It’s not easy to start something new, to take a chance on a creative project or a daring business idea. But for the women behind The Dust Magazine, a newer local arts and culture publication, the risk of failure is far outweighed by the positive feedback and support from the Moab community.
Releasing their first digital issue in June 2018 before transitioning to a print edition, the upstart magazine publishes a diverse collection of art, essays and poetry from largely young and adventurous new voices.
The way that Editor-in-chief Jacque Garcia tells it, the magazine all came out of a conversation with Jojo Matson, now the creative director for The Dust.
“A few years ago, we were tossing around an idea of a local art magazine to focus on art and climbing and adventure, things we’re passionate about,” says Garcia.
“We saw so many of our friends who were known in Moab as high-liners or base jumpers or climbers, but we knew were also poets and artists and creative people,” says Matson.
“When I worked as a guide, I felt a disconnect from the people that I was around every day,” Matson says. She worked as an outdoor guide for five years when she first arrived in the area.
Creating a space that encourages personal expression, she believes, can provide that emotional connection.
“I think that’s something that a lot of towns full of people traveling and doing outdoor adventure stuff have in common: a hunger for intimacy,” Matson says.
“We didn’t really know what we were doing,” says Garcia, “but we decided to just go for it. And we’ve heard a resounding ‘yes’ from the community.”
Now releasing their ninth edition, the pair have seen their small idea grow into a thriving online community; a startup organization, bringing on Media Manager Emma Renly; and a glossy, eye-catching biannual magazine.
“From my perspective, a lot of people see Moab as the outdoor recreation center of the world, but there’s more to it: there is so much art, so many writers and musicians,” says Renly, “I wouldn’t have seen it without Jacque, but now I see it everywhere.”
“We’re still working through everything, moving forward as a more defined magazine and a more defined company. It’s a real growth thing,” says Matson.
SUB: Encouraging local creativity
Moab resident Desirae Lynn has watched The Dust’s evolution over the past year and a half, talking about the essays with friends. When she had the seed of an idea for a piece involving her grandparents, her identity in Moab and the community’s understanding of immigration, she came to the magazine for guidance.
“I came to them with a loose idea of what I wanted to say, but I was worried about some parts,” says Lynn. “They gave me a huge go-ahead and encouragement to complete the piece.”
Lynn’s essay, “America, Nuestro Dulce Hogar,” is collected in the most recent edition of The Dust, released this month.
That personal attention and encouragement is something that the staff at The Dust take seriously as one of the cruxes of their organization
“We want to support and honor and publish what people create,” says Matson emphatically. “If you make it, we’ll publish it.”
Not only publish it, but The Dust wants to showcase and elevate the content they receive. That’s part of why they decided to move to a print edition, despite the higher costs.
“Our print edition is our way of giving people a higher-end product that has a bit of longevity with it,” says Matson. “They’re as high-quality and beautiful as can be because we want these to be read and reread.”
Garcia agrees, saying that their commitment is to “validate and circulate art in a publication that people know they can count on to find quality photography, think pieces, visual art and all of that.”
“I really appreciated how they were willing to put whatever I had to say out there,” says Lynn. “There might not be a space for that sort of thing elsewhere.”
SUB: Side projects and programs
In addition to their magazine release schedule, The Dust published a stand-alone volume of poetry, “Poems for Our Ex-Lovers,” and promoted a series of small music performances called the Tiny Stoop Concerts, tapping into the community support behind the magazine.
“I see that energy and excitement in “Poems for Our Ex-Lovers;” we still get submissions and letters talking about how that made people feel,” says Matson, adding that since many poems within the 100-page volume were printed anonymously, she felt people were comfortable being even more vulnerable.
Garcia says that the theme of romantic remembrance was so popular that they continued to receive submissions of poetry even after the book was printed. The magazine now has a permanent column featuring works on the theme to accommodate.
While these side projects met with another resounding “yes” from The Dust’s followers, leading to questions about just where the energies and attention of the staff should go.
“They’ve taken off, which is great, but they’re a little hard to sustain for us,” says Garcia, reporting that community members including Mayor Emily Niehaus have been enthusiastic about the concerts and projects.
Garcia is realistic about the group’s capacity, however.
“If the community is behind us we’ll continue, but if it doesn’t become sustainable we’ll leave it behind,” she says with no small amount of confidence.
As for this year, “we’re really focusing on the magazine,” she says.
SUB: Building something sustainable
“A lot of this is hard to do on a small budget,” Matson says with a laugh.
The group is currently a nonprofit and all the staff are volunteering their time.
“We’re doing it out of a passion and to meet a need that we see in the community,” says Garcia.
“We’re not business entrepreneurs, we’re all ex-outdoor folks who are trying to put something together,” says Matson.
That said, they agree that making the magazine solid and sustainable is a primary goal.
“We don’t want it to be a fad or another trend, says Matson, “we want to grow and be a constant presence in Moab.”
That presence is something that the group wants to provide to its contributors but is also important to each of the people who have worked so hard on putting out the magazine thus far.
“This job gives me hope that I’ve never experienced on any other project or job,” says Matson sincerely, “I know this will be something that will last and be respected for the future.”
That future looks bright to Garcia, who reports a growing list of contributors and a new option for readers to subscribe to the magazine. She looks forward to a time when the organization can offer compensation to both staff and contributors, offering support to their community in a new and important way.
Matson makes sure to measure success as well, but by a different rubric.
“As a designer, I’ve often done things just for the love of it, for passion. That sometimes means doing it for little or no money. That’s sort of what we’ve based The Dust on,” she says. “We, of course, want this to be a sustainable business, but we’re still here a year and a half later just off the love and support of our community. In the end, our payment isn’t in a dollar amount …. That’s what feeds my hunger in the end, and what keeps me grateful.”
The Dust Magazine’s ninth edition will be available this month. Learn more and find outlets at www.thedustmag.com/subscribe.