Creating great art requires courage: the courage to push into unknown aesthetic territory to find new means of expression; the courage to reflect our communities – even if that reflection is critical; and the courage to hold the existential truths of compassion and samsara, beauty and suffering, love and injustice.
Kirsten Wilson helps her students become artists by developing their courage along with their craft. She does this by ensuring that in each class students work their expressive edge – honor their edge and the fear of unknown territory but continue to work. Through this process students learn to become comfortable being uncomfortable. She keeps students at their expressive edge by helping them focus on what their artistry is asking of them. She asks them to go so deep into their art practice that it is no longer about them but about getting to the bone of what it means to be human. In this process they are asked to practice radical truth telling—to speak as authentically as they can about their own experiences. This takes courage. Our truth, our art, never looks exactly like what truth or art are supposed to look like.
By providing her students with the support necessary to investigate the edge of their comfort zone as artists and individuals, she not only extends their creative range but helps them become stronger human beings. In this way, students push their artistic voice into clarity and find the courage to be more of themselves. Creating great artists and courageous, mindful human beings can be one and the same practice.
Creating courageous, reflective artists is also an investment in community. All artists, particularly theater artists, reflect the world back to their community. She helps her students experience both the power and the responsibility of this role by encouraging the development of critical consciousness about the art they create. What world is this performance creating? Who becomes visible in this casting, and who is invisible? Whom does this piece serve? In this way students learn to inquire into the power their art has to replicate or challenge the power structures of society.
Kirsten Wilson’s greatest commitment is to support her students in becoming more fully who they are, and in so doing, create authentic art—art that speaks truth. In her teaching, art becomes a practice of holding truth, working with fear, and finding the courage to transform ourselves and our communities.