We all have our favorite publications. The ones that arrive at our door each week. The ones we read on our iPads daily. Or even the ones we snag in the checkout line as guilty pleasures. For Blair Knobel ‘03, it’s TOWN, a magazine that celebrates the culture of Greenville and the Upcountry.
Which is no surprise considering she’s the editor-in-chief.
So how did a studio art major at Furman find her way to a leading role on Greenville’s editorial stage? As with many young creatives, Knobel’s tale included a journey to New York. “I left Furman wondering what to do and initially spent a year in Anderson, S.C. producing and exhibiting photography and working at an art store,” Knobel said. During that year, Knobel applied to internships across the country and finally landed one in New York City at the Aperture Foundation, a fine art photography nonprofit.
She moonlighted at an art gallery and finally settled at Chelsea House Publishers, the first shift to words for this creative artist. “I had done some writing before, but it was my attraction to visual art that actually led me to a place of wanting to work with words as their own art form,” Knobel said. She quickly discovered her niche and the constant exposure to two favorite New York publications, Time Out New York, and New York Times Magazine, led her to her current passion: magazines.
Soon, Knobel felt the urge to return to South Carolina. “I loved New York but I longed for the flexibility and community the slower pace of the South affords,” she said. Knobel utilized her Furman visual arts background to gain an internship in web design at the now defunct G Magazine. She quickly became a contributing writer and gained more editorial experience.
When two editors on staff took maternity leave in the spring of 2009, Knobel had the opportunity to excel. “I took on an assistant editor role and managed the production of the September issue that year. It was a wonderful creative challenge, conceptualizing and determining how to get it done.” By 2010 she was senior editor – but the economy’s influence told a different story and the magazine folded by the end of the year.
“I was anxious, of course. But my intuition told me something would come along,” Knobel said. That something was TOWN, the brainchild of Jack Bacot, former TOWN editor-in-chief, and Mark Johnston, TOWN publisher. “The concept was a bit of a repackaging of the things we loved in G, with a modern and edgy tone,” she said. Knobel was asked to join the new team as managing editor and the first 100-page plus issue launched in April of 2011.
Knobel was involved in the rhythm of the magazine from the start. “My aesthetic was reflected because of my fine arts background. I wanted the magazine to be a powerful visual experience.” And when Bacot stepped down to pursue a new publication in September of 2012, Knobel was named editor-in-chief. “I was excited but also nervous. But it was exactly what I needed for my life – I am soulfully connected to my work.”
Knobel’s artistic fingerprint is seen in each issue of the monthly magazine. “Every month is a varied and multi-faceted experience of our culture.”
Knobel produces 12 TOWN issues per year and often employs Furman students as interns, even hiring Andrew Huang ’11 as assistant editor. Overall, she is constantly working to establish a vision – for TOWN and for her perception of the area’s culture.
“The challenge with each issue is to find these stories that share the experience and culture of this place – but they are always there. The key is learning to listen.”