Arts, On Campus

Junior Billy Foshay Is Transforming Your Inbox Into A Platform For Artists

In his “Monday Mornings” series, visual artist Billy Foshay turned to email as a storytelling medium, connecting to subscribers with photo and narrative.

Billy Foshay, CSOM ’16, would slip off into Manhattan on lunch breaks, his camera in his briefcase. He’d spent the summer working eight-hour workdays at Alliant Insurance, commuting two hours into New York City from Mendham, N.J., and then again, two hours out. The insurance industry is an unlikely fit for a burgeoning artist, but for Foshay, it meant time and space to photograph the city and to write.

Foshay began a newsletter in August to develop an audience for the work he was doing in New York. The “Monday Mornings” series pairs photos with short stories, sending out an issue to subscribers via email at the beginning of every work week. The concept was inspired in part by BC Streak, a newsletter that sends out early morning news to Boston College students. Foshay saw BC Streak’s marketing service Mailchimp as ideal for artists, and adopted the platform to handle “Monday Mornings.”

“People didn’t have to be completely active,” Foshay said. “When you sign up for something like this, you don’t have to take an active role in it. If you want to read it, you can read it, and that’s really where it came from.”

John Wiley / Heights Editor
John Wiley / Heights Editor
John Wiley / Heights Editor

Foshay’s concept for “Monday Mornings” was to embellish the mundane. In one case, Foshay happened upon a mailman on one of his daily wanderings, this time in Boston. Starting with a photo of the stranger, Foshay began stringing together a narrative—Who was this man? What did he love? What was his life like growing up?

He imagined this mailman to have a disguised passion for history, writing of how the mailman would dance alone in his room as a teenager, historical texts flapping in his hand. But then, life set in, and he was left spending his adulthood speculating what might be in the envelopes he delivers.

“That’s a parallel to my life—for me, I find myself in the business school,” Foshay said. “When I came in, that’s what I thought I wanted to do, and now I feel stuck in it. I’m going to finish it out, but at the same time, there’s part of me that wants to break out: that’s me being the mailman.”

Foshay received his first camera—a Canon Digital Rebel XSI—in seventh grade, but only began to take photography seriously after taking Photography I with the fine arts department. It was Issues and Approaches to Studio Art with Sheila Gallagher that ultimately led Foshay to begin assessing his hobby more conceptually, and he adopted new mediums, like short story and film, to match with his photography.

Last semester, Foshay and friend Max Prio, CSOM ’16, started Exposure Productions, a small media company dedicated to showcasing University student groups and pooling resources to create independent films at BC. The recent emergence of artists like Foshay and Prio—fueled in part by the new media technologies that make it easy to share photography and film over the web—is representative of a larger push by undergraduates in the fine arts department to elevate the role of visual art at the University.

Jordan Pentaleri / Heights Graphic

“It’s an underutilized department,” Foshay said. “Maybe it’s happened before, but I’m seeing people get very excited about [fine arts], and I think it’s an up-and-coming thing at BC. There are a lot of people pushing for it.”

So far, the response to “Monday Mornings” has been stronger than expected for Foshay, who thought the project might develop a passive following, but never anticipated how much he’d hear back on it. The platform for his work in particular has attracted a fair deal of attention from other artists.

“Right now, it’s about creating an avenue for other artists,” Foshay said. “If I build this to, low-realm, 1,000 people, I can feature other people’s art. It’s about creating a platform for these people who would normally not be seen.”

Foshay plans to continue “Monday Mornings” for at least a year, and republish that first year of issues as a book. The next year would mark the beginning of a new series. For now, he plans to keep his work free for whoever’s interested.

In its first five issues, the series has focused particularly on architecture—doors, walls, and windows—and pairing these common architectural items stories of working-class people, their eccentricities and tics.

“It’s such a derivative of your identity—what you think lies behind a wall, and then what you choose to write about,” Foshay said. “I wrote about a woman who sits behind it painting all day, how peaceful that might be.”

A pause. “I just think that’s part of who I wish I was.”

Featured Image Courtesy of Billy Foshay

September 10, 2014