INTERVIEW WITH CHRISTINE SLOAN STODDARD
Photo credit: George M Ivanoff
Christine Sloan Stoddard is an editor, writer, filmmaker, multimedia artist, and educator. She engages in social projects and her work bridges across many genres and types of stories. She is willing to talk with us briefly here today.
Greetings Christine. Would you care to share your background with us? What are your educational strengths and areas of expertise?
I am a published author, produced filmmaker and theatre-maker, exhibited visual artist, and the owner of Quail Bell Press & Productions. In addition to creating original work, I have offered my services to clients as a writer, creative director, host/actor, photo editor, and producer. My first feature film, Sirena’s Gallery, was completed this year and my short, Bottled, is available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video. My books include Heaven Is a Photograph, Hello, New York: The Living And Dead, Desert Fox by the Sea, and other titles. My work has appeared in the Queens Botanical Garden, the Kennedy Center, the New York Transit Museum, Annmarie Sculpture Garden, the New York City Poetry Festival, and elsewhere.
I hold undergraduate degrees in Film, English/Creative Writing, and Product Innovation. My minors were in Spanish (translation focus), French (language & culture focus), and European Studies (literature & cinema focus.) I also took elective classes in theatre and journalism. I hold an MFA in Digital & Interdisciplinary Art Practice. My graduate coursework spanned everything from immersive video to ceramic sculpture to the feminist literature of post-civil war Spain. My educational strengths are the arts and humanities. My area of expertise is interdisciplinary creation and multimedia content production.
Would you be willing to share with us a little about your personal educational journey? What led you to seek the education and vocation you chose? What advice would you like to offer to those students who wish to go into the same field as you?
I was an AP superstar in high school and attended Grinnell College on a full scholarship before transferring to Virginia Commonwealth University. At VCU, I was able to pursue the mix of arts, literature, world languages, and business coursework and hands-on experience that I sought. Grinnell offered a much more traditional liberal arts approach and had a strict cap on transfer credits. Its location far from a city really limited the kinds of opportunities I wanted to pursue during the school year, too. Because I brought transferred so many AP and community college credits from high school, I could focus on the upper-level and small classes I wanted at VCU. Some of these classes even required portfolio submission and professor approval. Between VCUarts, the VCU Student Media Center, the VCU English Department, the VCU da Vinci Center, the VCU School of World Studies, and the VCU School of Mass Communications, I really had the chance to chart my path. I had plenty of access to grant funding, internships, freelance work, and other professional circumstances. Yes, I took initiative, but I was able to take these shots in large part because VCU facilitated them. Transferring to VCU was one of the best decisions of my life and I’m proud to be a Ram.
To be honest, I was a little overwhelmed about choosing a graduate program, though I was confident I wanted to continue my education. Waiting before committing to an MFA was ultimately a smart choice. I did a little bit of exploration and non-credit study at George Mason and Yale while working full-time before deciding on The City College of New York for my MFA. Luckily, merit-based scholarships covered the full cost of attendance, which was a huge factor in me choosing my specific program. It was also important that the program be interdisciplinary and writing-intensive, with access to a studio, facilities, and equipment. CCNY gave me all of these things, not to mention access to tremendous faculty and even a travel award for research in El Salvador.
I definitely encourage students to stretch themselves, try and fail, and get exposure to new ideas, communities, and places. Let go and create. Learning requires flexibility. It’s okay to do research and change course or make adjustments to your life. In fact, it’s a good thing! Don’t stay stagnant.
What is it about art and literature that appeals to you? How would you describe the importance of this area of education?
I’m drawn to art and literature because these interests were encouraged at home and as early as elementary school. I got lucky! Everyone needs the arts and literature because creative expression, communication, stories, and understanding of the human condition are vital to life. As such, they should be vital to education, too. I certainly think they are. I wish more people agreed and invested in educators and resources to ensure every student received frequent, wide-ranging, and multicultural exposure to the arts and literature.
What made you want to tackle so many forms of art? Would you encourage others to try multiple media in their own art?
I prioritize creative expression, storytelling, and conceptual approaches. Many of my projects span more than one medium. I’m not attempting to “master” any form; I’m just trying to make things that resonate with my audiences. I have issues with the idea of “mastery” and the implied hierarchies and power balances that come with it. I encourage others to try multiple media. Acquire new skills, team up with others who have the technical knowledge you might lack, and don’t be afraid to push through the hard stuff.
You’ve worked in teaching others as well as creating your own art. What would you say is the most rewarding aspect of teaching?
I have never been a full-time art teacher but I have been a teaching artist and an artist-in-residence. In these sorts of roles, I share my creative process with students, community members, or patrons. I am not necessarily imparting specific technical skills; I’m instead demonstrating how I design creative projects, research ideas, solve problems, and make something from beginning to end. Teaching artists are generally contracted workers at schools, libraries, museums, theaters, and art centers. This work can be seasonal or more long-term and it’s often grant-funded. My last teaching artist role lasted about two years and involved me making everything from murals to music videos. An artist-in-residence tends to be an artist carrying out a specific public art or community engagement over a short period of time. Sometimes an artist-in-residence does work that’s solely independent and shares it with the public at the end of their residency. I have done both types of residencies and enjoy both structures for different reasons.
For me, the most rewarding aspect of teaching is the sharing and exchanging that occurs. My approach to teaching is less about top-down hierarchy and transactional experiences—or at least that’s always my intention!
Last question: What is one thing you want to change about the educational system?
There are so many things I want to change! But very broadly, I want there to be more emphasis on individual growth, curiosity, and creativity instead of on competitive achievement that reinforces all of the same inequities present in other aspects of society.
Thank you for talking with us today, Christine.