RI Cultural Anchor: Anna McNeary

Anna McNeary in an interdisciplinary artist working in print, fiber, sculpture and installation. She lives in Providence, teaches at Brown University, and is a member of The Wurks art collective. We asked her a few questions about her life and art-making in Rhode Island for our series, Rhode Island Cultural Anchors.

RISCA: Give us a brief overview of your day yesterday- what did you do in both your personal and professional life?
AM: I spent the morning teaching a summer drawing course at Brown, guiding my students through collaborative drawing exercises. In the afternoon I drove to my second job, which is Curatorial Assistant at the Newport Art Museum. I worked on our upcoming fall exhibitions for a few hours, then headed back to Providence to speak on a careers panel for young people at Brown. I finished up emails at home, cooked dinner with a few friends, and I’m happy to say I was in bed by eleven. No studio time, but so it goes some days.

RISCA: What do you love about the art community in Rhode Island?
AM: There are so many career artists who make their homes here and sustain studios, collectives, projects and practices beyond the walls of the colleges and universities that many people assume incubate RI’s creative activity. This is a place where artists can enjoy a decent quality of life. I can find affordable studio space, and the generally low cost of living leaves me with some funds for art supplies each month. I’ve experienced a spirit of camaraderie and a healthy DIY ethos in many of the Rhode Island art spaces I’ve explored. My colleagues in the art community here are always eager to circulate opportunities and support each others’ projects. I observe people lifting each other up everyday in ways large and small.

RISCA: Why do you make Rhode Island your home, and how did you end up here?
AM: I moved here from California in 2016 to attend graduate school. At the time, I assumed I’d stay for the duration of my program and move on when the next opportunity presented itself. It turned out that the next opportunities were in Providence–I started teaching at the college level, set up a studio and a home, fell in love, put together a group of friends and colleagues, and began to get a handle on all that’s happening in Providence’s art scene beyond RISD. +

RISCA: What are you the most excited about right now in your art practice?
AM: I’m starting to get opportunities that felt totally beyond my reach three years ago, from exhibitions, to residencies, to teaching opportunities and commissions. I’m still very much at the beginning of my career. But when I think about the small but meaningful accomplishments I can claim now, in contrast with how adrift I felt a few years ago, I feel excited about the momentum I’m building as I grow my art practice.

RISCA: What is one thing you think the art community in Rhode Island needs?
AM: The answer to the question will always be more funding, no matter how much funding there is! Rhode Island organizations already offer some wonderful grants and fellowships for regional artists. The more of those resources that exist, the more there are to go around.

RISCA: What is the biggest challenge for you in your art life?
AM: Keeping my focus clear and my confidence up. In graduate school I was passionate about making work that revolved around invisible/emotional labor and the impacts of power structures on emotional experience. I knew that these ideas were important, but it was easy to doubt whether or not I had “earned” a place in the discourse surrounding my subject matter. Imposter syndrome is ever-present and although I hope it’ll dissipate as I age, I have a feeling I’ll be dealing with it for a long time. Even when I’m certain of what I want to say with my work, it can still be hard to know where to put my energy when time and resources are limited. What is the most urgent thing for me to say right now? What is the most urgent thing for me to make that will communicate what I want to say? Is anyone even listening? It gets existential pretty quickly, but I think most other artists can empathize.

RISCA: What Rhode Island artists and/or arts organizations most inspire you and why?
AM: AS220’s broad-reaching mission constantly reminds me to reevaluate the ways in which I confront hierarchies and questions of access in the art world. Providence artists like Elizabeth Duffy, Lu Heintz and Murphy Chang inspire me with their thoughtful intersections of materials and imagery. The folks at The Wurks, the collective where my studio is located, constantly humble me with their generosity toward each other and their can-do attitudes. I could go on…this state contains volumes of incredible projects and people.

You can see what Anna is up to, and her amazing art on Instagram. And, if you’re in New York, you can see her work through September 28th at International Print Center New York, part of Umbra: New Prints for a Dark Age.

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