The Daily Gamecock

Meet an Indie Grits Artist in Residence


For the ninth year in a row, Indie Grits has brought the Columbia community many new experiences, films, events, digital apps and this time, visual artists.

The festival is constantly looking for new opportunities to expand and offer even more to the community. This year, Indie Grits has launched its first visual artists program, which offered g a few select participants resident artist positions during the festival. 

One of these specially selected artists is Megan Stein, a sculptor, animator and performance artist from Durham, North Carolina.

Stein arrived in Columbia for the first time on Saturday, April 11, to begin her week-long program at the Nickelodeon. Other than installing her personal works, Stein created new sculptures that will be given to the winners of the festival’s nine filmmaker awards. The sculptures are what Stein calls “lollypop creatures,” little abstract creatures that represent Stein’s artistic style and inspiration. Captivated by deep sea creatures and the fantastic qualities of real animals on the planet, Stein combines these natural inspirations with science fiction influences and brings them into the domestic setting. What does this mean? Stein actually uses pieces of furniture and other objects from common domestic spaces in her art installations along with the fantastical creatures. While many of Stein’s works incorporate the “unknown,” they often bring the viewer to a place of familiarity by establishing themselves in common settings like someone’s living room.

“They can be unnerving but also bring people to a place of exploration in their thoughts,” Stein said. “When combined with domestic materials, they provoke us to think about the psychological beliefs that come up in domestic spaces.”

Unlike most sculptures, Stein’s pieces do not just stand on a pedestal. She carries her sculptures into new spaces and creates interactive environments that further require audiences to assess their preconceptions and psychological experiences. She will be incorporating performances with her art installation and during other events of the festival. If you're lucky, you might catch Stein pushing one of her sculptures around in a baby stroller, or if you visited the art opening at Tapp's Art Center Thursday night, you may have seen her turn her handmade sculptures into aquarium creatures and lead a guided tour of the aquarium.

“I was an aquarium guide teaching people how to touch them,” she said. “I model it after the idea that there is a right and a wrong way to touch a creature like they really do in aquariums.”

Stein is a graduate from the University of North Carolina where she received a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and a master of fine arts in studio art. She first learned about the Indie Grits festival through friends.

“It sounded like an energetic and exciting festival, and I just wanted to be a part of it,” she said. “So, I applied to have my sculptures, performances and animation screen during the festival.”

Stein’s thought-provoking sculptures are on display at Tapp’s throughout the five days of the festival, and you can still catch one of her spontaneous performances. Her film, an animation of a living room coming to life with odd creatures, is a part of the Four Minute Film Frenzy playing at 4 p.m. on Saturday in the Nickelodeon’s new theater.

Stein’s unique artistic style and multimedia involvement with the festival is a strong representation of what Indie Grits is about. Even as the festival continues to grow, its image as an innovative D.I.Y. festival dedicated to representing all talented artists in the southeast will never be lost.