‘Cultured’ Mag’s Editor-in-Chief, Sarah Harrelson, gives us the lowdown of what it’s like to be in charge of a savvy publication covering the industry’s creative voices in contemporary art, design, and architecture.
Miami Beach media mogul Sarah Harrelson is the founder and editor-in-chief of Cultured Mag, an independent publication covering contemporary art and design. After a lifetime in publishing, Harrelson has built her own media empire and has seen the city’s art scene change over the years — enjoying the thrill of discovering new creative talent and being surrounded by artists, designers, dealers, and collectors.
Before founding Cultured, Harrelson served as editor-in-chief for Art Basel’s annual magazine and as contributing editor for publications like Architectural Digest, Ocean Drive, and Miami Herald, where she founded and launched Home & Design. “The design world was beginning to get a lot of attention, and I felt like it was a real opportunity,” she told 1stdibs last year. “I put together a business plan and pitched it.”
In addition to building Cultured from scratch, Harrelson also launched the Los Angeles-focused LALA Magazine and serves as the editor-in-chief of another hometown publication, Bal Harbour Magazine. We interview the enterprising entrepreneur about what inspires her and the future of art and editorial.
Where are you from and where did your interest in art come from?
I grew up in Rumson, New Jersey. I was always interested in the visual world but through the artist Janine Antoni who I got to know through shared struggles with breast cancer, I sort of immediately pivoted and became obsessed with contemporary art.
Tell us the journey when starting Cultured.
I had been an editor for about 15 years and reached a creative plateau. I started Cultured to tell the stories that I had more of a personal connection to and that other people weren’t telling. I always love the thrill of discovering new talent and wanted to create editorial in a setting where I was only answering to myself. I wanted to pursue stories on artists that had never been covered. I wanted to publish original poetry and commission people I respected and give them creative freedom to do photo essays or shoot portraits.
Describe what it’s like to be Editor-in-Chief of an art and design magazine.
It’s thrilling and exhausting! I often feel by 9am I’ve already had a full day. I generally start my day around 5:30am and I’m embarrassed to say I do look at Instagram first thing in the morning, but I normally don’t look at again until nighttime. I then check CulturedMag.com and check how the stories the day before performed. I have gotten a little obsessed with analytics.
“I had been an editor for about 15 years and reached a creative plateau. I started Cultured to tell the stories that I had more of a personal connection to and that other people weren’t telling. I always love the thrill of discovering new talent and wanted to create editorial in a setting where I was only answering to myself.” –Sarah Harrelson
What is a typical day in your career like?
No two days are the same. I work on everything from story development, cover shoots, events, and everything in between.
How has Cultured evolved since its beginnings?
It has always been the magazine’s DNA to span the vast cultural landscape—looking at comedy, music, theory, art, architecture and film that cross genres, cross-pollinate and challenge siloed conventions. That said, we are constantly evolving and growing. We’ve been more focused lately on bringing original works to the magazine, whether commissioned works by artists like Raymond Pettibon, Penny Slinger, Richard Phillips, or original poetry by CA Conrad and Eileen Myles.
What were some obstacles you have faced in your career?
I think I faced obstacles every single day and actually believe the ability to push through is the secret sauce.
Advice to young editors and art writers?
Don’t follow the pack. Trust your voice and research constantly.
What inspires you?
Name your favorite female artists.
Last exhibition you saw?
Loie Hollowell at the new Pace Gallery.
What has been the highlight of your career as Editor-in-Chief?
I’ve always embraced the daily wins and watching our significant growth daily has kept it exciting.
Tips on how to stay organized in a busy schedule?
I wake up at around 5:30am every morning and try to get an hour and a half alone to focus on my goals for the day/month /year.
Best advice you’ve ever received.
“Surrender to the messiness and unpredictability of a very busy life and embrace it.” I don’t remember where I read this but it immediately resonated with me. I have three teenagers, a husband, and a non-stop work schedule–so controlling it was never in the cards.
Where do you see the future of art and editorial?
I actually see it getting more interesting as it gets harder and harder to get people’s attention for more than 10 seconds. I think editors are rising to the task and the next 5 years will be the golden age for independent magazines.
Featured Image: Sarah Harrelson at home in Miami Beach with ‘Shoyru Statue (Original Blue),’ 2018, by Bunny Rogers. Photo by Scott McIntyre for the New York Times.