Holism and psychosomatic experience are fundamental to my interdiciplinary creative practice. The grounding presence of natural forms and materials interests me as a medium for examining the inextricable connections of bodies, ecosystems, and social phenomena. In a time of great ecological and societal losses, my focus has been drawn to the natural processes of healing engaging with artmaking as a tool of inquiry and connection.
My investigation is often informed by my own experiences of grief and calamity: the catastrophic Iowa River floods twice inundated my childhood home, and subsequently, my sense of home was further eroded by the death of my mother from ovarian cancer. I have engaged my creative practice to personally move through these disasters, intentionally examining interior landscapes within exterior landscapes as I craft understanding and healing. Translating this personal process to serve my public, collaborative, and curatorial projects has reciprocal healing effects as I facilitate collective care and site-responsive inquiry.
Grounded in an ethic of care, I facilitate creative processes which center my collaborators’ voice(s), propagating visions that are cultivated into the final artwork. As I explore creative engagement with place, collaboration and curation are powerful tools to weave ways of knowing and seeing beyond my own lens. From storytelling projects to co-created public installations, each project holds space to discover and realize those synergies while casting a wide net of creative authorship. Throughout my practice, I intentionally subvert paradigms of maker and audience, expert and layperson, individual and collective. I am curious about the politics of ‘aesthetics’ and the poetics of power as I manifest a more just and compassionate world through public and social making.
I believe that co-creative approaches deepen the transformational and imaginative capacities of art to activate and heal collective relationships between individuals, communities, and the built and natural world. Through sculptural, ecological, and site-specific artworks, I seek to ameliorate the widening gulf between our bodies, the earth, and each other.
SHEILA NOVAK is an interdisciplinary artist and arts administrator living in Boston, MA. Currently, Sheila serves as the Interim Associate Curator of Public Art for the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy where she curates, designs and manages the creation of new public artwork. Sheila has been working in the the nonprofit arts sector intersecting creative practice with public art, creative placekeeping and cultural equity since 2013.
Prior to working for The Greenway, Sheila worked on placemaking and public art projects in Minneapolis, Minnesota, including Northern Spark, Art Shanty Projects and the John Biggers Seed Project. In 2018 Sheila was awarded the New England Fellowship with National Arts Strategies shortly after arriving in Boston from Minneapolis. Sheila has served as the Artist in Residence at the Urbano Project (2020), Hennepin County Medical Center (2015-2017), as well as an Artist in Residence in Ecology, Spirituality and Community at Holden Village (2014). Sheila received her B.A. in Studio Art from St. Olaf College (2012)
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