So you want my arts job: Art Magazine Editor

Rosy Leake is Editor of an art magazine - well two. ArtsHub catches up with her to discover what it takes to stay in touch and on time.

Rose of Sharon Leake (Rosy) is an experienced editor, writer and content producer living and working on Eora Country/Sydney. Her job is a fast-paced and detail orientated one, as Editor of Art Collector and Art Edit magazines. How does she balance the two and keep the deadlines? ArtsHub catches up with Leake to discover the machinations of being an art magazine editor.

How would you describe what you do to your parents?

My parents are pretty well-versed on the arts publishing industry, my grandmother publishing her own ceramic arts magazine for years. But I usually tell them that I curate, commission and edit the editorial across Art Collector magazine, as well as interview and write (when I have the time!).

What qualifications do you need for this job?

I studied a double undergraduate degree – BA Fine Arts (Ceramics and Sculpture) and BA Arts (Journalism and Gender Studies) at UNSW, Sydney. Previous editors in my role have come from all walks of life, but I’d say strong writing skills is a must-have qualification, as well as an ability to see both the minute details and the bigger picture of the entire publication.

How did you get your start in this career?

When I tell people this they usually say that I should give myself more credit, but I really just fell into it – it was all about timing. I started out at Art Collector as an intern (we have a great intern program for those of you interested!). The directors then asked me to stay on doing a few hours a week helping with their digital content. I had just finished my undergrad and I asked if they had any more hours for me and, as it turns out, that same week the editor of Art Edit (Art Collector’s little sister mag) was moving on from the role. The directors offered me the job without even interviewing, it was a bit surreal. Fast forward a year and the editor of Art Collector decided to move on, and again they offered me the role of editor of Art Collector. For the past two years I have been editing both magazines (it’s quite the balancing act!).

How collaborative is this job?

Hugely. Not just in the office (where I rely on the fantastic skills of our Art Director and Director) but also between me and the artists whose work we publish. Working with artists directly, or through their representative galleries is such a pleasure – at the end of the day, it is our job to do justice to the artist’s work. Deciding on what images to run, or which copy should be cut or remain are really very big decisions and I don’t take them lightly.

What’s an average week like?

Rosy Leake on the job as Editor of Art Collector magazine. Image. Supplied.

It is very dependable on where we are in the publishing cycle. If we are on print deadline, it’s all hands on deck – collating all the bits and pieces from galleries/artists, making sure our wonderful writers and photographers file on time, getting the copy edited and images ready for my designer, proofing spreads, uploading the files to our Sydney-based printers, setting up logistics with our mailing house – the list goes on. As soon as we sign off on one issue, it’s all systems go with the next (publishing every three months seems like a long time, let me tell you it isn’t!). Deciding on who we cover in every issue is a mammoth task, as is selecting the right writer for the piece – in my time here I’ve really tried to ensure every story is written by a writer who is the best person to tell that artist’s narrative.   

What’s the most common misconception about your job?

That I have a huge team of people behind the scenes – believe you me, I wish I did! It’s a lot of time behind a computer screen.  

How competitive is this job?

The Australian arts industry is pretty small, the Australian arts publishing industry is even smaller. There are only a handful of senior art magazine editing roles, so yes I would say it is quite competitive. 

In an interview for your job, what skills or qualities would you be looking for?

Someone well-spoken, confident and with a great willingness to learn and get stuck into it. This job isn’t for the person who wants to clock off and simply leave work at the office. I have lived and breathed every part of this job for three years and loved every minute – even if that’s jolting awake at 3am worrying about the cover not printing right!

What’s changing in your professional area today?

An unsurprising answer I’m sure – digital. People want to consume media in a millisecond, and if it’s not enticing enough they will scroll on. So that’s a challenge we are facing and we are trying to work that into our digital presence. However, in saying that, there is a misconception that the print world is dying. That’s not true, people have actually been more engaged with the print magazine in recent years – they are hungry for quality content and treat Art Collector as a physical collectible item.

What about gender balance in your industry?

We have an all female team at Art Collector. That isn’t intentional, but it is an indicator of the gender balance in the arts publishing industry as a whole.

Gina Fairley is ArtsHub's National Visual Arts Editor. For a decade she worked as a freelance writer and curator across Southeast Asia and was previously the Regional Contributing Editor for Hong Kong based magazines Asian Art News and World Sculpture News. Prior to writing she worked as an arts manager in America and Australia for 14 years, including the regional gallery, biennale and commercial sectors. She is based in Mittagong, regional NSW. Twitter: @ginafairley Instagram: fairleygina