Photograph by Cat Garcia
Describe your path since graduating from SAIC, and what you're doing today.
After graduating from SAIC, I stayed in Chicago for a year exhibiting my work, attending several residencies, and working part-time for Graduate Studios at SAIC, and part-time as a Teaching Artist at the Museum of Contemporary Art. I remember sending a fax to my SAIC loan provider attaching a paycheck from SAIC proving that I didn’t earn enough money to begin paying off the loans I took out to attend SAIC.
Then I moved to Baltimore for a year in an attempt to learn about a new art ecosystem, and I ended up working part-time in the Visual Art Department at the Baltimore School for the Arts, and part-time in a variety of customer service jobs, one of which was where I was robbed twice at gunpoint. I decided to leave Baltimore after I turned 30 the same day Trump got elected, was rejected from all of the schools I had applied to for a PhD, and the Baltimore City Schools was hit with a seemingly debilitating budget cut.
I left the U.S. in 2017 and wandered around Europe piecing together funded artist residencies, and returning home to the U.S. to work minimum-wage jobs when I ran out of money. It was at those artist residencies where I began interviewing people in the arts about their livelihoods, a project I still continue today. In 2018, I was awarded a year-long fellowship at the Royal Academy Schools in London and that was the first time in my professional life as an artist, academic, and educator where I was offered a position in a city where I wanted to live, that paid me enough money that I need to live, and signaled professional advancement. After that Fellowship I was able to obtain an Artist Visa to remain in the U.K., and last October I began an un-funded PhD in Practice-Led Fine Art at the University of Oxford.
Describe how VCS has impacted where you are today.
I have been lucky to receive an outstanding education at SAIC which has lead me to having an incredible network of friends, mentors, peers, and students who assist me in being able to exhibit, publish, and lecture regularly, as well as $120,000 in student loans. I graduated with a dual-degree and Visual and Critical Studies in particular gave me permission to expand my understanding of my creative practice into areas I had previously segmented off as my academic studies. It gave me a forum for all of my interests to come together and to enrich one another, and introduced me to several mentors who have consistently worked hard to support me, and who have served as role models demonstrating how to embody a practice in the relationships I build with people in my community.
What is the most memorable experience you have from your time in VCS?
I had the privilege of being Professor Terri Kapsalis’ Teaching Assistant two-years in a row for the VCS BA course. It was a joy to work with Professor Kapsalis whose trust developed my confidence as an educator, and to work with students whose innovative research methodologies, creative writing, nuanced subject matter, and brave explorations of the personal as political were inspiring. I loved attending their research symposiums, and was always so proud of the work we had accomplished together and excited for where their research would lead them.
Describe what VCS students might expect from the program.
VCS students might expect from this program to be introduced to professors who recognize, honor, and support their multiple interests and skills. They will take classes that will introduce them to new ways of thinking through their interests, and that give them permission to work through multiple methodologies, forms, and materials. They will find a community of people who will fight with them to make sure they all get the space they need in order to pursue their interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary scholarship.
What do you wish you had known when you were still in VCS?
I wish I had known that what I was pursuing was not something that would appeal to a department, or a school, or a discipline in the future, but an exercise in the present which allowed me to move further faster because I didn’t have to argue the premise.
Declan Howell, 1959 (Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), 2019, Framed Photograph, 9 .75” x 11.75”, Bill's Auto, Chicago, U.S.A. Photograph by Robert Chase Heishman.
Jay Dipersia, 2018 (The Good Fight), 2019, Framed Photograph, 13.3” x 10.5”, Bill's Auto, Chicago, U.S.A. Photograph by Robert Chase Heishman.
Disclaimer: All work represents the views of the INDIVIDUAL ARTISTS & AUTHORS who created them, and are not those of the school or museum of the Art Institute.