Defending the Arts. One story, One Image at a Time: An Interview with Amy Scheidegger

by Mighty Writer, McKayla Yan, for Mighty Post.

(The Mighty Post blog has been taken down, so I'm re-blogging the interview here.) 

Published on March 10th, 2013. 

M: How does it feel to say you’re the director of the Artistic Rebuttal Project?

A: It feels pretty awesome! I was always a quiet person and, I don’t think
of myself as a leader in the most traditional sense of the word. But
with this project, since I created it, I can run it in whatever way I
choose, which feels very important to an artist.

M: What does it take to be director of something that sends such a
powerful message?

A: Oh wow, it takes a lot of different things. It’s second nature to me,
to want to prove to people that the arts are beneficial. But it is
stressful at times, when you have to make sure everything you’re doing
and saying isn’t excluding people or making any other profession seem
less important. You just have to listen more than you talk, and take
advice from the people who matter to you while still doing what you
love, because if you stop loving it, it won’t last very much longer.

M: Does being a director stress you out? Or get overwhelming at times?

A: Totally! There are definitely days when a leader of anything just
wants to hide from everyone and everything just to be in their own
little world for a bit – to de-stress and re-focus. We just have to
anticipate having those feelings and be ok with letting a day or two
go by without being super-productive.

M: When you are drawing do you use the anger you feel and put it into
your paintings? Like particularly the comment from the high schoolers?

A: Yes, I certainly try to channel most of my feelings through
art-making. Painting and drawing helps my brain focus on what I’m
feeling and how I can turn those emotions into something physical and
experience-able by other people, who most likely have felt the same

M: How do you use your emotions to create your artwork?

A: I’m not sure if I can fully articulate how I use my emotions in my
work, but I do tend to create some kind of world out of any intense
emotion I’m feeling. For example, I had a family member pass away, and
shortly after I was reading Dante’s Divine Comedy, I took mental
images from Dante’s world and made a painting out of where I thought
my loved one had gone after she passed, and it made me feel much
better, visualizing a place where she could be instead of just gone.

M: Are most of your works made from anger?

A: Haha, I wouldn’t say most, but I highly recommend focusing anger on
making art, or something else vigorous and thought-provoking when
you’re angry instead of inflicting harm on someone else.  I make art
for whatever emotion I’m feeling: happy, sad, angry, anxious,
overwhelmed, playful – the urge to make something can come at any

M: How do you usually feel making artwork? How do you set your emotions
before creating artwork?

A: I usually feel pretty calm when I’m making artwork. I usually try and
let the materials I’m using have a voice in the finished product as
well – like when I draw on wood, the grain becomes part of the
personality. Making art has always calmed me – it calms my nerves, my
anger (when I’m anger-painting, haha). Art, for me, just has this way
of focusing my attention so that everything around me becomes smaller
and easier to handle. When I’m finished working on a piece, I can go
back to the other parts of my life that were becoming too much and I
then have sense of how to deal with them one by one.

M: How is the artistic rebuttal going so far?

A: It’s going better than I ever imagined! We’ve got 6 books for sale
online – I can hardly believe that number!….I’m so proud of everyone
who has been brave enough to submit a story about why the arts are
vital to them – it’s not an easy task, even for me. We’ve paired up
with the Mural Arts Program to make three murals based on the Rebuttal
Project and appreciating artists. I’ve got a few more university
visits on the east coast lined up where I’m going to talk to visual
artists about their rights and life as an artist after college.  We’re
going to try and have a bunch of small events throughout the year just
to get people mingling and talking about art advocacy in general. I
think it’s going to be a fun year!

M: How young is the youngest artist helping with the artistic rebuttal project?

A: The youngest artist who helped with the rebuttal project was 4 years
old when she submitted her rebuttal during our first year (2 years
ago), so she’s 6 now, and still making art.

Can anything pass as art?

A: This is a really tough question, and one that most artists have been
asked before….I think everyone has their own standard of what they
would call art. I, personally, like to see that an artist spent a lot
of time and attention to detail using their superb craftsmanship, but
that isn’t to say that something done quickly, without meticulous
detail isn’t art. Art is just one of those things that is left to the
opinion of the viewer. A piece of art isn’t always about the materials
it’s made from, frequently it’s about a non-art related concept, like
a social injustice or misconception – so you have to look past what’s
physically in front of you – I think anything that enables a viewer to
look past the art to the idea that it is trying to introduce or debate
or rationalize is art, for me. Therefore, not everything is art to me.

But everyone’s definition is different.