I AM: Intro & Interview with Swopnil Shrestha
I AM (Artist in Motion) is an interview series meant to spotlight Indigenous artists and artists of color in the Twin Cities. I had the privilege of working at the Loft as the fall 2019 marketing and communications intern, and when they gave me the chance to work on a project of my choosing, I AM is the first thing I thought of.
Before my internship, as a new Macalester College student who was still just learning how to use the A-Line and Green Line, I first became familiar with the Loft because of the Loft Indigenous Writers and Writers of Color classes. I was excited to learn from the art communities found here. What mostly stood out to me were the individuals who created this space, the exciting and incredibly creative artists who inspired me. Many of them were open to exploring their identities and communities through their own imagination and experiences. I had previously been part of white art spaces, in which it was difficult for me to express the extent that my identities and experiences influenced my art, but in that space made specifically for indigenous artists and artists of color, I felt free to express this to people who could understand. This interview series is an extension of that space I experienced.
The artists in this series were people I found truly inspiring. I had only met most of them the same day I interviewed them, but their words touched me. They represent what a space like that Loft class felt to me. They incorporate art into their lives in many different ways and expressions, finding time whenever or wherever they can. Whether they are sharing their art with others or solely themselves, they show how art can be a form of healing, understanding, and moving forward. I hope you take in their words and feel that for yourself.
Thank you to all the artists for interviewing with me. Every one of you is truly an inspiration. I learned much from each of you. It was an honor.
Swopnil Shrestha is a student at Macalester College, focusing on international studies and graduating in 2021. She cofounded Macalaster’s arts and culture magazine SPACES.
What forms of storytelling do you use, and how is this approach a unique way of telling a story?
I think most of my storytelling is much more visual. I like mediums that illustrate the intricacies of people's lives in candid manners, and I find that visuals like pictures, collages, compilations, and videos can embody that very well. It isn’t unique, and I think that’s what I appreciate about the way I try to include storytelling in my life—a lot of it is just to make sense of my experiences as I navigate adulthood and everything involved in that. So a lot of the tangible products that come out of me trying to make sense of it all and that help me feel connected to myself show up in mundane or simple ways, like pictures of my day-to-day life or videos of moments. Compiling all that together with my own stories and heard experiences to create something artistic for the general public is a way to show how much of a human experience I’m going through alongside everyone else.
What is your process in creating and portraying your art?
I don’t really share my art, and part of it is definitely just because of my trouble with really calling myself an artist or a definite anything, but also because I really use art as a way to help me process, because it’s a space where I can completely and creatively express myself. So my process is pretty inconsistent, and it’s because my art has largely been for myself and to myself.
How do your stories connect to your identity? How do they connect to your community?
So much of it is rooted in identity and my communities. I pull a lot from my experience as a woman and from the stories of the women in my life, especially being first generation and low income. Our collective experiences of fear and strength and continuation are part of the larger story, and so when I create art that’s rooted in identity and community, I feel as if I am speaking to the women who have come before me and those who will come after.
How do you go about finding or creating space to be an artist while also being in college?
SPACES has been a very impactful space for me on campus when it comes to finding ways to let myself be creative. Being that it is an environment for students of color, I’m able to explore my art in a way that can be rooted in my identity and exploring that has made me feel much more connected to my whole self. I’m also able to talk about my experiences as a student of color more for myself than for others. Often, when we do talk about the experiences of marginalized folx, it’s in such an exhausting way where marginalized students have to share their trauma for others to learn. In SPACES, my story isn’t just an educational opportunity for others—it’s my story for what it is, in all of its honesty and realness.
SPACES is an arts and culture publication at Macalester College with content created for POC by POC. Swopnil Shrestha and Victoria-Jo Gapuz founded the magazine in 2018. You can follow SPACES on Instagram @spaces.mag or check out their online issues at https://linktr.ee/spaces.mag.