Michele Spaise
Artist, Educator, Photographer
Involved with Intermedia Arts since: 2003
Living in the Whittier co-op building for over ten years has given Michele Spaise an opportunity to document, photograph and tell the stories of low-income families living in the Minneapolis community. She has made it her mission to give these families a face and to breakdown the stereotypes associated with low-income housing.

» Michele Spaise
What are three words that describe Intermedia Arts?




How did you become an artist?
I think we’re all artists by nature. Some of us just focus on consciously creating.  When I was little I played alone a lot and I think that allowed me to develop creatively.  I loved playing with Barbies where I would escape into these intricate stories that would go on for weeks at a time.   When I was about 11 I belonged to Fuller Young People’s Theater taking dance, vocal and acting classes.  As a teen I drifted away from making art and became more interested in boys, music and friends.  Having my first son, Marquis when I was 18 and my second son, Xavier at 25 keep me grounded and goal oriented. A year after Xavier was born, I returned to college to finish my BA. I think there’s something about giving birth that seems to put things in perspective.  Focusing on what was truly important to me decided to cultivate what connected most with my soul.  While at Metropolitan State University, I took a number of classes form David Means.  He was very supportive in his student’s creative development.  Allowing me to feel comfortable to explore my artistic interests and voice with out over ‘teaching” or critique.  Towards the end of my program I created an Installation that included black and white photos of men in my community.  There beginning my relationship with photography and using it to understand my self and others more deeply.  My connection to photography has been a constant ever since.  It’s a developing relationship that I nurture and nurtures me back.  Currently I’m photographing the Whittier Cooperative Community where I’ve lived with my two sons for almost 20 years.  I’m lovingly obsessed with our story and interconnection we all share.      
What inspires you?
I’m inspired by so many things...feelings, thoughts and experiences. I’m inspired by love, hope and fear. More specifically music and the people in my community.  More specific then that Whittier Cooperative and women who all just happen to interconnect with hip - hop in some way shape of form.  
How can art be a tool for speaking out, for creating change in the world?
Art is a tool for speaking out because it naturally encourages you to do so.   I use art to make change in my community by connecting, supporting other artists, educating youth and documenting stories.  The process of creating to me is as important as the art created. 
I use art to make change in my community by connecting, supporting other artists, educating youth and documenting stories. The process of creating to me is as important as the art created
- Michele Spaise

How has Intermedia Arts been a part of your story? 
Intermedia has been a constant thread in supporting my development as an artist. I mean truly, truly supporting my growth as an artist, educator and curator.  In 2003 I was awarded a Fellowship with ICCD, the Institute for Community Cultural Development.  It was there the seed was planted in me to begin understand how I can be a leader of service to my community.  In 2005, I exhibited in B -Girl Be and for the following two years served as the Assistant Curator.  In 2009, I Co -Curated the exhibition with Theresa Sweetland and in 2010 I’m curating on my own!

What is one of your favorite experiences with Intermedia Arts? 
The SideShow is where the unique and powerful happens.  I’ve always been told by others that I’m “different”...never really fitting squarely into any category...and that’s fine by me.  I don’t want be what someone might expect me to be.  It’s more interesting; I think to be something of an oddity is cool. Odd is good.  Different is good.  If you feel secure in who you are as an individual.  Be free and be who you wanna be.  Empower yourself, love yourself!!! 
How has art changed you?
Art has changed me from thinking as an independent person to one that thinks interdependently.  
What do you see as Intermedia Arts' role in the community?
Intermedia’s role in the community is to continue to provide a space for art.  To support artists and developing artist.  We need Intermedia because without it an artists like me may not have the support and resources they need to build a career as a community artist.  

About Michele's Work:
Whittier Cooperative: Healing and Transformation

"Constructed of beige bricks and holding 45 apartments, Whittier Co-op sits on the corner of Blaisdell Ave. and 26th St. in South Minneapolis. Our first members moved in in 1980, and many of them still live there today. An artist, photographer, mother, and resident, I have been a part of the Whittier community for more than twenty years, documenting our community through photography and sound. This is a work in progress. Our story continues." —Michele Spaise

This project was made possible in part by Forecast Public Art and IFP Minnesota.