Motif Celebrates its 10th Anniversary

Happy Birthday Motif!

To celebrate Motif’s 10th birthday, we wanted to get stories and reminiscences from some of the people who helped create or shepherd the magazine over the years. But we didn’t want to be self-indulgent or self-congratulatory about it. So when we asked Motifated people – especially former staff – to write in, we committed to not editing them. We fixed some grammar and had to shorten some things, but we left their stories in tact – requiring us to say: the views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of Motif.


Mike Ryan

For my own part, my story’s pretty simple – I’d been writing the film column for a few years, and I’d worked with Motif from the boards of a number of local non-profits. Motif was always a huge supporter of those organizations, and the best single place to run a theater, music or event ad. So when I was between projects, and (former publisher) Jim Vickers told me he was looking to sell or close down the paper. Well, I didn’t want to see it go. I had no idea what I was getting into, but I did think it would be interesting – and it definitely is! I work with more insane people now than ever before (and I’ve worked in mental health facilities), but it’s mostly a very fun, healthy kind of insanity – and it comes with appreciation for music, beer, food, art, theater and just getting people out of the house. I won’t babble on here about our mission to celebrate all that is local and often goes locally unappreciated. But I will say it’s a worthwhile pursuit, and what I’ve learned about our state in the last year from doing this – it’s amazed me. Here, in their own words, are some other impressions of Motif from the last 10 years.

Jim Vickers
Founder and Publisher, 2004 – 2012

The new regime at Motif tasked me with writing 250 “pleasant” words as the publication’s founder.
I never intended Motif to be “pleasant,” but rather to ferret out the newest music, take just, rather than popular positions – to be a light in the darkness, to not walk softly and always carry a sword. Other publications were enamored with Boston and New York artists. A couple actually printed the Rhode Island music scene was “dead.” Motif begged to differ.
To have a scene, a community needs artists, venues, a newspaper covering them, and a radio station. We provided a newspaper and gave music lovers a map to find great local bands such as Deer Tick, Low Anthem and many others.
I personally pursued a journalistic relationship with Jim Hummel and The Hummel Report.
Jim investigates government waste and corruption and asked me very simply, would I publish his pieces regardless of who they exposed. I said, “Yes,” without hesitation. He said, “You may lose advertisers.” I said, “I know.”
Jim Hummel brought down Central Falls mayor Moreau, exposed the David Cicilline loan scandal, and made elected criminals very uncomfortable. (ed. note: and exposed Speaker Fox)
During my tenure, we did what we believed to be right. Motif led to a more defined music scene, and put government thieves in the spotlight.
A guy at The Knick in Westerly said to me at a Robert Earl Keen concert that Hummel was like Captain America. I agreed, then asked, “What does that make me?”
He said, “You’re Batman.” I can live with that.

Caitlin Ardito
Project Manager/Associate Editor

I was the second person in history to complete an internship at Motif under Jim Vickers. And the only one before me was known to vomit out of fear on multiple occasions. Seriously, that happened. Because it was terrifying. To a 19-year old college girl (or a 40-year-old man, or really anybody) Jim was terrifying. On one occasion he told me my denim button down (which was chic as hell, at the time, in 2011) was clothing only field workers would wear, and then something along the lines of, “Get rid of it.” Despite the joy I think he took in rabble-rousing and scaring the crap out of people, Jim remains the best mentor I’ve had. He taught me the ins and outs of the industry on painfully long drives delivering papers twice a month (in the bi-monthly days), to thicken my skin (things usually won’t go your way, get over it or leave), not to take life too seriously, don’t date wussies, and that when you’re in charge, you don’t need to wear shoes in the office.
Post college, I’m now an associate editor/project manager/writer/office manager/whatever else at Motif. I asked Jim to submit us something pleasant for our anniversary, explaining the prompt as something father-figurish. Naturally he responded, “Like, go to your room, you’re on timeout?”
I could go on about the fantastic growth and achievements our newspaper has made in the past 18 months, but as Anthony Burgess once said, “To remember where you come from is part of where you are going.”
It’s been a hell of a ride, Motif.

Erin Botelho
Advertising Director

It was just about 6 years ago that I walked into the Motif office at The Hope Artiste Village. I didn’t know what to expect, having done other kinds of sales, but never selling print ads. From trying to sell an ad at a construction site (buzz saws blaring and all), to attending a Beer Fest and greeting customers dressed as Wonder Woman, it’s been a wild and sometimes hilarious ride.
Years later, it has become a very interesting and rewarding atmosphere for meeting great people who are passionate about what they are doing. We give a much-needed voice to that community and put it on the front page.
Looking back, my favorite thing would be watching the nominees and winners at the music and theater awards, respectively. They’ve worked hard at their crafts and have finally been recognized by their peers and fans. It’s nice to be a part of something every day that celebrates our local talent and happenings the best we can.

Emily Olson

As a RI transplant, I knew little about the state other than that my mother ran screaming from it 30 years before my husband’s job dragged me screaming to it. Before I started working for Motif, I was already making eyes at RI from across the room, but the last year as Motif’s editor made me fall hard. The magazine’s mission is to educate readers on the diverse and rich culture in our state and bring those on the fringe into the light. But the best part of my experience so far is that interacting with artists of all sorts and hearing people’s stories has given me an education instead.
The bizarre cast of characters who make up our staff is like a microcosm of RI itself – full of passionate, creative and strange people who want to improve their little corner of the galaxy for those around them. And working for Mike Ryan, who views Motif as a calling rather than a job, values in his team growth over perfection, welcomes my kids to the office and never starts a meeting without playing peek-a-boo with them under the conference table, has been an unparalleled experience. And I thought I was just going to make sure everything was spelled right.

Marc Clarkin

Nine years ago in a tipsy haze I fired off an email to (then editor/publisher) Jim Vickers informing this man (who I’d never met) that he should hire me as a rock ‘n’ roll columnist. Even nine years later, I’m still stunned this approach worked. Since then I watched the Motif transform from being something people had never heard of into a reputable publication. Along the way I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to cover national and local music, interview my teenage hero, handicap local events like roller derby, and write film and even a play review. I’ve had worse fallout from drunken emails. Thank you to Mr. Vickers for the opportunity and thank you to all my co-workers present and past. Best of luck to Motif Magazine in the future.

Karen Kessler
Staff Member, 2004 – 2008

After four seasons with Theatre By The Sea (TBTS), I was heartbroken when FourQuest Entertainment decided to cease operations after their 2003 season. During my tenure at TBTS, I had worked closely with many members of the press, including Jim Vickers, who was The Westerly Sun’s A & E Editor. Knowing that I was no longer employed, Jim asked if I would consider assisting him with the creation of an arts publication, which became Motif Magazine. For the next four years, I was the editor for the theater, dance and comedy sections and assisted with advertising sales. I could also be seen as a presenter at many Motif Awards ceremonies. The most memorable of those ceremonies was when I was a nominee in 2012. Somehow, I ended up presenting for my own category. I jokingly said, “Clearly I didn’t win or Jim wouldn’t have me presenting in this category.” Imagine how stunned I was to find my name in the envelope. I’m not sure if Jim planned it that way, but I wouldn’t be surprised!

Russell Gusetti
Editor Emeritus

Over the years I’ve been not only a reader of Motif but since I play in a band and run a venue in RI, the publication has always been important to me. I also worked there for two or so years with Jim. And now I’m happy to watch Motif grow under Mike and his great young staff. From the start, Motif was the alternative to the alternative. And in this day of shrinking arts coverage everywhere, Motif is perhaps more needed than ever before. Happy 10th anniversary Motif! Please continue to do what you do best … cover as many types of RI’s performing arts scene as you can and continue to cover ALL kinds of music!

John Fuzek
Roots Report

So, 10 years of Motif. I feel fortunate to have been part of it since (almost) the beginning. I never considered myself to be any type of writer other than a songwriter. It was by mere chance that I began to write for Motif. I sent the brand new paper a press release for a show that I was doing in late summer of 2004. Jim Vickers, then owner/editor of Motif, replied to my e-mail and asked if I would like to write for the paper. I told him I had never written nor even considered being a writer, but I would give it a try. For some reason I started my first column with “Okee dokee folks…” and I have used it in every issue since. I figured since 2004 I have written over 200 columns. That’s a lot of words. From the beginning, Motif has been a supporter of the arts in RI. I am very proud to be part of that support and hope that we can continue this long into the future.

Jim Hummel
Investigative Reporter

A month after we launched The Hummel Report in October of 2009 I got a call from Jim Vickers, the founder and then-editor at Motif. He explained that part of his five-year plan for the magazine was to introduce hard news as a supplement to the other great features Motif had developed. And he thought our stories were a perfect fit.
“No offense,’’ Vickers said, “but none of my staff knows who you are.’’
“Perfect!’’ I said, not offended at all. I already had a following at the State House and in local government through my nearly three decades of reporting for the Providence Journal and ABC6 TV. But part of growing a media outlet is reaching those who may not be your viewer or reader – and Motif fit that bill.
And what a partnership it has been. I continually run into people who say, “I really enjoyed reading your piece’’ – a signal to me they saw it in Motif, since our main format is online video. I’ve received dozens of tips from readers over these past five years that have led to some great stories and I look forward to a great partnership in the years to come.

Pete Larrivee
Beer Nerd

When I first started writing for Motif, I was a young, fresh-faced 26-year-old with a few beer fests under my belt and a talent for using ludicrous metaphors to describe how I felt about beer.
Since then, I’ve watched Motif grow from ‘That other magazine like the Phoenix,’ to a real, legitimate arts and entertainment magazine that, for some reason, still keeps a lunatic like me around. I love hearing the comments and compliments from readers and fans who love the new direction and tone of Motif. Here’s to another decade of growing and evolving!

Mark Morin
Dance Writer

I have been writing dance reviews for Motif since its inception. When founder, fellow graduate and friend Jim Vickers asked me if I wanted to join him as one of his writers, I jumped at the opportunity. I worked previously with Jim when he was the Arts and Entertainment editor at The Westerly Sun. As one who has long been involved with local dance, I have always been troubled by the lack of coverage other publications devoted to dance. This concern reached a crescendo during my tenure as the Director of Marketing and Public Relations for Festival Ballet Providence. For me, Motif became the sole voice in speaking about and promoting dance here in RI, either through some constructive criticism, or, more often than not, by pointing out the exceptional talent we have here locally. Motif serves the very noble role of giving a voice to the many extremely talented artists – both professional and nonprofessional – who call RI home. I look forward to contributing to Motif for many more years! Happy anniversary.

Erminio pinque










Monster says, “Blargh, Motif!”

Terry Shea
Theater Writer

It was 2010 and the Motif Theater Awards were underway at the old Hi Hat Club on Point Street. It occurred to me and my partner in crime that we had not been able to see most of the nominated shows that year due to finances and time and we wondered how anyone could have managed to do so except, perhaps, for the critics. At this point, Motif was established, but still seemingly in the shadows, and most of the process surrounding awards and reviews seemed murky at best. In a fit of pique, martinis notwithstanding, we declared that we could write reviews at least as well as what was out there, establish our own review website, get to see all of these great shows and hold our own awards ceremony that would be far more inclusive and transparent. Moreteeth was born and an arrogant, slightly inebriated decision turned a bad pun into an alternate source for theatrical criticism in RI. Moreteeth had a good couple of years and (maybe) helped raise the bar a little, but soon became too much work and eventually went dormant. Soon afterwards, new publisher Mike Ryan (who served with me on the board of Perishable Theatre) approached me and asked, “Have you ever done any writing?” Thinking I was being set up, I directed him to the Moreteeth website and Mike asked, in all genuineness, if I would consider joining the Motif staff. Mike is one of the most openhearted and giving people I know and he had no idea that we had been poking fun at his magazine for years. I started writing for Mike in the fall of 2012 and it has been an intensely rewarding experience. Motif has the heart and the guts and the talent to be the best (free) magazine on the stands and I’m proud to be a named member of the staff. If you don’t know Motif, you don’t know RI.

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