Converge Collaborative - Michelle McCrary
Welcome to today's written interview with Michelle McCrary, a member of Converge Collaborative and the host of The Curious Roots podcast which digs deep in the living earth of our personal, familial and communal lives to help us understand how we exist in the world today.
As we delve into the conversation, we'll explore McCrary's experiences, perspectives, and the unique elements that make her work stand out. We hope this interview will provide valuable insights and inspiration for our audience, shedding light on the collaborative processes and creativity behind Converge Collaborative.
What inspired you to explore the story of your maternal family and the community of Harris Neck, Georgia, in the Curious Roots podcast? Why was it important for you to share this particular narrative?
When I was in my mid-20s, my grandmother opened up and shared the story of what happened to Harris Neck in 1942. Before then, she'd never spoken with me about it. We started researching together in about 1999 and she took me out to meet some elders/family members who shared their memories of the place pre-removal and the traumatic experience of the actual removal event. Even after my grandmother passed away, I kept researching. I felt like the ancestors were compelling me to keep digging. I think they are trying to share their wisdom about how they survived all the catastrophic upheavals that are a part of these colonial, supremacist systems. Sharing this story is about sharing this “surthrival” wisdom for future generations.
In what ways do you hope that the Curious Roots podcast will raise awareness and spark conversations about the ongoing struggles and issues faced by Black coastal communities today? What impact do you envision the podcast having on its listeners?
I hope that the podcast encourages Black folks to trace their connections to these coastal communities as these are the places most of our ancestors landed when they were abducted and trafficked from the continent. Terri Ward, a researcher and genealogist who specializes in the history of coastal Georgia, says all roads lead back to these coastal communities for Black folks across Turtle Island. I think that helping people understand what their ancestors tried to build in spite of so many violent systemic obstacles will help folks understand what's at stake to lose. These are communities who have been in relationship with these lands for centuries and are fighting for their ability to continue to steward these lands and keep their homes. This connection to place has profound cultural and environmental impact. Even for someone like me, who lives across the country from my maternal ancestors' homeplace, having community in those places offers a place for me and my children to return to and connect with our culture. I hope that Black folks are able to understand how our spirit and our culture is tied to those coastal lands and that without relationship to those lands and those waters, those connections are severed.
Can you share some insights into how your involvement in Converge Collaborative has influenced your artistic journey and practice?
Wow. My journey with Converge has really reawakened my creative capacity. It's allowed me to reclaim an expressive part of myself that I think was tamped down in traditional, corporate work environments where cooperation is usually in service of an outcome that is beneficial to shareholders rather than collaboration that is about community building and solidarity. In those environments, your creativity is only tolerated if it contributes to increasing the bottomline, and often that pursuit is so fearful of losing money, creativity and wholistic critical thinking is stifled and repetition that will guarantee financial return becomes an almost singular pathway. I've been able to develop an expressive practice in a supportive environment that nurtures my desire to ask questions and find other ways of seeing, being, and doing.
As a member of Converge Collaborative, how do you find support and inspiration from other artists within the collective? Could you describe any collaborative projects or experiences that have been particularly meaningful to you?
I find so much inspiration from my fellow members. Their work, abilities, and talents are incredible. We have bi-weekly meetings where folks can bring their work for a review/crit session and those moments are so wonderful. I've really been in awe of the work being produced and the thinking behind that work. Amy, Rios, and Katie are working on a collaborative sculpture that has made its way from the West Coast to the East Coast. Watching that project come together is so joyful. I'm also so grateful for the support I've received creating Curious Roots. Pat produced the first season and all of my fellow members have offered such valuable feedback on the work. We also collaborate on zine series and I can't wait to spend more time creating more of those publications.
How has the emphasis on collaboration, solidarity, and equity within Converge Collaborative influenced your approach to creating settings for self-determined and communally-bound learning? Are there any specific examples or projects that reflect this influence?
The cooperative has really moved me to dig into all of the ancestral wisdom and technology that supported communal values inside of my culture even while under persistent attack by the forces of colonization and imperialism. Black folks and Indigenous folks have long legacies of communal culture-most bodies of culture do. These ways of being and knowing are as much in my DNA as the residue of intergenerational trauma. Converge has helped me do the work to reclaim that lineage and look to that wisdom to inform how we continue to co-create this particular cooperative experience. One of our members, Katie Giritlian talks about this idea of radical apprenticeship and that idea is about creating these communal conditions for knowledge sharing and skill sharing as a way to foster collaboration in right relationship. We're both learning design from Amy under this idea of radical apprenticeship. We're learning not only the skills, but also ideological frameworks that will help us not to reproduce the harms of colonial systems inside the design process. Those frameworks are a critical foundation of our skill-sharing and learning process.
Find more about the artist pod here.
Find more about the collective here.
All images courtesy of Michelle McCrary.
Michelle McCrary (she/her) is an earthling, daughter, grandchild, mother, friend, and partner born under a Scorpio moon, with Virgo rising, and her sun firmly in Aries. She makes her home as a guest in occupied Duwamish territory (in Washington state). Communications, strategy, and design are part of her repository of practiced skills. She is also a writer, a storyteller, family history keeper, and host of the podcast Curious Roots which is both a labor of love and a deep part of her generational healing praxis. Work on the podcast combines her love of history, research, and archives. In another timeline, Michelle spent more than fifteen years in communications for a large entertainment corporation. She graduated from Vassar College with a B.A. in American Culture and is making her way toward completing her LIFT Economy: Next Economy MBA.