We had the good fortune of connecting with Chelle Thompson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Chelle, we’d love for you to start things off by telling us something about your industry that we and others not in the industry might be unaware of?
As a female Scenic Artist in the entertainment industry in 2021, many would be unaware of the struggles we still deal with on the job as females. The mentality that my sex makes me unable to do the job, that I am unable to do my tasks without the help of men, and of course my favorite “mansplaining”. I will admit that the expression on the faces of men when I refuse their help and carry a 5 gallon bucket of plaster or paint up a ladder by myself, make me smile. There is a difference between being a gentleman by opening a door, or offering their seat and assuming that we can’t do the normal task that is required to perform our job. Trust me, we can tell the difference by their body language, looks we receive, and the comments made behind our backs. This leads us to prove by going beyond what is required to make us equal to the men, but does that make us equal? We have to work twice as hard to show that we can do our jobs, but get paid less, and have to deal with the jokes that if we standup for ourselves and aren’t happy all the time, we must be “PMSing”. This environment has led me and other women to leave good jobs because of the inequality in our industry.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
In my work, I am most proud of the fact that I made the dream I had since I was a young girl to be a Scenic Designer and Artist in California come true. It was never easy, for a short while I was a single mom who had to work while going to school full time. I went to ASU to get my Bachelors degree and followed by achieving my Masters of Applied Arts at CalArts. Having Dyslexia also made these demanding programs very difficult, and led some of my professors to think I didn’t care about my work. This just made me work all the harder to get my degrees by spending enormous amount of time in the libraries, study groups, and working with some of my teachers after hours. One lesson I have learned along the way is that you can have many dreams, and that when you achieve a big one life still goes on and you make new one. Your degrees and dreams don’t define you, but your ethics, reputation and life choices do. I strive to be someone people can rely on, and trust, and that I put my heart in all of my work. Like so many, my brand and story changed dramatically with the pandemic. My industry shut down and the firm I had just made Senior Designer at shut its doors. Before the pandemic I always had work, but now I have had to find other ways of getting by. I started teaching Scenic Art and painting classes online, illustrating children’s books, painted portraits for people and other little odd and end creative things. I use to have an idea of what was coming in my career, but now its just blank. I also realized just how much of my time was working and not taking time to enjoy life with my family. I look forward to the new adventures life will bring, and keeping an open mind in the direction my career can go.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
It would be difficult right now to do what I would plan for a visiting friend, but if it was before the pandemic I would to take them to the places like getting fresh fruit from the fruit stands along the 126 and enjoying a relaxing time eating our produce on the beaches in Ventura. I would take them to try out my favorite vegan restaurants like SunCafe Organic. Since most of my friends are fellow artist, we would go to the different art museums and gallery shows. In the past we have gone to Disneyland and Universal because they wanted to see my work I have been apart of, now we would go to have fun enjoying the rides and atmosphere.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would like to dedicate my Shoutout to my closest friends Rachel Smallwood, Alli George and Julie Zajac. I would like to thank my husband and fellow artist Bradley Thompson, and my beautiful daughters Maggie and Caileigh, my parents, and my teachers who saw my potential.