Chicago Studio Volunteer Spotlight: Samantha Presser

January 18, 2019 By catherine-norcott
Two women laughing, one standing, one seated,

On most Tuesdays, you can meet Samantha Presser at Arts of Life as she mingles with our studio artists.  Since her first day in January 2018, she’s always had great enthusiasm about individual artists’ practices and that comes across in her conversations and jokes.  We appreciate her keen sense of style, and her interest in comics!  Most of all, we are thankful for her efforts to expand and enrich our creative community!  This Tennessee native came to Chicago in 2011 to study at Columbia College, and has been working as a freelance photographer since 2014.  


Catherine Norcott (CN): How did you learn about Arts of Life?  When did you start volunteering?

Samantha “Sam” Presser (SP): I learned about it through Megan Capps who I went to school with.  Megan knew that I had worked with young adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities and loved the art that the artist at Arts of Life create.  She encouraged me to apply as a volunteer!


CN: What is your background (school or art practice)?

SP: I went to Columbia and studied photography.  My work primarily began as documentary/portraiture work.  I was lucky to study under Dawoud Bey and see how portraits can be deliberate and image making is a constant conversation and story.  In my own practice I delved into more studio work and street photography since graduating from college focusing on collaborations and using my camera to examine how we interact with the spaces around us.


CN: What is something that you’ve learned in your time at our studio?

SP: As an artist, I’ve been very influenced by what’s happening here.  I’ve really learned about how important community is.  That has been a rich source of inspiration as I grow my own practice.  There aren’t a lot of other creative communities that are so supportive.  Arts of Life is tight knit and encouraging.  Everyone here is collaborating, and talking about art.  My own practice has become more collaborative since I started
volunteering and it really underscored the importance of creative community to me.


CN: Where do you get your inspiration?

SP: Right now I like to focus my art on working with and featuring other artists.  There are people that I know or have seen online whose work is inspiring to me. I work with all kinds of artists, musicians, dancers, those who make visual art.  If I see something that I connect with, I reach out to that artist and work on starting a collaboration.  I like to create sets that feel like you could be walking into each individual artist’s dream world/inspiration board.


CN: What are some of the things you like to do when you aren’t volunteering?

SP: Besides my own work, I like to hang out with my dog, Elvira, she’s a bulldog.  I like to go dancing too. I also like to chill at my house.


CN: What’s something you would want to tell people about Arts of Life?

SP: I love seeing how strong and active the Arts of Life community is.  It is rare to find such an interdependent community of artists sharing space, ideas, and caring for one another.


You can see some of Sam’s portraits at the upcoming exhibition, “In Good Company” at the Chicago Cultural Center in February.  In the meantime, you can also check out her instagram and website to learn more about her personal and professional practice:


Photo Gallery