Fear, Love & the Muse

Fear, Love & the Muse

Monica J. Brown, Interdisciplinary Arts MA Ambassador

I am honored to have been selected as the Graduate Student Ambassador for the Interdisciplinary Arts MA program, and I’m looking forward to sharing my experiences with you, the Marginalia community, for the next year. I had been searching for a Master’s program for several years, at first looking at programs to build upon my BFA in Painting from OtisCollege of Art & Design. Although I was continually expanding upon the ways that I was creative, I had still somehow trapped myself in a creative box, feeling like I wasn’t truly making art if I wasn’t making visual art, and even more specifically – painting. In some ways, I felt stuck, like I had gone as far as I could with the tools that I had and needed to expand upon the other ways in which I had already been expressing myself, while adding new tools to the box. So, when I saw the curriculum for the Interdisciplinary Arts MA program at Columbia, it naturally felt like a perfect fit.

After completing my first year as a part-time student in the Interdisciplinary Arts MA program, I am excited to continue with my second year program of study. Most of my studio classes are complete. During my first academic year:

I learned to embrace fear.

I think most artists have a bit of apprehension in presenting themselves to others through their art. With the help of Nana Shineflug, (Movement) and through being in a program with such supportive peers, I have been able to give up a little of the ego sense of worrying about looking foolish in front of people while performing. I’ve learned a little to stop caring so much about how other people may judge me, and I’m learning to embrace more fully that which is within me that I’d like to express and share.

My pivotal moment in Drama was simply in getting up in front of the class on that first evening, for one minute, and allowing myself to be “on stage.” It was frightening and liberating at the same time. I survived it. It was uncomfortable, but not horrible. It made me realize that the thing that I feared doing (and yet, desired to do) was not insurmountable. Also, I really appreciated that Jenny Magnus made herself so accessible by getting up there and doing the same thing that she asked us to do and sharing her own discomfort in that process. Just knowing that there is always some discomfort there, even for an experienced performer, suggests that a large part of the process is being afraid and doing it anyway.

I found computer love.

The Sound class was the most difficult for me, as it was completely outside of my skill set. Once I got over the learning curve and was able to manipulate the sound programs, I found it to be surprisingly fun. I had never imaged that making art with a computer would be so satisfying for me.  With the tools gained through taking this class, I was able to add soundtracks to my movement and drama performances. 

I learned ways to seduce the muse.

In the Word class, I especially enjoyed the in-class free writes inspired by images or music, and I really appreciated those as a new tool to seduce the muse. It was also great to learn, understand, and use the power of reading work out loud – not only to develop a voice, but also as a strong assist in the revision of writing.

The Connected Images 5.5 day intensive was one of the most stressful and exhausting experiences that I’ve had in a very long while. It was also one of the most creative and productive. It truly felt like an immersion into the deconstruction and reconstruction of my creative process. Through this investigative week, I was reminded of the power of pursuing and following my own my personal muse – something I had almost forgotten while in the depths of this expanding and contracting journey. The intensity and stress factor induced by the compact nature of this course definitely aided in stretching me outside of my own prescribed boundaries. It was difficult for me physically and mentally but so worth it to tap into a creative space that could only have been reached through the confines of “running out of time.”

This academic year, I am looking forward to the history and discourse in my upcoming courses and am excited about challenging myself to become a stronger critical thinker. I am also looking forward to sharing my experiences around these courses here on Marginalia.