Jessica Kain

MFA, 2012

Jessica Kain lives and works in Mustang, Nepal where she runs the Rosehips Center for Creative Learning at the Marpha Foundation. She attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and received her MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University. She holds her BA in Studio Art and Anthropology from Dartmouth College.

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What have you been up to since graduating from VCU?

After graduating from VCU in 2012 I moved to Nepal to work with a rural community on programs related to education and the arts. For 9 months out for the year I live in Marpha, a small village in the rain shadow of the Himalayas. I work primarily with underprivileged youth in our District. In 2014 I established the Rosehips Center for Creative learning in a historic building in the center of Marpha. Here, a rotating cast of artists and educators teach experiential language classes that use the visual and performing arts, as well as environmental studies, to teach English. We also house a residency program and have reopened the community library. With a committee of women, the community and I have registered these efforts as a local NGO under the name of Marpha Foundation. Our work continues to evolve and in 2016 we’ll be starting a teaching garden and an early childhood learning space.

What advice would you give a current VCU Sculpture student?

Take care of your body. Make time for sunlight. Read. Read fiction. Take classes in other departments. Spend time with different communities of makers and thinkers. Go to residencies; visit your friends in different cities and at other schools. Also, spellcheck your writing, answer emails, and stay in touch with friends and mentors.

How did VCU prepare you for your current situation?

When I was at VCU I saw a lot of young artists and faculty go out on a limb with things. With possibility and uncertainty came conversation. People talked about experience, even when it felt unsure. Since graduate school I’ve taken a pretty divergent path in art. VCU prepared me to take these creative risks. It also introduced me to the friends and fellow artists who are still willing to talk about it all.

How do you define success?

Right now I work with a lot of people and success starts with all of us being willing to participate. While energy and momentum are important, I’ve learned that pauses are necessary. The greatest service to any activity is taking time to actually see what’s going on. It’s a matter of treating the undertaking with respect, to let it have its own emergent
logic. The worst thing that can happen is also the best thing— that I/we/you will have to recalibrate and apply what has been learned.

Why did you decide to study sculpture?

My background is actually in Drawing and Anthropology and by following what interested me in those studies I ended up making objects. It had a lot to do with sculpture’s ability to make things the body has to really contend with. Sculpture was appealing because it seemed to privilege figuring things out. It promised no right way— it was up to me to find my own order of operations. I also experienced sculpture as a conversation that was open to practices that fell outside of disciplines. I valued that inclusiveness and still do.

Is there a question we should ask you, but didn’t?

How will you define success in 20 years from now?