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Art & Life with Molly W. Schenck

Today we’d like to introduce you to Molly W. Schenck.

Molly, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
I started painting as soon as I could stand at an easel. I started dance at the age of 5, and quit by the age of 8. I then started working with polymer clay as my primary form of creative expression. I started dancing again at 10 after I discovered basketball was not meant for me. I sold my art work at local craft fairs as a young teenager. I choreographed my first musical, Footloose, as a high schooler. I majored in theatre in college because, well, they didn’t have dance as an option so I thought theatre was close enough – I minored in dance and left with more dance than theatre credits. I minored in studio art too and would complete the endless hours of homework to American’s Next Top Model marathons.

I was denied by every MFA dance program I applied to upon graduation. I bought myself a DSLR camera to reduce the sting of rejection. I started teaching yoga and other fitness classes. I redirected my career into education. I missed dancing and creating. I auditioned for and was finally accepted in to an MFA dance program. During that time, I focused on creativity, dance-making, and mind body connection. Additionally, I founded the interdisciplinary performance company, Grey Box Collective (GBC). Since graduating, I have reverse engineered my life to reflect what I valued that led me to this point.

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
My creative activity exists in several worlds. Currently, I am teaching dance, fitness, and personal/professional development classes across the valley. I direct the MainStage productions of our devised work. I collaborate with visual and performing artists on smaller projects. And I sell my art work to anyone who wishes to buy it. The motivation to create changes shape depending on what I am doing.

As an independent artist I have performed and choreographed for several productions with Orange Theatre Group, I have held residencies with nue[Box], I have collaborated with filmmakers and musicians in a variety of modalities, and I make small, functional works of art through polymer clay as well as larger paintings. When I create as an independent artist, I focus my energy on explorations of new processes and/or performance approaches. It is my lab time to figure out how I am working in that moment. I also make sure to continue performing so I have that perspective when directing or choreographing others. In solo creations, it is a time for me to recharge. I am an extreme introvert and need to rejuvenate myself through creation on my own. My independent art keeps me grounded while pushing the boundaries of my own processes.

My ensemble-based, interdisciplinary company, Grey Box Collective (GBC), tackles tough conversations through movement, text, and media. The inspiration for this company came from seeing a need on college campuses to create spaces for education outside the classroom that challenged social norms. The methodology for creation that GBC uses, draws upon multiple bodies of knowledge to create an ideal environment that lead to social change. These disciplines include educational psychology, trauma informed self-care approaches, somatic practices, contemplative pedagogy, and artistic practices based in dance and theatre. We hold spaces through our performances where individuals can spend time on topics that impact them and illuminate voices left out of many important conversations.

Advice for Other Artists: Do you have any advice for other artists? Any lessons you wished you learned earlier?
I wish I learned to take risks – like real, ambitious, might-be-awful-or-be-absolutely-amazing risks – when I first started creating work publicly. For many years I thought I was taking creative risks with dance and theatre work. If I am being really honest with myself, I think I just figured out how to take risks this year and still haven’t mastered how to execute the ideas.

Similarly, it wasn’t until recently that I really figure out how to learn from failing. I learned to fail while I was in school – it’s a safe space and we should take advantage of that – by simply trying things and watching them fall apart. I’ve never really had much of a fear of failure, but I think that’s because I basically ignored anything close to failure. I now have discovered the art of failing gracefully (likely from taking those epic risks) and understanding the weak points that led to that crumble.

Finally, always apply and always ask. This is a practice I have been in for many years that keeps expanding. I got in the habit years ago to applying to anything that sounded remotely interesting. It has led to publication, tours, and sales. The worst response you hear is “no” and -depending on how often you apply to things – you may hear it a lot. Additionally, I ask for feedback on rejected applications. I ask for opportunities that don’t exist – then suddenly appear once you ask. I have asked for and received extensions on deadlines, store credit, and discounts to name a few. More importantly, I remember the times I have not asked or not applied and left myself wondering what could have happened.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
For the latest updates on where to see performances I’m involved in and work I create, please visit the social media links.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Personal Image: PC: Micky Small
Art Image 1: PC: Tim Trumble
Art Image 2 & 3: PC: Orange Theatre Group
Art Image 4-6: PC: Jenny Gerena

Getting in touch: VoyagePhoenix is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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