Rhode Island Cultural Anchor: Meredith Stern

mush6 - Meredith SternMeredith Stern is a ceramicist and printmaker living in Providence. She is a member of the international group The Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative. She is RISCA’s 2019 drawing & printmaking fellow.

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.

MS: My typical work day in the winter begins by bringing wood inside for our woodstove and drinking coffee. I usually spend some time answering emails and managing other administrative issues. I’ll cook a lunch at home and then work on creating new work. Sometimes this means cutting up old prints and creating collages from them, other times it means drawing a new print onto a slab of linoleum or printing an image onto paper. I pick up our child from daycare in the afternoon and I often invite one of his friends over. Once my husband finishes work at 6, we have dinner as a family – usually cooking at home- and sometimes go on an adventure together. A walk outside, going to the playground, or when the weather is lovely, working in our backyard garden.

RISCA: How did you end up in Rhode Island?

MS: I visited Rhode Island in August of 2005 to visit some friends and we drove to the Fannie Simonowsky - Meredith Sternbeach and I fell in love with the salty air and the feel of the sand between my toes. I had been living in New Orleans for 7 years and there were no nearby places to swim in clean water. I was enthralled with the fact that we could get to the ocean in Rhode Island in less than one hour, so I decided to move in with my friends for a couple months. That visit turned into me now living her for 14 years.

RISCA: Why do you do what you do? What inspires you, drives you, to create or enable the creation of art?

MS: I am inspired by people and our need to communicate and to connect with each other. Artistic expression can allow people to connect through non-word based language which allows for subtlety, for emotions, for dreams to be shared through sound, texture, color, or touch. I think art can be many things to many people – it can communicate what is present but also who and what we can be. Art can allow us to think differently, to explore different possibilities, and to explore how our society can change and how we can be better. Much of my art explores history, social movements, family connections, and mutual aid and cooperation.

RISCA: What is one thing you think the art community in Rhode Island needs?

MS: I think our society as a whole needs to work to undo institutional inequality, specifically racism, sexism, transphobia; which means so does the arts communities. Nationally, white men have been over represented, celebrated, and rewarded in museums, galleries, etc. It’s essential that we acknowledge our historic biases, and work to correct it. This can include many efforts, including retelling art history from the perspective of those who have historically been marginalized or ignored. We can Justseeds InstallationPIttsburghBiennial2 - Meredith Sternhighlight artists and hire administrators in our museums, galleries, and other cultural centers who reflects the diversity of perspectives of people living in our city of various ethnicities and genders.  Another example is a custom that has been being adopted by cultural and educational institutions of land acknowledgements of the indigenous inhabitants of the land. I’ve seen this done in the University of Connecticut, and I’d like to see institutions in Rhode Island adopting this practice as well. There’s a lot of work to do to address systemic inequality, these are just a couple examples.

RISCA: What is the biggest challenge for you in your art life?

MF: Time. I used to spend 10 – 12 hours locked in my studio 5-6 days a week. Now we have a three-year-old and I have less time and need to budget my time better. I have less time to wander through the stacks at the library or get lost in the woods by myself. I think I am more efficient with my time, but sometimes miss the ability to lose myself in a book or random adventure for a day or two.