Professor Melissa Potter
Columbia’s MFA program in Interdisciplinary Book & Paper Arts promotes the understanding of hand papermaking, printmaking and the book arts as artistic media with application in cultural discourse, community building and collaborative practice. As an educator, Assistant Professor Melissa Potter encourages her students to realize the program’s aspirations—as an artist, she exemplifies them.
Potter studied painting, printmaking, and papermaking at Virginia Commonwealth University before pursuing graduate study at Rutgers Mason Gross School of the Arts. “When I was looking for graduate school,” she says, “I wanted a school that was interested in social activism and feminism because that’s the content of my work: gender ritual and gender identity. I chose Rutgers because it actually had the largest number of women faculty in the country—people like Martha Rosler and Diane Neumaier—and also because they had the Rutgers Center for Innovative Print and Paper.”
Potter worked at the New York Foundation for the Arts before receiving a Fulbright in 2006 to design and build a papermaking studio at the University of Belgrade.
Potter’s work as a graduate student led her to numerous professional opportunities including at job at the famous Dieu Donné Papermill in New York, a collaborative studio that produces art in handmade paper. She also worked at the New York Foundation for the Arts before receiving a Fulbright in 2006 to design and build a papermaking studio at the University of Belgrade. In 2008 she received a second Fulbright to return to Serbia and to engage in curricular assessment and cultural development. She remains dedicated to the project—“I still go back at least two, three times a year to visit.”
In addition to her demonstrated ability to build community around the book and paper arts, Potter’s own artistic practice has garnered international recognition. She is the founder of the New York-based feminist art collective, Art364B, and has exhibited at institutions such as Bronx Museum of the Arts, White Columns, Galerija Zvono in Serbia, and New York University. One of her current projects is a film titled “Ammunition for the Virgin,” which profiles Stana Cerovic, a woman living as a man by choice in a family with no male heirs. Potter’s foray into film is not a departure from papermaking, but rather an extension of her interdisciplinary approach. “I really started my career with hand papermaking,” she says, “but ultimately I'm a multi-media, interdisciplinary artist exploring themes of gender in a variety of styles.”
In addition to her demonstrated ability to build community around the book and paper arts, Potter’s own artistic practice has garnered international recognition. She is the founder of the New York-based feminist art collective, Art364B, and has exhibited at institutions such as Bronx Museum of the Arts, White Columns, Galerija Zvono in Serbia, and New York University.
Potter’s jubilation in landing a full-time faculty position in Columbia’s Interdisciplinary Arts Department is no surprise. Like herself, the department is committed to interdisciplinary activity and the marriage of craft to 21st century aesthetics and theory. Potter’s was also attracted to college’s vibrant cultural landscape. “One of the things that really touched me about Columbia,” she says, “was that there was such a commitment to diversity. That’s been something that I’ve really thought a lot about, particularly with the content of my work; I believe in integration of marginalized ideas.”
Since becoming an Assistant Professor in 2008, Potter has also engaged with the broader activities of the department and now contributes to curriculum design as well as the coordination of a robust Visiting Artists Program. She thrives in an atmosphere that embraces the unconventional: “I’m weird,” she jokes, “my art career has been totally weird, I’m totally hybridized in the way that I do things, but I really believe weird wins the day.”