Q&A with Waterloo Arts Fest Artist-in-Residence Susie Underwood

fan ax set design by Susie Underwood for Near West Theater's production of Aida
fan ax set design Near West Theater’s 2018 production of Aida

When did you know you were an artist?

I have always loved making things and coming up with creative narratives. When I was a kid, I’d read fantasy or science fiction novels, and then I would create costumes or props inspired by the stories. That being said, I don’t think I was comfortable calling myself an artist until I had completed some installations with my former art collective, Art Club, around my mid-20s. I felt that I was actually doing something unique and from my own perspective for the first time, and that helped me to feel comfortable calling myself an artist.

How did you get your training?

I went to Ohio State University for art and journalism, got my master’s in art museum education from Antioch University Midwest, and gained a lot of my experience from working with studio and family programs at the Columbus Museum of Art. Much of my knowledge is self-taught. School can only get you so far.

What types of work do you create?

Susie Underwood in costume I like to “try on” many different types of art making, and I’m usually most successful when I combine installation with performance and audience participation. So, instead of having an art show, I might set it up like a garage sale. Or I might perform lounge songs while dressed as an alien, while cracking nerdy jokes and harassing the audience with props. For the Waterloo Arts Fest, I created a “living room” under a tent and painting everything white, so that visitors could decorate my little “home.” I prefer to change the atmosphere and environment from the usual visual art experience, which I find to be pretty boring.

What inspires you?

I love finding new artists on Instagram; there are some amazing artists in Los Angeles, New Orleans and Melbourne right now. Drag queens have really elevated their practice into some of the best contemporary art out there, and they have become a big influence on my performance approach. I am also inspired by the City of Cleveland, the weird history, and the kitsch and beauty that is taken for granted. I love music and science fiction; so, that comes out sometimes.

What are your thoughts on with art therapy?

I am interested in the growing field of art therapy but I’m not actively involved in it. I curated an exhibition at the Columbus Museum of Art which highlighted the different ways that art can be used therapeutically. I was showcasing the field to the general public, who may not be aware of all that happens or the potential of art therapy.

How did you get involved as an artist-in-residence with Waterloo Arts Fest?

I was recommended as a potential artist-in-residence because I am good at creating interactive, participatory experiences and working with the public. My years as a museum educator made me that way.

Tell us about the project.

I set up a 10’ x 10’ tent with living room furniture inside. Everything was be white, even my clothes, so that visitors could paint and decorate my little home. I also had a chandelier they could help create by adding junk from their purses, and a rag rug that they could help weave. It was inspired by my love for rehabbing and decorating my home. I want people to understand that creativity doesn’t just have to take place in an art studio; it should be infused into every aspect of life. Creativity is vital to our survival, and we need it now more than ever. We need leaders who can create new ideas, not just destroy things they don’t like.

What’s next?

I have a potential mural on the horizon, if I can ever finish the design!

Susie Underwood mural for Porco Lounge, Cleveland
mural for Porco Lounge, Cleveland
Susie Underwood's WEB for the Columbus Museum of Art's Wonder Room
WEB for the Columbus Museum of Art’s Wonder Room
Susie Underwood's banners for Near West Theater's 2018 production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame
banners for Near West Theater’s 2018 production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Susie Underwood

Contact (Name of Sales Rep)








Your Name*
Your Email Address*
Confirm Your Email Address*
Your Phone Number
Company Name
Item Number
Your Message*

Contact (Name of Sales Rep)








Your Name*
Your Email Address*
Confirm Your Email Address*
Your Phone Number
Company Name
Item Number
Your Message*