Camaraderie, beauty and a renewed sense of accomplishment. Those are just a few items created by over 100 volunteers in addition to the four engaging, large-scale mosaics that now adorn United Way partner organizations. As COMPAS visual artist Mica Lee Anders wraps up teaching this months-long project, we take a look back at her Artist Spotlight. It originally ran in June 2016 when she was planning the project.
Hey Mica, thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview. I know you work in many art forms, can you tell us what they are?
I like to say that my art form is whatever medium will work best to express the message I'm trying to convey. My undergrad and master's degrees are in photography but I also work in textiles, painting & drawing, mosaics, sculpture, dance, musical theater, and whatever else speaks to me at the time.
You are definitely a jack of all trades in the visual arts. Do you have a favorite medium? If so, why?
I think my favorite medium is textiles. I love the tactile nature of the work and the option to work both 2-D and 3-D. I enjoy the intricacy of the process. It can be very calm and almost meditative.
Do you remember when you first became interested in the arts? How did it happen? Did you have any big influences?
The arts have always been a part of my life. I've been singing and dancing almost as long as I've been walking and talking. I've had my own cameras since I was in elementary school and didn't go far without them. I also began painting, drawing, ceramics, and sewing in elementary school. I was fortunate to have two parents who were very invested in the arts and made them a priority in my life too.
I have been influenced by many artists and mentors but there are three books that have probably had the most profound impact on my artistic career: The Other Side of Color by David C. Driskell, Creating Their Own Image: The History of African-American Women Artists by Lisa E. Farrington, and Only Skin Deep: Changing Visions of the American Self edited by Coco Fusco and Brian Wallis. These three books gave me an access point into the art world. They presented me with something other than the traditional cannon that we learn about in art history. These books showed me that people that look like me and create work about issues of importance to me can be artists too. Representation matters!
What do you hope participants of your programs learn or come away with?
It is my hope that participants feel accomplished and proud of their artistic abilities; that they have gained confidence in themselves and what they are capable of.
What projects or programs have you been working on recently?
This spring, I conducted a week-long photography residency at Hillcrest Elementary School in Bloomington, MN through our Creative Classroom program. I worked with the 5th grade classes on a Power project. We talked about the different types of power and how to portray them using various styles of photography.
This fall I will be working with COMPAS and United Way on 4 community-built public art pieces in different parts of the Twin Cities Metro area. We're just beginning the design phase but everyone seems all really excited about the work.
In addition to your work as a COMPAS artist you are also the ArtsWork Project Manager here at COMPAS. What do you enjoy the most about each position? Do you find any challenges in switching between artist and administrator?
Being an artist and being an arts administrator are very different roles. I feel fortunate to be working both of them simultaneously because I think they complement each other and give me more perspective. It's sort of like seeing on the micro and macro levels at the same time.
Teaching is my heart. Working one on one or with a classroom of 50--I love it. Seeing the immediate effect art can have on the students is wonderful. Watching them ask questions, test boundaries, gain confidence, and create works they're proud of is why I teach. It's so neat to take an idea from my head and watch as the students turn it into something real and often even more amazing than I could ever have dreamed.
What I love about my role as an arts administrator is getting to see the greater impact. When I teach, I only touch the students in my classroom but as an administrator, I'm able to help multiple artists create meaningful art experiences for many more young people and that is very important to me too.
Why do you think arts education is needed in our community?
The arts are such an amazing tool for transformation and growth. Art education often gives people a voice and a way to express themselves. What people learn in art classes can affect so many other parts of their schooling and their personality as a whole.
Does living in Minnesota have any influence on your work?
Minnesota hasn't really influenced my personal work but living in the Twin Cities, in such a vibrant arts community, has allowed me to make a living working in the arts in a way that isn't possible a lot of places.
How do you practice creativity in your everyday life?
Singing and dancing are part of my life every day. They are my essence. I also try to see the joys in the little details of life. I love finding the tiny grape hidden deep in the bunch or hearing the way a large crowd of people make a sound almost like ocean waves. To me being observant is part of living creatively. I used to think I needed to try and capture all these details photographically but I've come to realize that simply enjoying the moment is what really matters.