Monday, May 18, 2015

Putting the Literary in Public Art

A writer has teamed up with an economist to create an innovative new journal that will soon be hitting the streets (literally) of Washington, D.C.

Conceived by Carolyn Supinka and Zenon Zabinski, VIATOR is a magazine whose mission is to put literary and visual art in public urban spaces to reach a new audience. Each issue of VIATOR is centered on a particular city, but includes poetry, prose, photography, and other visual art inspired by spaces and places around the world.

Unlike your typical magazine, you’re more likely to find the first issue of VIATOR on a street corner or by a bus stop than in a bookstore or coffee shop. While the creators expect to attract some subscribers to the magazine, their primary audience is the unsuspecting denizens of the street. Copies of the first issue, VIATORdc, slated for publication in Summer 2015, will be ‘dropped’ in public spaces throughout Washington, D.C.

In undertaking this project, Supinka draws on her experience as a Fulbright-Nehru scholar in Pondicherry, India, from 2013–14. There, she completed numerous art projects combining visual art with poetry to transform public spaces. Carolyn sees VIATOR as a natural continuation of these efforts. “I think there’s a great potential to reach new audiences with poetry and art by working in the public space,” she said. “Poetry and art don’t exist in a vacuum— they are in the world, and they can exist anywhere. A poem read on the sidewalk, by a metro, or in a park gives the reader a totally different experience. I think it even transforms the space itself for the reader.”

VIATOR actively seeks an encounter with those who usually do not seek out such art on their own. As Zabinski explains, “Getting copies of this thing in the hands of people in the street is essential to our mission. We want to get beyond the narrow subscriber base of literary magazines like The Paris Review or the myriad art magazines out there. Ultimately, we hope that doing so can help cultivate a broader community that appreciates the beauty and value of art.”

Supinka and Zabinski hope to build on the success of the first issue of VIATOR to have the magazine ‘travel’ not only to other cities in the U.S. but around the world.

VIATOR is accepting submissions until June 5 for its first issue at More information about the magazine can be found on its web site at

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