Calvin College's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin College Chimes

Dialogue: an essential voice in Calvin’s story

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Dialogue release party; photo courtesy Dialogue

Dialogue release party; photo courtesy Dialogue

Dialogue release party; photo courtesy Dialogue

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Calvin College’s student publication, Dialogue, has been an institution since 1968 when it replaced the literary journal Loci. According to Taylor Hartson, the managing editor for Dialogue, “For the first few years after its inception, the editors of Dialogue struggled to figure out what its identity was—they struggled to follow in the shadow of the already-established Chimes and to figure out what the best organizational structure would be. During these formative years, the editors wanted to move from an anthology format into a journal format, and they experimented with format and content. While the manifestation of Dialogue has never really stopped with that same experimentation, its goal has always been the same. One of the editors of a 1971 issue articulates this goal: ‘Dialogue is at Calvin to serve as a forum for expression, controversy, and creativity among students, faculty, and all those who are related to the Calvin academic community. With your support, we can function as a reflection of, and a stimulant for, this community.’ […] Dialogue is an interesting publication purely because it has the ability to manifest itself in so many ways. We’ve had hardcover issues, spiral-bound issues, issues that have served as a cookbook, even some issues that look and feel like a newspaper. Dialogue takes on a new and different feel with every passing era. That ability — the ability to be so fluid and workable — that’s what makes Dialogue unique.”

Over the years, Dialogue has gone from printing six issues per year to two. 2016 was a record-breaking year for Dialogue. Professor Debra Rienstra, Dialogue’s faculty advisor, commented on this: “Though we are printing fewer issues, the issues are of the highest quality in their curation and production. Under the past three editors, Dialogue has hugely increased campus-wide participation in terms of submissions, staff participation and visibility on campus. We are also including film and music now, along with the more traditional writing and visual art. We also have a new gallery area [in the lower Gezon lobby] where the featured art is displayed.”

In 2016, Dialogue received a record 400 submissions from 166 different submitters. Hailey Jansson, Dialogue’s layout editor, mentioned that the staff has grown since adding film as another category. “Each year we look for ways for Dialogue to grow and reach more students across campus and it’s encouraging to see students interested each semester,” Jansson said.

Jansson provided insight on what it is like to work on this student-run publication. “My job takes place after the submissions have been juried and chosen for print. I never know what I’ll be working with until the day before layout starts! Dialogue’s schedule allows for about three weeks for layout and in those three weeks the journal is designed, curated, and refined. It’s an intensive process that requires many hours, many meetings, and many people collaborating.

“Working on Dialogue is a humbling process. We recognize the responsibility we have in treating each submission with respect and consideration. Especially as layout editor, it is my responsibility to balance the design work of maintaining a piece’s beauty in the journal with the practical work of making each piece fit for print. When artists see their work in Dialogue, I hope they feel as though the dignity of their work was maintained.”

According to Jansson, any current Calvin student can submit to Dialogue, which includes students who are studying abroad or are a part of the Calvin Prison Initiative.

“Submissions can be sent in at any point in the semester as long as it gets in before our established deadline. We currently support six categories: prose, poetry, music, photography, film, and visual art. A single student may submit up to three pieces in each category. That can really add up!” said Jansson.

“We really feel like we’ve been growing as an organization this year. There’s a lot we still hope to do, but we’ve seen really big steps in the right direction,” mentioned Hartson.

Dialogue has gone through ups and downs in its history. A Dialogue editorial from Feb. 20, 2015 reads, “Student Life was asked to cut $10,000 from the budget of student organizations and made a recommendation to do so partly by eliminating the entirety of the print budget of Dialogue, Calvin’s only journal of commentary and the arts.” However, student backlashed showed that students consider the publication to be a vital part of the intellectual and artistic life of the Calvin community, and the organization’s budget was not cut.

The journal has spurred students on in their work. Rienstra mentioned that past issues of Dialogue displayed “the student writing and art work of current Calvin luminaries such as Don Hettinga, Frank Speyers, Anna Greidanus, James Bratt, Joel Carpenter, Jane Zwart, David Hoekema and many more. We have a bundle of testimonies from alumni about the importance of Dialogue in their Calvin experience. It was an affirmation for them early in their careers of the significance of art, whether or not they went on to pursue an arts field as a career.”

Dialogue is not just a showcase of students’ work. According to Taylor Hartson, “[The journal], in some ways, serves as a sort of time capsule for Calvin. We’ve been publishing issues for 48 years — that’s 48 years worth of commentary, visual art, photography, poetry, music and so many other media. Dialogue gives the student artists a venue where they can submit art that is important to them, that they think should be important to Calvin. The student jurors give us an idea of what is important to Calvin in that particular semester — they are the ones who rate pieces and decide which pieces should be published. We as a staff of students put those pieces into a very physical, tangible publication each semester, and it’s those physical, tangible objects that preserve some essence of what Calvin was and what Calvin is.”

Rienstra emphasized Dialogue’s importance for Calvin’s community: “Dialogue is one important way to signal that we take the arts seriously at Calvin. Not every campus has a gorgeous arts magazine. We need Dialogue as a place for students to present their work to an audience, and for the staff to gain experience curating, designing, and producing a beautiful art object — the magazine.”

Hailey Jansson also expressed the importance of having a publication like Dialogue at Calvin. Jansson explained, “Calvin needs Dialogue like it needs an art department, art gallery, concert hall, musical performances, Dance Guild, etc. Dialogue is another venue for the arts at Calvin. Dialogue is one way students can interact with creative work of other students. At the very least, it expands the idea some students may have about what’s possible at Calvin College.”

Dialogue is published in the fall and spring semesters at Calvin. The fall issue of Dialogue may still be found lying around here or there on Calvin’s campus to be picked up and perused. Anyone who may be interested in submitting to Dialogue can do so in any category before March 17 for the spring issue. For more information, see calvin.edu/dialogue.

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