Five Questions For Michelle Laflamme-Childs

Name: Michelle Laflamme-Childs
Title/Occupation: Writer/Residency and Marketing/PR Director.
Organization/Company: Santa Fe Art Institute

1. Where did you grow up and how did you end up where you are now?

I grew up mostly in North Adams, MA (prior to the arrival of Mass MoCA). I came to Santa Fe almost 20 years ago to go to grad school at St. John’s, and when I finished the program, I just stayed. After a dozen years in marketing for an international packaged goods company that used to be headquartered here, I moved into non-profit by joining the Santa Fe Art Institute team in 2006 and haven’t looked back since.

2. What do you look for when you’re seeking out new work?

Well, I guess I don’t actually “seek” new work, it comes to me in the form of the SFAI’s Artist and Writer Residency applications. I have the distinct and unique pleasure of receiving hundreds of applications per year, each one different and spanning the entire spectrum of literary, visual, and performing arts. It’s pretty damn cool.

3. What was your most remarkable moment as a curator/presenter/producer?

As the Director of the Residency Program, I’m not really any of those things – curator/presenter/producer. The closest I get, is perhaps, the monthly Open Studio event, when we open up the studios of the resident visual artists and have brief readings by the writers. For me, every Open Studio is remarkable. I enjoy having an experience with the resident artists and writers that is the reverse of what most art patrons get. I meet them as people first. I see them in the kitchen, the hallways, in their pajamas first thing in the morning. Then, at Open Studio, I see their work and can put together the person I have come to know with the work they make as artists.

4. Which performance, song, play, movie, painting or other work of art had the biggest influence on you and why?

Really? You’re gonna make me choose *one*? I guess it would be a toss-up between Picasso’s Guernica and e.e. cummings’ poem “next to of course god america I love,” but I would choose either of them for the same reason.  In both cases, they were the first works that I experienced as a young person where I saw that art could break the rules and be innovative and exciting. Paintings didn’t have to be nice pastoral landscapes or portraits, poems didn’t have to rhyme or even use capital letters or follow the basic rules of grammar. Works like these opened up a world of possibilities for me, and I found myself able to see “art” in a much more open-minded and maybe even democratic way. The rarefied world of art began to unfold and expand into something that was accessible. However, I would not recognize the profound effect for another 20 years.

5. What skill, talent or attribute do you most wish you had and why?

I have always wanted to play a string instrument. I grew up playing the flute and sax and some piano, but I regret that I never learned the guitar or violin. I guess there’s still time…

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