Metro Weekly

21 Years of Fall Arts Preview Covers

Every cover from 1999 to 2018, plus the one from 1994 that started it all.

On Thursday, September 15, 1994, Metro Weekly published its very first Fall Arts Preview. Twenty-five years later, the annual issue remains one of the magazine’s most popular, sought-after editions, featuring comprehensive listings in film, stage, music, dance, museums and galleries, and a section of arts and entertainment miscellany known as Above & Beyond (an homage to our favorite magazine, The New Yorker).

We have always tried to put extra conceptual effort into the Fall Arts Preview covers. They generally (but not always) boast visual representations of the arts as well as leaves. Lots and lots of leaves.

In 1994, we were only 6″ wide by 9″ high. Back then, our covers were completely free of text, something we felt would give Metro Weekly distinction, allowing it to catch the eye and stand out in a crowded field of free magazines. Even after text found its way onto the covers, the Fall Arts Preview was unique in keeping verbiage to a minimum, selling itself through imagery. It has always been one of the most enjoyable — and challenging — covers to produce.

We thought it would be fun to look back at our Fall Arts Preview covers, so we have assembled as many as we could find in a slideshow below. (We have yet to unearth the covers from 1995 to 1998, so there is a noticeable gap between the years 1994 and 1999.)

Swipe or click on the gallery below:

The very first Fall Arts Preview debuted on Sept. 15, 1994. We were small format back then, and on newsprint. The abstract design was by then art director Daryl Wakeley. As we're still trying to excavate years 1995 to 1998, we instead skip ahead to....
...1999. As you'll soon see, autumn leaves became a mainstay of the Fall Arts Preview covers. This was one of three instances where a single leaf was used. The design was by art director Mike Hefner.
For year 2000, art director Tony Frye commissioned Greg Johannesen to concoct this clever melange of arts symbols bathed in soothing fall colors.
Greg Johannesen returned in 2001 to once again find a visual way to represent the general topics that have been covered in every Fall Arts Preview. The issue was in production as the country underwent the 9/11 attacks. A decision was made to continue work and get the issue to the printer. It was one of the most harrowing, stressful, upsetting deadlines in the magazine's history as the staff -- along with the rest of the world -- grappled with the unthinkable tragedy that had just occurred on America's shores.
The 2002 cover was illustrated by John Yanson, who also happened to be the partner of Washington Blade founder and longtime former publisher Don Michaels. Art Director: Tony Frye.
For 2003, Todd Franson constructed a small box with vibrantly colored cubicles -- it sits near his desk to this day -- and then photographed each item individually. Art director Tony Frye then photoshopped each item into its own individual compartment. This was also the first Fall Arts on the larger, magazine-sized format.
The single leaf made a return in 2004 in this photograph by Todd Franson. This is a longtime staff favorite and a blowup of it hung in our offices for years. Art director: Tony Frye.
In 2005, Todd Franson wanted to try something different, and created this phrenology head segmented with the various arts categories in the issue. He has often said he'd like to revisit the idea, so we soon might be seeing phrenology head, part 2. Art director Tony Frye devised the round arts icons used in both the issue and on the head.
A funny thing happened in 2006: It was the night before deadline and an idea we had for the cover -- a giant bushel of leaves spelling out Fall Arts Preview -- wasn't working. So, art director Tony Frye phoned Todd Franson and asked him to come up with something -- overnight. Todd got to work and came up with this camp cover featuring Michelangelo's David. Astute observers will notice that many items were recycled from the 2003 cover.
Todd Franson took on the mantle of art director in 2007, and came up with this elegant design with subtle Asian influences.
In 2008, we broke tradition and featured James Davis, an actor appearing locally as Juliet in The Shakespeare Theatre Company's gender-bending production of Romeo & Juliet, on the cover. It was the first (and only) time we broke with our tradition of creating conceptual covers and featured a running production on the Fall Arts Preview cover. Photography and art direction by Todd Franson.
For the 2009 cover, Todd Franson set up a lightbulb in his studio and then photographed it using different lighting configurations, after which he combined them in Photoshop, refashioning the filament into the shape of a leaf.
All the elements in the 2010 cover are tangible. Todd constructed a small proscenium, created the letters, and suspended them from twigs with wires.
Finally, in 2011, we achieved the Fall Arts Preview in autumn leaves concept that we'd been kicking around for years. Scott G. Brooks, a longtime contributor, added his own whimsical touches to the miraculous cover he illustrated for us, incorporating small arts-inclined animals, topping it with a "Gaga" squirrel.
For the 2012 cover, local artist Stephen Benedicto modeled for Todd Franson, who then provided the core image to Christopher Cunetto for illustrative flourishes and enhancements.
In 2013, Todd Franson revisited the 2004 leaf idea, bolstering the colors and the design of the leaf itself.
Todd Franson got a little wacky in 2014, creating this whimsical manequin in a sea of leaves tableau.
Christopher Cunetto took center stage in 2015 with this opulent portrait of a fall arts goddess.
The 2016 cover was created entirely in-camera by Julian Vankim, using projections of leaves on his model.
Scott G. Brooks returned in 2017 with this playful (and elaborate) homage to the 2003 "box" cover.
For 2018, Todd Franson wanted to go simple and bright, so he crafted a cover of not one, but an abundance of leaves, and "floated" the cover text on the surface of the water.

We take great pride in producing the Fall Arts Preview, as well as its March cousin, the Spring Arts Preview, which turns 10 this year. The 2018 Fall Arts Preview is officially “sold out,” but the information contained within remains online and expanded beyond the print edition. Click on the links below to browse the individual sections:

Randy Shulman is Metro Weekly's Publisher and Editor-in-Chief. He can be reached at

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