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article imageOp-Ed: A new magazine for the arts and culture premieres for Marin Special

By Jonathan Farrell     Feb 23, 2017 in Lifestyle
Belvedere Tiburon - Despite the upheaval to traditional print by digital technology, arts patron, entrepreneur and now publisher, Meredith Browning Griffin is pleased to announce the debut of a new magazine called 'Marin Arts & Culture.'
The launch party is on countdown mode and Griffin on Wednesday afternoon was busy running errands and getting things ready. She had a few moments to reach out to this reporter. She explained that the publication is a monthly, digital magazine created for Marinites who love the arts.
"The creation of Marin Arts & Culture, she said is one of a personal journey over decades beginning with a childhood immersed in the culture of Manhattan." Originally from the East Coast, Griffin explained. "As a young child enamored with books, I spent many hours in the New York City Library with the ambition, as an 8-year old, to read every book residing there. And later, as a young teen, she said, I became enamored with the theater."
Like so many who grew up in the post WWII era, she was able to enjoy a lot of culture within a close vicinity. "For the price of a movie ticket, I could go to a Broadway matinee. I saw dozens of musicals, like My Fair Lady. And, West Side Story, she exclaimed, that is where I waited outside the stage door just to gaze at the dancers as they came out."
No doubt her parents had some influence on her cultural experiences. "My mother was a singer. She traveled the country in the road show of Oklahoma!. My mother sang for many years in night clubs in New York and New Orleans. Music from around the world was a regular part of my life, said Griffin. At home, I had records playing away on the huge Grundig console in our living room." Griffin noted she liked to listen to Edith Piaf, Yves Montand, some opera, and more show tunes. Or some world music "and, of course, Frank Sinatra," she said.
The fact that New York City was the center for arts and culture after World War II was not oblivious to Griffin growing up. She was fortunate to have in some ways, a front row seat. Culture in so many forms was in abundance in NYC at that time.
"I was in love. Art galleries, museums and the ballet. "Manhattan was a playground for me," she added. "No wonder I never learned to ride a bike!"
Through the connection to the stage and musicals, her mother was a good friend of singer Johnnie Ray. "He was my godfather," she said. That time of her life was as she describes it, "Magic for a 10 year old."
Meredith Griffin  a patron of the arts has just launched a new publication  Marin Arts & Culture  ma...
Meredith Griffin, a patron of the arts has just launched a new publication "Marin Arts & Culture" magazine.
Courtesy of Meredith Griffin
"Because my uncle Charlie worked for CBS, most Sunday nights, she said, I could be found in the audience of the Ed Sullivan Show." Looking back on those years Griffin said, "I always watch carefully when the footage of the first appearance of The Beatles is shown. I’m looking for my 20 year-old self, she said. I am probably the only one not screaming. I didn’t know who they were, she said. I had come to see Mitzi Gaynor."
Griffin spent her college years earning a degree in American History and post studies were in Drama. She spent one year at the New York Academy of Theatrical Arts. And was chosen for the lead role in a local production of The Rainmaker. She noted that the experience "made me feel like Katharine Hepburn for awhile."
Yet, it was due to a very small and brief role in the then new off Broadway play, called Hair, that she left NYC. And as she said, "I had to run off to Philadelphia to marry my college sweetheart" (at that time). But that young love only lasted for a while. Other adventures were ahead, which eventually lead her to California.
"My adult years directed me to a career in publishing," said Griffin, as she helped launch magazines for the emerging high tech industry. "I loved publishing, she said. I was on the launch team for PC Magazine, PCWorld, MacWorld and MacUser and finally, the publisher of a title ironically called Publish!"
While the future of all publishing as we have known it, as it continues along into the 21st Century, is anyone's guess. Griffin believes strongly that her venture will make it. "I became aware that the arts in Marin County were not being covered in any substantial way," she said.
And that could be so.
Because as she added, "my understanding is that there are more artists in Marin County than anywhere else in California outside of Los Angeles. She might be on to something. Because editors at Marin Magazine point out that, "Marin seems to have a special attraction for artists of all media. Maybe it’s the gorgeous sunrises and sunsets (depending on which side of Mount Tam you live, but either way the light is always striking), they say. (Or could it be) the beautiful scenery, the proximity to the ocean, the small-town life or all of the above."
Regardless of what others might think, Griffin is following her instincts.
"Combining my publishing experience with my love of the arts, she said. I decided to launch an e-magazine to give a voice and expression to everyone involved in making art, no matter what kind of art form, no matter the age of the artist. I very specifically wanted a digital magazine. I was waiting for the technology to catch up with what I wanted to do. Most online magazines are copies of a print version. Not very interesting. I’d rather have a hard copy," she said.
"I call my publication a Living Magazine….it’s very interactive. I can post music, film, readings; lectures…things you can’t do in print. Almost all of the ads are linked to a website."
"I have a philosophy about my interviews," she said. 'Before you tell me what you do, tell me who you are.' I am looking for connection. Connection with the art, the artist and the reader," she added. Griffin wants to know..."What informs or nurtures an artist's talent?"
And to get even more specific and tactile, Griffin had this to say. "My publishing goal is to grow, expand and develop new ways to express art. We will change with the technology, always improving. Our content is determined by the submissions we receive and by the artists we run into every day."
And, this is something she is saying from actual tangible evidence.
"We placed an ad in Marin Center magazine for submissions and the response was great! Word of mouth has really taken off, she said. Our submissions are curated to keep balance in terms of what we cover and when. We seek a variety of art forms for each month."
"We’ve spoken about the arts, said Griffin. But it’s important to know that Marin is a place where nonprofits are a large part of our culture. There is a growing movement in Marin to create a strong arts community." This reporter can verify that simply with previous stories covered about artists coming into Marin from other locations just to feature their work. Those like Sonja Bakalyar of Sonoma and Cynthia Tom, a native of San Francisco. Cynthia had showings in Marin County (major art installations) twice in one year. Artists like Cynthia Tom and Sonja Bakalyar are also involved with non-profit and charitable work, making art an extension to the community.
With the recent launch of and Marin Coalition of the Arts, expect to read more about the mission of these organizations to make our community a true cultural center. Griffin sees her perspective clearly. "Now, I’ve come full circle she said, (with all her previous experiences at her command) After my husband, Noah, founded The Cole Porter Society, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving the Great American Songbook through the genius of Cole Porter," the arts needed more coverage. He is very supportive of her endeavor and his love of music compliments her passion about art. A journalist as well as a singer/actor, Noah understands the ups and downs of publishing. He still writes for publications.
'Like any publication, a strong business model will make the difference between success and failure," she said. Our goal is to grow our magazine to 10,000 readers in the next year. We seek a healthy advertising base. 5 percent of our profits will be donated to our nonprofit MACFUND which will be used as mini-grants for art organizations and projects in Marin."
Griffin's anticipations are optimistic. Yet some experts, like Thad McIlroy are skeptical. He has been studying and monitoring the publishing industry for years. He notes, "while not as severely challenged as newspapers, magazines in North America are clearly on the Internet hit list." And, yet he also notes that specialty magazines seem to do better than the traditional print periodical that gets posted to the web. McIlroy agrees with Griffin that digital publishing has been slow and "awkward" as he put it, in catching on to the digital revolution wave. Even so, McIlroy praises magazines like "The New Yorker" and points to it as an example of the digital format thriving. "After several years as a wallflower at the Web publishing party, it (The New Yorker) now offers about a third of its new content each week on the Web."
When I asked McIlroy directly what he thought of Griffin's endeavor, he was cautious. "These are tough times to launch a new magazine, he said. But was there ever an easy time to launch an arts and culture journal?"
Launch party will be a private event Thursday, evening on Feb. 23, in San Rafael.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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