Alla V. Wakefield, Founder, Publisher and Editor, Fine Arts


Driven by her passion for the arts and her desire to create an innovative weekly arts-focused publication to fill an important need in the arts community, Alla V. Wakefield launched Fine Arts, with little money and almost no staff. While the first issue under her guidance appeared on January 1, 1961, the publication had actually evolved from a Chicago-based FM radio programming guide known as Fine Music, which had begun publishing in 1955.

An early model for future publications such as Northern Ohio Live, Fine Arts became one of only a few subscription periodicals devoted entirely to the arts and their promotion, with each issue featuring listings and reviews for classical and jazz concerts, selected AM-FM and TV programs, theater, museum and gallery openings, interesting films and lectures.

 “Alla was entrepreneurial and definitely the first of a kind,” recalls Nina Gibans, who wrote visual arts and music articles for Fine Arts while working in art education at the Cleveland Museum of Art. “She was certainly a pioneer, too, especially in trying to provide coverage of all of the arts.”

Wakefield, who served as publisher and editor, worked with a small staff that included Linda Kraus and James B. Gidney as associate editors; Cleveland Institute of Music dean Clement A. Miller, recordings editor, who also wrote short record reviews; and William Ward, art director. She also assembled an advisory committee of Walter Blodgett, curator of musical arts at the Cleveland Museum of Art; Edward G. Evans, chairman of Western Reserve University’s music department; L.A. Graham of the Akron Symphony Orchestra; and Arthur Loesser, author and pianist. 

Printed by Suburban Press at 3818 Lorain Avenue, the cover of the 5” x 7” weekly also typically featured a photo of a member of the Cleveland Orchestra or a concert artist, publicity stills from a play or a painting from a current gallery exhibit. As part of Fine Arts's efforts, Wakefield also published an annual Cleveland Orchestra concert guide, as well as an annual opera guide. In keeping with her vision of promoting all the arts, Wakefield diversified the content a bit by printing an occasional poem, too.

Moreover, Wakefield also worked to keep the publication culturally diverse. In the January 11, 1971, issue, she ran an article entitled “What is Black Music?” pertaining to black spirituals, which the unaccredited author said were “as widely loved as any folk songs in the world.” Declaring jazz to be “America’s greatest contribution to world music,” the article went on to discuss a new book from Kent State University Press entitled, Black Music in Our Culture by Dominique-Rene de Lenna. Fine Arts also ran regular reviews of shows at Cleveland’s famous Karamu House, the first multicultural theater in the U.S.

After nearly failing in June 1962, the not-for-profit magazine changed its status to for profit and subsequently expanded with the addition of feature writers such as Gibans, whose article “A Painter of These Parts” in the November 9, 1970, issue profiled artist William Sommer and previewed a retrospective of his work at the Akron Art Institute.

Published in May 1960, “Some Thoughts on Abstract Art and the May Show” by Edward B. Henning, modern art curator at the Cleveland Museum of Art, which annually sponsored the May Show exhibit of local artists’ works, defended the experimental nature of some of the previous year’s entries. Seeking to educate audiences accustomed to representational painting, Henning explained that abstract art is “intended as a visual poem or metaphor, a metaphor of the quality and intensity of the artist's inner experience." The June issue featured a brief biography of Frederic Chopin.

The January 15, 1961, issue offered a profile of Annie Fischer, a Hungarian pianist making her Cleveland Orchestra debut, whom London critics had recently hailed as “easily the finest woman pianist of her generation.” The article was accompanied by a portrait of Fischer leaning on her piano. 

“Alla never really pursued a lot of corporate or other support in the way a publication might today,” Gibans observes. “So, she had her dream, but when she ran out of money, that’s when it stopped.”

During the mid-1960s, the magazine started writing about such topical issues as campus unrest. The last issue of Fine Arts
was published on February 2, 1973.


Cleveland Arts Prize
P.O. Box 21126 • Cleveland, OH 44121 • 440-523-9889 •