advisors for this group. I sat down with Joan Menefee to get the low-down on how the magazine gets published each year.
What is Prometheus and how did it get started?
There’s been a literary magazine in some form since 1935. It was originally called Little Wings and I think it’s had maybe 6 or 7 name changes since then. Prometheus as a name came about in the late 80’s or early 90s. It became a dual arts and literature magazine sometime in the early 2000’s. That helped us change the form of the magazine. We went to smaller print runs and a glossy look after I took it over sometime in ’07 or ’08. When all those things came together I think it became a graphic designer’s magazine as much as of a writers’ magazine. That’s kind of where we’ve been hanging. We’ve increased the production values steadily since 2009 because we’ve had graphic designers as editors.
What is the process of putting the magazine together?
The editors come up with the theme since sometime in the early fall each year. I get them comfortable with the routine so they know they have to put together a contest, establish a theme, market the contest and set the deadline for sometime near the end of fall term. At the same time on the art side, you’ve got that theme and you’ve got a contest that gets judged in early spring. Entries usually come through the Fundamentals of Design course those students who are doing a lot of drawing and sometimes ceramics. Sometimes I’m heavily involved in all aspects of production, but this year I wasn’t, I think Bob Atwell did a lot more of the day-to-day overseeing of the editorial and production process.
Then the editors use InDesign to assemble the text and they get someone to photograph the material. They look at the images they have and they think of the big structure. The editors think of what it would be like to read this magazine, what makes a reading and viewing experience beautiful in 2015 and I think that has changed a lot.
We always seem to come up with people that are still interested in analog culture and artifacts and things that you can hold in your hand. They get really involved in that process and they work with two cross media graphics teams fall and spring semester. The first is more theoretical and speculative because there’s no hands-on print work fall semester. They just work through the editors’ concept, the theme, think about what went well and what didn’t do well in previous magazines. They look at maybe bringing new technologies such as, perforations or cut-outs. The two teams kind of work together to create a concept and that gets to delivered to the hands on CMG team and they actually execute the production of the magazine in the basement of Fryklund.
How do you decide which pieces will be placed in the magazine?
There are faculty judges for both the visual arts and the literary arts. I recruit those every year; I just put a call out sometime in December or January asking if there is anyone who wants to judge this year. I haven’t judged since I took over the advisor-ship and I think that Bob Atwell recruits pretty much the same way in art. Those people come up the decision by mid-February and those pieces go in and then everything else is at the discretion of the editors.
Everything is blind to authorship as far as the prizes are concerned. I was asked to provide a rubric so that there was a standard and I came up with something that was pretty open ended, but I included things like adherence to the theme, excellence of writing and clarity, grammar, sentence structure variety, and variety of theme.
Who prints the magazine?
It’s the Cross Media Graphics team on the UW-Stout equipment on campus and it’s always been done in house.
It’s a student run organization so we need to both let people express themselves at this stage of life and learn how to do things the most practical and hands-on way possible. For most of us that is making you [students] as independent as possible and then seeing and watching you solve problems and stepping in if things get complicated, but that’s so rare to see that with this magazine. Once you have a system and can predict a few things that can definitely go wrong, your sense of owning and understanding the process is very different.
What is the role of a literary and arts magazine at a polytechnic?
I like to think that because of the strength of the art and design program, and because of the strength of the PCEM program, we show that some of those divisions that we make between the technical, the material sciences, and all of the other types of knowledge that exist, is overstated and that there are lots of interesting ways that people interact. The humanities has never been purely theoretical, but there always has been a practical production component to it. People who respect both fields of learning, I think, are the most flexible people moving out of college. They don’t have as many blind spots as people that think they know what they need to know; in my opinion, that ‘s the point at which people stop learning—when they think they know all they need to. I think having the ability to say, ‘Here’s why this is a beautiful piece of art’ is very parallel with ‘Here’s why this machine works most efficiently for the particular purpose.’ We make that visible on the campus and we, as Prometheus, do a good job of showing the kind of creative arts among students who are drawn to a polytechnic, so it’s sort of an interesting paradox to me. I think it is necessary when we get into these polarized debates about what we need on campus. What we really need is to show students is that their flexibility and their creativity can surface in any discipline on this campus.