What is The Charrette?

In 18th-century France, the term “charrette” was used by the École des Beaux-Arts to describe the students’ habit of working right up until their deadlines when a cart—or charrette—was wheeled around to collect their projects for review.

Now the term is used to describe an intense period of design and problem solving in which people with different specialties define the problem and come to a solution—and that, dear reader, is what this newsletter is all about:

  • The arts in all their forms and how they affect us,

  • Politics because art does not live in a vacuum,

  • History because we can’t see clearly without understanding our past, and begrudgingly…

  • Public opinion—the good, the bad, and the downright embarrassing.

These are just four tools to help you discern truth from utter malarky. But don’t make the fatal mistake of using any one of them on their own—charrettes only work when the different components work together for a common goal.

Black and white photo of woman smiling and petting a dog.

Hi! I’m Kathleen!

I’m a recovering social media marketing professional and former ballet dancer. You can read about both of those exhilarating and soul-sucking addictions life decisions in this post.

I’ve always had the soul of an artist (but not the patience). I did ballet for over a decade, sang in choirs, did school plays, sewed, painted, read, went to museums, watched weird movies, and drew on walls… much to my parents’ chagrin.

I’m also an obsessively deep thinker. I find myself ruminating on what life lessons can be learned from works of art; how art imitates reality a little too much; why knowing our past can inform our future; and all the dumb things people post on Twitter.

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An adorable corgi looking up at his owner. Owner is wearing sparkly converse sneakers and jeans. Standing oustide in front of a tree on the sidewalk.

… and this is Jeffersen

He’s my dog. He’s a 5-year-old Pembroke Corgi who you can follow on Instagram here. He has nothing to do with The Charrette. He’s just super cute, and I really like him.

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Who should read this?

If you’re reading this, you’re probably a bit like me and see the connections between the arts and the current moment. You probably find yourself scratching your head every time there is a culture war dust-up or online controversy that you know would be a lot less divisive if people just knew the historical context. Also, you’re starting to worry you look like this to the rest of the world:

Meme from Always Sunny  in Philidelphia. Conspiracy Theory. Conspiracy theorist. Red Strings.

Don’t worry. There are more of us.

Why subscribe?

Subscribe to get full access to the newsletter and website. Currently, most of my posts are free. Over the summer and into the fall, I will be working on a series about Witch Hunts, and quite a few of those will be behind a paywall.

You have several options to subscribe:

Free! I try to keep my best work free so you can share it with your friends! I’m still working towards a regular posting schedule but expect at least 2-3 free posts per month.

Monthly: A monthly subscription is only $7 per month.

Once—completely unprovoked—someone privately reached out to me to say that he considered subscribing but said he could get the same type of content in Vanity Fair or The New Yorker. Well, $7 a month is cheaper than a subscription to both of those. While I might not have as many cute cartoons, I won’t make you read as many words, AND I don’t have a boss telling me what angle to take. Take that, internet rando.

Yearly: $70 per year.

Founding Member: $100+ per year. Also, I love writing hand-written letters. If you pay for this tier and email me your address, I’ll send you a hand-written note.

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Join the crew

Be part of a community of people who are maybe a little too nerdy for their own good.

Still not sure if this newsletter is for you? Read some of the member’s favorite posts here:

  1. “Let them eat cake!” And some more recent lies you’ve been fed: How we’ve revised words and history to win arguments

  2. Between Ballet and Social Media: When getting sidelined by an injury or losing your job is a blessing in disguise: I lost my job and it was one of the best things that happened to me. Social Media Management is an incredibly difficult job, and it was similar to my experience of quitting ballet years ago.

  3. What exactly is a "charrette"? Also, who are you and what

    are you doing here? Me justifying my existence on Substack and explaining what a Charrette is.

  4. The Devil You Know: Witch hunts should start with a look in the mirror: In Salem, MA the devil was hard at work, but just not where people thought he was… When you’re looking at a witch hunt, you should pay close attention to the people lodging those accusations.

    The Charrette is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.


People

Kathleen Sykes
Obsessively interested in everything. Loves sewing, music, and art. Corgmom. Needs a nap.
Kathleen Sykes
Recovering marketing professional and ballet dancer. Corgmom. Writes about art, history, politics, and public opinion on thecharrette.substack.com.