Arts, On Campus

Three Alumni Artists Discuss Expression and Social Justice in The Artist’s Journey Panel

Forging a career in the arts can be daunting, and few know this better than queer stand-up comic Cameron Esposito, BC ’04.

“I had no idea what my future would be,” Esposito said of her time at BC. “I didn’t know my future existed. And I was very loud, very fun, and hiding in plain sight, because one of the best ways to hide is to be extremely big.”

As part of the 25th Annual Arts Festival, three alumni artists returned to campus as panelists for The Artist’s Journey. The alumni panel took place on Friday and featured Esposito, Lulu Wang, BC ’05, and Betsi Graves, BC ’04. 

The panelists discussed topics ranging from their experiences at BC to their future projects and passions. They began by sharing some of the motives behind their art, which ranges in medium.

“I’m a very outspoken person, and I was when I was here at BC, and that was challenging here at BC,” Esposito, who said she had only returned to BC once since graduating prior to the panel, said. “But I really believe in dismantling systems of power. It’s literally the whole thing I’m doing, and I can’t believe I get paid to do that.”

Graves and Wang shared similar drives behind their work, explaining how art can create a space for those who need a voice. 

“I come from a dance place,” Graves, who founded Urbanity Dance, an inclusive nonprofit arts organization in Boston, said. “For me, I think that the act of taking up space with our bodies is quite a revolutionary and profound act … I’m really interested in investing in others.”

Wang, a filmmaker and director, said much of her art is inspired by finding impactful ways to tell others’ stories. Her film The Farewell partly depicts her own family’s story, but also the experiences of others who often are not represented in film.

“That’s what’s exciting about the arts,” she said. “It’s like, nobody fits in. We need the voices that don’t fit in. That’s exactly the point.”

The alumni also offered pieces of advice for current BC students looking to make an impact, whether through art or other fields. All three acknowledged the pressure that comes from navigating college and how they dealt with it as they found their way to careers in the arts.

“I definitely felt the struggle while I was here, in that it felt very much like I was being bubble-wrapped,” Graves said. “It’s very easy to think of, you know, the ‘BC bubble,’ but at the same time they tell you, ‘go light the world aflame.’”

Esposito had a similar experience and talked about finding a balance between college as a safe space versus knowing when to push the boundaries. She said as a queer person on campus, she recognized that despite her struggle, she still had opportunities just by being here.

“I think that the ability to tear stuff down often comes from being able to be part of the group that benefits from the things that need to be torn down,” Esposito said. “And so that is something that everyone in this tent can go do, because you have this opportunity. It is right in front of you.”

When Wang was a student, she said she saw BC as an opportunity to break away from the status quo. Although she didn’t discover her passion for film until her senior year, she said that the people and freedom she encountered at BC inspired her choice to pursue it.

“When I was at BC, I was just trying to escape my parents and my family and expectations in general,” Wang said. “And I was also trying to find my identity as an artist. So it was confusing, it was exciting … I was just doing a million things. I felt like I was kind of free, in a way.”

After changing gears to discuss the current projects they’re working on, including Wang’s upcoming TV show and Esposito’s new stand-up tour, the panelists ended their conversation with advice. Specifically, they offered advice they wished they had given themselves 20 years ago, sitting as students at BC.

“You have to trust your gut,” Wang said. “If you need time to explore, do it. You know, this is the time for that exploration, and so just keep exploring. Keep an open mind, and keep an open heart.”

May 1, 2023