When Christopher Busa died suddenly at age 73 on June 20, of a congenital heart defect that had gone undetected, it was two days before the scheduled printing of the 35th-anniversary edition of Provincetown Arts, the glossy and heady annual arts journal he co-founded with Raymond Elman and which he had served as editorial director.
It was a devastating blow to the magazine, which had already been through a difficult year. In the previous fall, conflicts between the mercurial Busa and his board of directors reached the breaking point, and the board resigned. A new board came together at the end of the year, with Livia Tenzer, a museum publications editor and writer, as president; architect John R. DaSilva as vice president; Laurie Fitzpatrick, managing director of the Gestalt International Study Center, as treasurer; and Richard Schneider Jr., founder and editor-in-chief of Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide, as secretary.
A 35th-anniversary campaign was put in motion to raise $100,000. And Busa, along with Elizabeth Winston as senior editor and development director, Irene Lipton as art director, and Ingrid Aue as marketing director, worked to put out the 2020 edition.
“Then Covid hit,” Winston said. “It was not only a damper on fund-raising, it was a huge damper on advertising. We got about half the advertising revenue. We did some online fund-raising. A lot of people stepped up and saved us. People who believed in the magazine and wanted to see it continue.”
After Busa’s death, Provincetown Arts went to press a week late with a memorial to him by Winston, who was named interim director. And the work of building a future for the publication without him began.
In July — though it was not announced until last week — Winston was named editor-in-chief of Provincetown Arts and executive director of the nonprofit Provincetown Arts Press, and Lipton was promoted to creative director.
“Obviously, it’s complicated to go forward without Chris,” Winston said by phone from her home in the Washington, D.C., area, where she lives with her wife, Nancy Pearson, an instructor of English and creative writing at West Chester University, and their four-year-old daughter. “It’s a lot to step into those shoes. He was the one doing all the different pieces that made the magazine come together.”
Winston also points out that Lipton being moved up to creative director is “a key part of the staff restructure. She was art director for nearly 20 years and was Chris’s right hand — her role often gets overlooked.”
Though Winston will not be living on the Outer Cape full-time, she plans to convene with a re-activated advisory board and make the magazine more collaborative. And her roots among local arts institutions run deep. She grew up in Rockville, Md., went to Sarah Lawrence College, and ended up in Provincetown in 1999. She was a reporter at the Provincetown Banner, worked as gallery director at the collective artStrand, and spent seven years at the Fine Arts Work Center as a grant writer and development associate.
Winston left the Cape to get her M.F.A. in fiction writing and literature at the University of Houston. But she kept active ties, and Lipton called on her to help edit Provincetown Arts in 2018. She and Pearson were married at the Norman Mailer house. She said that what drew her here initially was “being in an open and accepting community, but in my heart, it’s the writers and artists living here.”
Last month, two new members — Margaret Murphy, former director of the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and screenwriter Mark Protosevich — were welcomed to the Provincetown Arts Press board, joining the four officers and artist Jeannie Motherwell; Christina Schlesinger, cofounder of the Social and Public Art Resource Center; and Samuel Tager, exhibition curator and director of the Provincetown Public Art Foundation.
Murphy was vice president of the board several years ago, when E.J. “Terry” Kahn III was president, and worked with Winston at FAWC. “She’s the only board member with institutional history,” Winston said. “It was a coup to get her.”
“The new board, and Chris’s staff, have wonderful strengths,” Murphy said via email. “I’ve always believed that Provincetown Arts is vital to the cultural life of Provincetown, and I’m happy to be part of this new team building on Chris’s legacy.”
Winston wants to expand coverage of film, architecture, and theater, and as many as 15 stories for the 2021 issue have already been assigned, including ones on the history of FAWC, Salvatore Del Deo, David Drake and the Provincetown Theater, and the Provincetown-New Yorker connection. She hopes to diversify the magazine, covering more people of color.
To help fund those ambitions, Provincetown Arts is holding a virtual auction and gala, which takes place Thursday, Nov. 19. There will be poetry readings by Nick Flynn, a memorial for Busa, and raffles. Auction bids will continue through Sunday, Nov. 22.
“There’s a number of things that need to be done organizationally,” Winston said. “But thanks to everyone pulling together, we’re in a really good financial position, which we weren’t in the beginning of the year.”
Art for Arts
The event: Provincetown Arts 35th anniversary virtual auction and gala
The time: Thursday, Nov. 19, 7 p.m.; auction bids will be accepted through Sunday, Nov. 22, 8 p.m.
The place: provincetownarts.org
The cost: Gala tickets are $50; $75 for two; $150 for sponsors