Interview with Kelsey Trottier, MassArt '15

When I first heard about SIM, I was a freshman at MassArt. I’d been dabbling in roughly one zillion different mediums and was struggling to narrow my interests into a single field of study. SIM stood out to me on a list of fine art majors for its student-driven approach to education and its insistence of art through concept, rather than medium, first. It took some effort to memorize what SIM stands for, but eventually I got it: the Studio for Interrelated Media. Knowing what SIM stands for is one thing, but grasping what SIM students do is another. To gain an understanding, I suggest taking a look at the work of MassArt senior Kelsey Trottier.  

Trottier is an interdisciplinary artist working in event planning and production, stagecraft, performance art, and social practice. A lifelong dancer, she “fuels her creative energies through dance and movement, often exploring concepts of expression, relations and connections, and the sensations of living.”

Throughout her final year as an undergraduate, Trottier has headed a multi-media, collaborative project between MassArt students and members of Cambridge’s Dance Complex. The result is a growing body of work under the title Intersections. While the mission of this project – to place a conduit between two artistic communities and see what happens - is simple, the intricate results weave mediums such as dance, writing, music, and video into seamless productions with nuanced implications.

In facilitating work between these two institutions, Trottier employs a medium increasingly referred to as social practice. Social practice has gained recognition over the past decade as an art medium which leverages social engagement into the creation of participatory art. Its application is a catalyst for collaboration between individuals, communities, and institutions. Social practice is also referred to as socially engaged art, community art, new-genre public art, participatory art, interventionist art, collaborative art, relational art and dialogical aesthetics. 

Below, Trottier discusses how she came to understand her work as social practice and the inspiration for Intersections.  

How did you get involved in this type of work?

Growing up my mom emphasized the importance of volunteering and contributing to the needs of others in ways you are able. As an art form, I kind of stumbled upon this work. I’ve always loved to collaborate artistically, but it wasn't until recently that I realized I was beginning to develop a social art practice. SIM is where I found a desire and drive for building community and creating shared experiences. In addition to what might be considered more traditional artistic collaborations, I began to work on teams where we conceptualized, planned, and produced events for MassArt and surrounding communities to come together. I focused so much on the logistical and technical aspects of making events happen that I wasn't thinking of all of this work as an art practice. I was aware of social practice - many of my peers were developing a social practice, and I was learning about social practice artists - but I wasn’t associating the concept with my work. It wasn’t until Intersections that I realized the work was considered by others to be in this category.

Intersections: Inspiring Influences is described as a collaboration involving individuals from various creative communities. What sparked this idea?

This idea began back in the fall when I was trying to conceptualize a new project to work on. I was interning at the Dance Complex in Cambridge when my supervisor Kara Fili asked me to develop a project in addition to my administrative tasks. I was grateful for this opportunity and excited to build a platform that would bring people together who normally wouldn’t cross paths.

I began through a call for artists, inviting individuals and groups who were interested in working on a common concept and sharing their work with the communities that brought them together in months to follow. I reached out mainly to the Dance Complex and Mass Art because I was interested in building a connection between two communities that I’m involved in. I hoped to highlight how the individuals who came together may have had some connection to Mass Art or to the Dance Complex, but everyone was also involved in additional creative communities. In coming together and discussing these ideas, the words intersection and intersecting kept arising. All of these meta-communities crossed over in a similar fashion to how all of the artists’ mediums and practices crossed over, inspiring and influencing each other.

What are some of the main concepts the group works with? 

The main concept of the whole collaboration came from the inquisition of how we inspire and influence each other as artists of different mediums coming from different communities.  From there the collaboration divided into three working groups where three different concepts were being explored. 

Where there any challenges associated with getting this off the ground?

The main challenge was finding a way to make this work for everyone who was interested in participating. Since there were so many people involved with busy schedules, I suggested smaller working groups based of off conversations we had as a larger group. In the end this worked out really well, but initially this served itself as a challenge since we were working towards two final exhibitions.

Moving forward with Intersections, I would like to work with different formats and possibly hold workshops where the connections that are being made can stem off in their own direction and not feel pressured by an end goal. I think the first rendition of this project went well. I’m thinking of ways for this project to evolve and take on new forms and goals that embrace and adapt to the challenges we originally faced.

Learn more about Kelsey Trottier and her work at kelseytrottier.com