The Art of the Magazine Business
Sep 3, 2008
by Kara Pound, '06
Jacksonville publisher Cinda Sherman launched successful arts magazine from the humblest of beginnings
The early 1990s was no time to break into the world of investment banking. That’s the way Cinda Sherman remembers it. She had just lost her job as a financial analyst in Jacksonville, Fla.; the market was tanking; and all around her, banks and brokerages weren’t hiring, but instead laying off workers.
Things got so bad that when a few friends offered her a basement to live in until she got back on her feet, she took it.
“It was literally concrete floors — no bathroom,” she said. “I had to go in with candlelight.”
It was during that down-and-out period that the ’86 grad hatched a plan that must have sounded crazy to some: launching an arts and culture magazine in a Florida market that was practically void of the material she wanted to cover.
But the business major with a love for the arts went ahead, founding her “Arbus” magazine in 1995. Today, the arts and business publication has grown with Jacksonville’s blooming arts community and counts as many as 100,000 readers an issue.
To top it off, two years ago Sherman won the Women in Business award from the Women Business Owners of North Florida. She won primarily because she had started the magazine without any money, help or knowledge of the publishing business.
“I about fell out of my seat when they called my name,” she said. “It was really quite an honor to be recognized after all those years of hard work.”
Sherman grew up in an artistic family. Her father, Michael, was a Flamenco guitar player and an associate professor of sociology at Flagler. She crafted her own appreciation for the arts into her concept for “Arbus,” which also partly stemmed from her own experiences with the few galleries that did exist in Jacksonville. She found them intimidating and a bit elitist. As a student at Flagler, she visited a gallery where a woman followed her throughout the gallery, peering over her shoulder the entire time.
“I just remember how much I hated it,” she said, “and I swore that I would never try to have the magazine come across that way — as though you were being looked down upon.”
Sherman said the magazine struggled for three or four years before really taking off.
“It took a long time for ‘Arbus’ to kind of get its own skin and create itself,” she said. “I’ve tried to let the community and the magazine create itself based on what people are looking for and what they are interested in.”
When the magazine first started out, Sherman said there were a lot of naysayers. Some even told her that it wouldn’t make it more than two years. This only made her work harder to make it succeed.
She believes the magazine fits well with the thriving arts and cultural scene across the First Coast, which she says now attracts people to the city and “gives it a heart and a soul.”
Sherman attributes her education at Flagler with the idea for “Arbus.”
“If I didn’t have that liberal arts background — that love for studying art and then the business side of it — I don’t think this would have ever come about,” she said. “It was the catalyst when I was looking for a way to get out of that hole or that basement, if you will. I hope one day to be able to have a legacy that I can leave behind with the magazine.”
Visit Arbus online at www.arbus.com.