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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

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Grinnell Artists: Cassidy Christiansen

Photos by Liz Paik.

The S&B sent writer Lily Bohlke and photographer Liz Paik  to hang out with Cassidy Christiansen ’20  and discuss their art and their work as concerts chair.

One of the greatest benefits of art for Cassidy Christiansen ’20 is its potential for self-exploration through various mediums. Christiansen is a studio art major and SEPC member, this year’s Student Government Association concerts chair and co-editor of The Sequence, Grinnell College’s student comic publication.

“It’s hard to say that’s there like one specific type of art that I do,” said Christiansen. “I love printmaking, and I’ve been doing that for a long time but I also just love drawing and collaging and painting. I’m pretty much interested in all of it, in some way.”

Christiansen went to a performing arts high school, Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy, in Arizona, where they did dance, studio art and creative writing. After high school, Christiansen decided not to go to college right away and instead spent time traveling and living abroad. They applied to colleges while staying in Australia, and received acceptance letters while in Southeast Asia, eventually settling on spending their next four years in Iowa.

“Since I’ve been in Iowa, a lot of my artwork has had to do with living in Iowa, as opposed to when I was traveling before I came here, a lot of it had to do with movement and travel and exploration in different ways,” Christiansen said. “I love depicting people, and I love talking about myself in my art. It’s kind of a space that I’ve always used to explore myself and the environment I’m in.”

Studying art at the College in a studio setting has allowed Christiansen’s artistic toolbox to evolve as well.

“I have different access to materials… I’ve kept various sketchbooks since I was 14, but it’s cool being here and being able to work with some really cool technology,” they said.

While a lot of the work Christiansen does, such as painting, collaging and printmaking, is studio art, they also find dance to be a meaningful way of both expressing and learning about themselves.

“Dance taught me a lot about how to situate my body and how to understand my body and feel comfortable in it, and also how to feel uncomfortable in it,” they said. “And so I feel like those principles carry on throughout doing art in other ways and through life in general, and more recently as somebody who identifies as non-binary and who … did traditional ballet for seven years, it’s really interesting to be able to explore movement from a different perspective now than I had then.”

Performing music is one of the few methods of creative expression Christiansen does not do themself, but they still manage to engage with the art form through their involvement in SGA Concerts Committee. Being concerts chair involves administrative duties such as booking artists, coordinating concerts and holding meetings, but Christiansen said it is also a creative endeavor, through which they have gained new artistic skills.

“It’s definitely involved skills that I haven’t really had the chance to work on before. I’ve taken some guitar and banjo lessons, but it’s definitely worked my ear in terms of being able to sound check,” they said. “I originally got involved in concerts because I really felt moved by the shows that I went to, I felt like the space that was created was so amazing, and so I really just wanted to have a hand in creating that space.”

Some of Christiansen’s goals for concerts committee this year include accessibility and catering to a wide audience, as well as diversity in musicians.

“Just making sure that concerts is a space that students feel really comfortable in, and then the artists that we bring are also very comfortable and feel appreciated, I think is important, and in particular I’ve been trying to especially book, or give priority booking to, women of color and LGBTQ musicians, because that’s just something I care a lot about. I think we see a lot of white men performing,” Christiansen said.

Christiansen said they would like to work in community activism through art, or as a tattoo artist. They have been giving themselves stick-and-poke tattoos since high school, constantly refining the craft.

“One of my lifelong aspirations has been to be a tattoo artist,” Christiansen said. “It’s what I tell people I’m going to do because I actually have no idea what I’m going to do.”


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