CMNS 488 : Art Worlds (Jan Marontate)

Contact info

If you need help, please contact Sylvia Roberts, Liaison Librarian for Communication & Contemporary Arts at 778.782.3681 or or Ask a librarian.

This guide is intended as an introduction to a range of sources you can use to find media coverage of arts events.

This is not an exhaustive list of sources so, if you don't find what you need, Ask a Librarian.

Who produces information about arts events, institutions, phenomenon?

  • Artists themselves (statements, interviews, writings)
  • Scholars (academics, curators, critics)
  • Arts infrastructure professionals (commercial gallerists,  agents, administrators, arts educators )
  • Consumers (fans, collectors, students)
  • Journalists

How would you rank these information providers as authoritative sources?

Are there factors that may influence where you can find information about an artists' work?


Primary sources for the Humanities  

"A primary source is a document or other sort of evidence written or created during the time under study, or by one of the persons or organizations directly involved in the event. Primary sources offer an inside view of a particular event."

Journalism / news sources

News sources will include reviews of specific arts events, interviews with participants, features on trends or noteworthy occurances

These can include both mainstream news outlets and specialized arts news sources

SFU Library news sources 

Many specialized arts news sources are available only in digital form or only in print. 

Also look for newsletters on arts association web sites, as well, to get a sense of current concerns in arts practice


Academic sources and trade publications

Library catalogue is the best search tool for finding scholarly books about the performing and visual arts, whether discussing the work of specific or groups of artists (by country, by practice, thematically), theoretical and critical approaches to the work.

Exhibition catalogues are a significant contribution to visual arts literature.  On the shelf, these look just like books but tend to be focused on the work of a specific visual artist or works selected according to a theme, which could be conceptual, by nationality, by practice, etc.

Background sources, such as specialized encyclopedias, can be useful for an overview of a topic, finding related literature (in reference lists or links to related topics) and discovering the language used when discussing art world phenomena. For example:

Each of the research guides for Contemporary Arts program areas (music, film, dance, visual arts, theatre) has a tab to background works, which include encyclopedias, dictionaries, biographical sources, etc. 

Scholarly articles about the visual and performing arts can be found by searching the following indexes:

Trade publications are those directed at those working in the business.  In the case of the visual and performing arts, these can be the source of  discussions of environmental factors impacting their work (i.e. legislative changes such as copyright or emerging technologies), calls for submissions to competitions/commissions, and other news affecting players in the arts.

Articles in trade publications can be found by searching the specialized arts indexes, primarily.  Similar information can sometimes be found on arts association web sites, as these organizations often act as a collective voice for their membership, lobbying government for favourable legislative environments and providing professional support.

Web sites

Web sites for organizations can be useful to find information about history, funding, current activities, links to press and affiliated organizations, and other information that provide detail and context for your discussion.

Individual artists' or performers' web sites often contain biographical information, bibliography of press and critical articles, examples of their work, artist's statements, etc. 

Arts institutions (for profit, not-for-profit) - local examples:

Arts associations - examples:

Festivals & awards - examples:

Arts research organizations - examples:


Social media

Consumers of arts practice tend to share their opinions via social media. Searching the web for an artist's name is likely to find this type of information, including links to Facebook and Twitter feeds.

Use these to get ideas for pursuing information more credible, definitive sources, but be aware of potential bias.