In September of 2016, ARCADE Executive Director Kelly Rodriguez and I were working on the issue 34.3 feature focused on Edward Burtynsky’s striking photographs of environmental devastation. The presidential election was drawing near, and I felt overwhelmed by the high stakes and divisive rhetoric filling the airwaves with tension. As polls came in and the debates unfolded in microconversations across the internet, I kept wishing for more nuanced, meaningful discussions of the urgent issues that felt unruly, like the messy pile of newspapers on my counter that I could never seem to finish reading. Buried among the folds was the increasingly critical problem of climate change—a massively daunting concern that warranted more thought and attention than a quick skim or bulleted summary could provide.
The time I didn’t spend keeping up with the news cycle was mostly put toward experiencing and writing about visual art—a realm that, for better or worse, often feels remote from day-to-day reality. I’d already been excited to be writing in ARCADE about Burtynsky’s photography because of its relevance to larger environmental conversations, but due to the political climate at the time, discussing the artist’s work only felt increasingly relevant. When Kelly emailed me about a working title, I struggled to capture the weight of the images’ focus and sent several ideas that didn’t quite hit the mark. The day she came back to me with a single word suggestion, I felt the rush that I knew meant it was right: “Undeniable.” I envisioned the word printed simply and boldly as the feature’s headline and found myself invigorated.
As a publication that consistently examines timely, complex issues as they intersect with design and the arts, ARCADE is an imperative voice and resource for the Pacific Northwest community and beyond. While so many publications have folded or turned into clickbait as of late, ARCADE’s persistence for 35 years shows that the organization’s dedication to sparking intelligent and thoughtful dialogue is something we’ve needed all along—and continue to need now more than ever. Months after we found the title, on the evening of the issue’s launch party that December, I picked up the vibrant copy and opened it to the article. In that moment, as both a reader and a writer, the brilliance of ARCADE felt as if it were burning in the palm of my hand.