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Meet Holly M. Crawford

Today we’d like to introduce you to Holly M. Crawford.

Holly, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
One of my earliest memories is telling my parents that I wanted to be an artist. They took the news as well as could be expected. My parents both worked in the medical field and envisioned something different for me so being an artist was on par with their expectations. My grandmother also encouraged me to pursue my goal and gifted me with art supplies. I think my first artworks were collages that I made using images from office and toy catalogs that I found at home. I was so proud of the work that I took it everywhere with me: school, dinner, bed.

Throughout high school and college, I was lucky to meet and be mentored by wonderful teachers who thought I might also be a good teacher. One of my art history professors, Dr. Anne Derbes, encouraged me to apply for an internship at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, MD. I grew up going to the Walters for field trips and had very fond memories of the museum’s dungeon that housed a unique collection of armor from around the world and could only be accessed by a spiral staircase.

At the time, I thought that to work at a museum I had to be a curator and did not know just how vast a museum career could be. I ended up interning in the museum’s Education Department where I had the opportunity to learn more about programs for children and youth. Pretty soon I caught the teaching bug and decided that in addition to being an artist that I would also like to be a teacher. I went to graduate school at the Maryland Institute College of Art for Community Arts and towards the end of my program met Judith F. Baca who became my mentor and first boss in L.A.

At the time Judy was preparing to restore The Great Wall of Los Angeles Mural and left an open invitation to join her in L.A. which I eventually did the following summer. I spent my first summer in L.A. working on The Great Wall restoration, learning from and working alongside many talented artists. At the end of the summer, I took a position as a research assistant at SPARC in Venice and a part-time gallery teacher at MOCA. And this is how I moved to L.A.

As I was developing my teaching practice, my studio practice took a back seat until I began taking collage class at Barnsdall Art Center with Naomi Buckley, a great artist, and mentor. For a long time, I had experimented with many different art forms and found that I did not have the patience to be a painter or a ceramicist or a jeweler. But collage, for me, is about the play and I love to play. Play is a powerful conduit for energy and creativity, and collage enabled me to tap back into that conduit.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Being an artist is not easy. For the longest time I struggled to call myself an artist because I was not making any work and when I did make work, a few close friends and family members might see it. I was very self-conscious about sharing my work until Sara Chao, a phenomenal artist invited me over for a studio visit. Sara and I have been doing studio visits for a few years now, and our exchanges have provided us with both clarity and support in our individual practices. Regular check-ins with friends and other artists have been instrumental in maintaining my studio practice.

We’d love to hear more about what you do.
An ongoing project I am most proud of is the Nomadic Werewolf Museum (NWM) that I founded in 2016. I had recently heard a panel about moving or nomadic cultural institutions and had been (and still am) thinking about challenges visitors experience accessing museums and their collections. I wanted to create a museum that was mobile and fun, so the NWM opened its doors under a brilliant full moon in November.

In addition to my arts and teaching practice, I am also the Lead Researcher of LA-based reading group: Art Education + Social Justice founded by educator Nathalie Sánchez. The Art Education + Social Justice Book Club meets monthly in galleries, cafes, and third-spaces around L.A. and engages readers in an exchange of readings and dialogues about contemporary issues in arts education and social justice. Readers wishing to learn more can connect with us on Instagram (@aesjbookclub), Facebook, or our website, which includes an archive of past readings. This year, our goal is to start a publication for artists and teachers to share their works: essays, artworks, podcasts, and more!

I invite other artists, creators, and makers to collaborate on NWM exhibitions and programs. “Werewolf Barbie,” for instance, was curated by Paige Bridges who envisioned the iconic doll as a super stylish werewolf. It was hard to deinstall the exhibit; it inspired a lot of joy.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Anita Wilson

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