During our last major redesign, we added a tagline to each section and element of this magazine. Some of them are public, intended to serve as guideposts to readers; others are private, shaping our internal thinking and editorial decision-making. Where culture meets conscience is the descriptor that accompanies our end-of-book Culture Pages, which has helped define our approach as we expanded the department from a book-review section in print to include more deep reporting and immersive thinking, both here and on PSmag.com.
Here's some of what you’ll find in this issue: reported scene pieces on the Mexican-American artist Rafa Esparza's adobe installations and on White Print, India's first and only English-language lifestyle magazine published in Braille; reviews of three new titles, including a serious consideration of workamping and economically vulnerable retirees; spotlights on Toni Morrison's latest work, The Origin of Others, and on a new documentary about the 1992 murder of a young black man; reading, television, and music recommendations from Stephanie Allain, the producer and creative executive behind some of this decade's most consequential films by black creators; and a short cultural reading of why vinyl might outlast all of its successors as an audio format.
At the end of this magazine, where we usually have nine pages, this month you'll find 11. That's not significantly longer than a standard issue, but our pages are precious, with most reserved for our feature stories. Still, we wanted to make room to showcase, alongside Deni Ellis Béchard’s profile of two young Havana street artists, which leads the section, their most arresting creations.
In Havana, the work of Yulier P. and Fabián is everywhere—"in alleys, residential streets ... and on the city's many ruins," Béchard writes. Their paintings are so ubiquitous that they suggest a growing acceptance of political art in Cuba, and a generation empowered to speak out against the ruling class.
Béchard's story is a strong representation of what we're trying to do with this section, and of how we approach culture coverage, at Pacific Standard. Two questions that guide our work in this space, and set us apart from others: How do notions of conscience and justice illuminate or inform current cultural efforts, and how do arts lead the way in social progress? As this section's editors wrote when conceiving of our approach, the Culture Pages combine traditional magazine criticism with social commentary and original research to make the reader—like those progressive young street artists in Havana—look at the world in a whole new way.
A version of this story originally appeared in the October 2017 issue of Pacific Standard.