MFA student connects people to the arts with Fractions
Andrew Bales, a creative writer in the Master of Fine Arts program at Wichita State University, joined two designers to create Fractions, an arts and literature journal serving the Wichita community.
"The only experiences I had in writing or publishing were rounding up and arranging articles at Metro Boulevard for our school newspaper and creating satire pieces about the inequity of our bathrooms," Bales said of his Wichita High School.
But he continued with writing at WSU through workshops about theory and analysis to sharpen his criticism skills.
"At the same time, these lessons show us writers how critics will eventually, if we're lucky enough to gain their attention, tear our life's work to shreds," Bales said.
The fiction workshops are the cornerstone of WSU's writing program.
"Without them, we wouldn't be able to have our work reviewed or become familiar with other students' work," Bales said.
The workshop courses let writers get to know each other's work, give insightful critiques and offer advice.
"The larger idea of a writing community that works both individually and as a group is what we're here for," he said.
Fractions Journal, Bales' creative idea come to life, embodies the philosophy of an arts and literature community.
After Bales was accepted to the MFA program in spring 2009, he quit his job to travel for the summer. He stayed with friends in Beijing.
"During the evenings, we'd go out to eat, walk around the neighborhood and have these tall, green-bottled beers in various beer gardens by the university," Bales said.
But, during the day, he wandered the city one his own "clutching his phrase book."
"It was having this free time to wander and think that led me to have the vague idea that, when I got back to Wichita, I'd like to work on a publication that could get out whatever writing the workshops would produce," he said.
Graphic designers Andrew Stephens and Matthew Miller were on the same page as Bales. The three got together to discuss collaborating on the project.
"From there, we had lots of talks that led us to the current concept of Fractions," Bales said.
Bales described Fractions as a journal that gives exposure to artists by putting a focus on the work they create rather than cluttering the presentation with nonessential information.
"This design lets artists have their work presented in the purest way possible – in print," Bales said.
Having a physical, print-based publication, instead of just an online journal, gives weight to the content and helps promote the art community in Wichita.
"I think print publications have a lot to do with community mentality and their relationship to their city," he said.
Physical copies are distributed to diverse locations around town including Watermark Books, the Donut Whole, all over downtown and in Lindquist Hall at WSU. A full digital version is also available online at www.fractionsjournal.com.
Because of the high quality paper and professional printing, Fractions is an expensive mission of the arts.
"The journal is funded by community sponsors, both individuals and businesses," Bales said. "(It) is free, so it's essential to have this generous community backing to produce each installment."
Sponsors and sales of limited ad space generate most of the funding, but Fractions' editors also hold benefit shows and sell brownies on their bikes.
To the creators, Fractions is a labor of love more than an expense.
"We're really optimistic about the future of Fractions," Bales said.
The journal is continually expanded online with Collections, a free music download catalog, and Forward Slashes, a podcast.
"This is a passion of ours," Bales said, "and we're just trying to offer the best service we can at no cost for our friends and the community."
To see Fractions Journal online, go to http://fractionsjournal.com/.