We had the good fortune of connecting with Megan Broughton and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Megan, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
This is something I’m still learning to navigate, although the pandemic gave me an alternate version of work/life balance and time management to figure out (as well as healthcare, but). I was furloughed from my full-time teaching May 2020 – June 2021. This is a job that, while very rewarding, hilarious and meaningful, is challenging in that it limits personal time or time for the studio. Things can get really exhausting, and the last thing you want to do is head to the studio after a full day of work to mentally and physically grapple with an idea. A few months before the pandemic became a serious issue in California, I had started a new series of etchings that I was really excited about and which successfully prompted me to make that effort when I previously felt there had been no time. It was still tiring, but the nature of the idea motivated me and made it a natural effort as well as an easy one and also opened up conversations with students about process and practice. So luckily I entered furlough wrapping up that project and, for a year, I experienced a 180° shift in how my time was used. I am very fortunate to receive housing through work and to have retained school studio access – because of these two things, I was in the studio every day during furlough (and even ended up “taking off” a day a week!). Art was my main focus for the first time and felt like a “full time job” in itself which was so exciting and made sense within myself. Conceptually and materially, I got to go into a deep dive and work at a consistent pace rather than in spurts of time. I returned to work in June and sadly I find that for me it’s just not possible to produce work like I had been. I’m grateful to have had a full year of making and now I’m focusing more on documentation, cataloging, and applying to more shows with what I’ve already got. I think work/life balance is about managing your energy and not feeling selfish about establishing boundaries, although I’m still working on that and will still often dedicate more time to my students than to myself.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
The etchings I’ve been working on since Fall 2019 have really stood out for me as the first body of work that I feel not only excited about but that I can see a long-term path through. In Jun e 2019, I was very fortunate to be selected and to participate in The Arctic Circle Residency in Svalbard, Norway which is between the north of Norway and the North Pole. Going there completely shifted my artistic focus. I technically went in the “educator” category with a purposefully open agenda and the aim to observe and adopt the expedition’s approach to an arts/science/ecological citizenship curriculum. While that process did occur, so did the pandemic and furlough (!) which ultimately shifted my immediate processing of time spent in Svalbard to my own studio practice. I’m from LA County, where we have Fire Days and not Snow Days, my family wasn’t one of those families that skipped off to Big Bear regularly, and I’ve never lived in a cold climate so my knowledge of snow and ice before that trip was non-existent. Everything about Svalbard was completely new to me (snow, ice, permafrost, wearing 5 layers of clothes, ship life) and even though the trip itself was only 2 weeks, I am still processing and trying to understand that place over two years later and have been dreaming about returning.
I became pretty fascinated by ice and its intricacies: its different forms, strength and delicacy, vulnerability and ability to cause damage. The etchings I’ve been making focus on temporality, depth, destruction, and reconstruction. The newest ones, from the “Recherchebreen” series, have been a lot of fun and were created with an experimental process wherein I poured ferric chloride over a pile of ice cubes sitting atop a copperplate. As the ice cubes melted, they carried the ferric across the plate. Since ferric is denser than water, it fell to the surface of the plate and etched tone in an organic and unplanned pattern that captured the journey of the ice. The photos included here show the process of making the plates, my coworker’s young daughter learning how to print with the plates, a print from the first state (the perfect rectangular print), and finally a few examples of the latest state which is printed large (29×41”) with the plates overlapping and drifting apart after they have been reshaped in acid to have more organic edges. Overall what’s most important to me beyond the excitement of the studio work is that a portion of all proceeds is donated to organizations in the climate crisis sector, youth arts, or related ventures. Making these works is a compulsion, but I would not feel as sure, confident in, or happy with them if they weren’t in some way supporting entities with which they’re directly concerned. I find this to be a base-level engagement and aim to strengthen this practice as time progresses.
I’m 100% where I am today professionally because of youth arts programs in Los Angeles. Programs like CAP and Ryman in particular engaged with a lot of kids who otherwise couldn’t have had those experiences whether due to finances or the arts being cut from schools. Naturally, the projects I admire the most today (Greetings From South-Central Los Angeles, to name one) and that I’m most excited about (School of Now, and the Oxbow After School Art Program) follow in those footsteps.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Start with a trip to legendary (in my family) Bargain Books in Van Nuys, pick up lunch at Portos in Burbank and take it to the Brand Library’s lawns in Glendale. The beautiful coffee bar at The Nomad Hotel on Olive and 7th downtown paired with a run through of the music center fountains and views of LA from the top of Disney Hall would be a good visit downtown. Buy some treats from talented home baker Ana Garcia (@anakaren.bakes) and take them to Griffith Park or the grounds of the Autry Museum. Ideally this visit would happen during one of Greetings From South-Central LA’s fieldtrips, once those are in person again, and you could join Karina and her team at a local museum for one of the days.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
In chronological order, we’d have to start with the CalArts Community Arts Partnership (CAP), headed by Glenna Avila in my youth, which provided free visual and performing arts classes to youth throughout LA County. Through CAP I participated in youth orchestra, chamber music, improvisation classes, and photography classes taught by CalArts teachers, students, and alumnx. In high school my teachers at Ryman Arts, a fantastic program that provides free art classes and supplies to Southern Californian high schoolers, were Steve Galloway, David Schoffman, and Manny Cosentino. Toward the end of high school, I attended The Oxbow School semester program for visual arts where the printmaking instructor, Stephen Thomas, became a lifelong mentor in printmaking and pedagogy. In college, at CalArts, Darcy Huebler, Millie Wilson, and Evelyn Serrano stand out for me as three mentors who modeled persistence, integrity, creative and critical inventiveness, and pedagogical alternatives. My final shoutout would be to my current co-worker Patrick Foy who is the sculpture teacher at Oxbow and who has been my studio buddy during our furlough: his expertise in printmaking has played a critical role in my work over the past year.