Artist Spotlight: Mary Ann Peters
Published: November 11, 2021
Categories: Fall Campaign
From now through December 31st as part of our end-of-year campaign, we’ll be sharing stories from artists from across Washington State about the ways they are taking care of themselves and their communities. We hope you will join us in making a gift in support of artists now! Make a gift at artisttrust.org/donate
County: King County
How did you first find out about Artist Trust? What is your history with Artist Trust?
My connection with Artist Trust goes back to its inception. My friend Anne Focke, so integral to many art initiatives, was developing the idea and I solicited my friend David Mendoza to consider becoming the first director which he thankfully did. We were all part of the community that was rethinking the participation of artists in the larger urban experience of Seattle and the state at large. I also did a seasonal studio sale that became the model for the first AT auction. So I would say I was on the ground floor of the creation of Artist Trust.
How has the Artist Trust community been meaningful or beneficial to you?
Artist Trust has been a constant in my maturation as an artist. It has in many ways helped me to think about the breadth of the arts and what constitutes a studio practice. I have known many of the artists who received grants and I’ve had the luck of seeing the organization’s support come to fruition in exhibitions, performances, and art actions. I’ve also benefited from Artist Trust grappling with needed adjustments to their mandate as many organizations have had to do. They have opened up an essential conversation that I find beneficial and proactive for the community at large. It’s a reminder that cultural practices are often fluid and unpredictable and necessarily responsive to contemporary issues, both for artists and for their support systems. Knowing that Artist Trust fosters multiple perspectives makes their oversight a resource beyond acknowledging my creative output. It means they see me and my community in a holistic way which is immeasurable.
What has the last year and a half been like for you and your artistic practice?
Honestly, sloppy and haphazard and at times non-existent. I’ve done a lot of staring, note-taking, and shuffling of pieces in and out of view. The threads I have been following at times feel frayed and inaccessible. But I do come to my studio daily and because I have had a long career I understand that lack of production does not mean I’m not working. It just means that I’m in a holding pattern that will ultimately shift towards ideas that sit dormant.
Mary Anna Peter’s Traveller 2019
What has inspired you or brought you hope?
The tremendous amount of scientific innovation on short notice has been really inspiring. Not just with pandemic solutions but in other areas where a kind of intellectual incubation is fostering breakthrough concepts and actions. And I think the many online conversations one could join were a gift, akin to a new stage of education without a culminating dictate or degree. The pandemic has fostered a much-appreciated profile of global citizenship that I am grateful for and believe in and I find hopeful.
How have you taken care of yourself and your community during this time?
I’m athletic and make moving a piece of my well-being. Walks, biking, dives in the lake when we could do that contribute to the balance I try for in my life. And listening to music bookends my activity each day and while I am in the studio. All kinds that can shift my mood, especially when I feel down. Reading novels has been a great refuge too. Immersion in the written word is awe-inspiring and the best diversionary tactic I’ve used I think. Unlike those who are isolated, I have a multi-generational home life which has truly been a godsend. I have a full constellation of familial experiences to draw from so my own don’t feel so weighted or important. Throw in gardening where I am a complete novice and cooking where I am not, my days thankfully have someplace for respite and rejuvenation.
At a time when there’s so much ongoing trauma and grief, what support do you think artists and artist communities need right now, and in the future? How can arts organizations be part of community healing?
I would have to say consistent public testimony from organizations and their leadership that showcase artists as integral to the broader cultural landscape is what is needed. Museums, theaters, clubs, galleries, etc would have nothing to do without the participation of artists. Artists should be included in civic decisions and their voices part of the outline of how we go forward. Every arts board meeting should incorporate feedback from the artists they serve. This is a listening moment. People will resist giving consistent monetary support to artists or their affiliations if they don’t believe artists are essential to public life. We who are the arts community need to be vocal about our importance in society, adding the depth of our experience to defray the nostalgia or mythic fantasies most frequently assumed about us. To my mind healing needs a public face.
Mary Anna Peter’s Canopy 2019
Why is it important to support individual artists right now?
Because the infrastructure of the arts is currently so challenged and in many instances has collapsed, support that can help artists recoup their losses is crucial. None of us anticipated how the shuttering of art venues would so radically undermine an artist’s ability to work. The general public doesn’t know the costs of studio rents or supplies or equipment for performers, for example. We who have chosen to be artists have the same liabilities as any other profession but without standard safety nets. We are often self-employed and when not, rely on income from sources that are equally tenuous during the pandemic. I am certain that any support given to artists on the heels of this devastating year would be put towards essential needs and the gratitude would crash this site.
Why do you think it’s important for people to support Artist Trust as donors?
Artist Trust has spent decades identifying artistic needs and community circumstances that would benefit from their support. The organization is seasoned, employing standards that are emulated nationwide. And it is open to change which is key to its strength. A donor becomes part of their statewide arts ecosystem. Donors become partners in a much-needed revitalization of cultural life, adding not only their financial assistance but also their visible respect for artists and their efforts at a uniquely difficult time.