Ep. 3: Selfishness and Self-Care as an Artist with Melissa Kreider


Melissa Kreider knows first-hand that life doesn’t stop for an MFA program. While working on Remnants, a body of work that examines sites of sexual violence; launching Don’t Smile, a website dedicated to highlighting the work of female photographers; and teaching full-time at the University of Iowa while pursuing her Masters degree; Melissa managed to persevere through some seriously difficult experiences.

Despite all that she’s been through, it seems like nothing can stop Melissa’s drive to make a difference — both within and beyond the photo world. From personal obstacles to industry biases, she’s discovered the importance of putting her dreams and career goals first. She also had to learn how to make self-care a priority along the way. Find out how she’s overcome loss, addiction, abuse, and more in order to pursue an art career in this episode of Creative Confessionals!

Trigger Warning: We talk about sexual and domestic assault, miscarriage, substance abuse and addiction, and use more explicit language than usual. If you are sensitive to any of these topics, we encourage you to refrain from listening and hope you’ll join us for again for episode 4.

Listen on Apple PodcastsGoogle Play, StitcherTuneIn, and more.

About Melissa

Melissa Kreider is a recent MFA graduate of The University of Iowa and holds a BFA in Photography from the University of Akron. Melissa’s work examines sites of sexual violence against women and how the justice system archives these reports as well as the evidence that is collected. Her work has been exhibited and published nationally and internationally. Melissa is also the founder and curator of Don’t Smile, an online space dedicated to showcasing photography by women artists.

What you’ll learn:

  • Why Melissa chose to go straight from her undergraduate program into a Masters of Fine Art Program

  • The pros and cons of getting a Masters at a young age

  • How making art that functions as advocacy work can potentially impact your career

  • Why waiting to share your work until you’re ready is important

  • How Melissa stayed motivated while working on a project that is related to her own traumatic experience

  • Why Melissa had to learn how to take breaks and be kind to herself while working on Remnants

  • How injustice in society motivates Melissa to make difficult work

  • How the act of producing the zine, Empty Space/Heartburn, was cathartic and how it helped Melissa deal with a miscarriage and a breakup with her fiance during a pivotal point in her graduate program  

  • How Melissa uses art to cope with difficult experiences

  • Why Melissa chose to put herself into rehab after graduating with her MFA

  • What Melissa means by “being selfish” in your career, and why it’s important to set priorities as an emerging artist

  • The importance of surrounding yourself with people who are willing to support and encourage the sacrifices you have to make to be an artist

  • The difference between selfishness and self-care, and why you need to practice both to sustain a creative career

  • How substance abuse can be romanticized in college and how addiction can sometimes go unnoticed in close-knit creative communities

  • Why empathetic artists need to remember that it’s not their responsibility to save others and that we can’t control other people’s actions

  • How much Melissa budgeted to apply to exhibitions while she was in grad school

  • The importance of building your CV, networking, and getting used to rejection in order to land more opportunities in the future

  • Why Melissa started Don’t Smile, a website dedicated to highlighting the work of female photographers

  • Why Melissa thinks artists should take the advice of Shia LaBeouf and “just do it”

  • Why artists have to be okay with failure

  • Why you have to “find your comrades” to survive in the arts

  • How a phone call can be more meaningful to build relationships with peers than texting or email

Connect with Melissa and follow Don’t Smile

Website: melissakreider.com and dont-smile.com

Instagram: @melissakreider and @dontsmilephoto

Links, Opportunities & Resources

  • Click here to apply to Color Balance, an online exhibition that elevates the work of female photographers of color. This call is not limited to images about identity, although work with personal or cultural themes are certainly welcome. Rather, we ask that you send in your strongest work from any photographic genre to highlight the diverse talents and interests of this underrepresented subsect of photographers.

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