Forging a career in the arts can be daunting, and few know that better than quirky stand-up comic Cameron Esposito, B.C. ’04.
“I had no idea what my future was going to be,” Esposito said of his time at BC. “I didn’t know my future existed. And I was very strong, very funny, and hiding in plain sight, because one of the best ways to hide is to be extremely large.
As part of the 25th annual Arts Festival, three art alumni returned to campus as panelists on “The Artist’s Journey”. The alumni panel was held on Friday and included Esposito, Lulu Wang, BC ’05, and Betsy Graves, BC ’04.
The panelists discussed topics ranging from their experiences at BC to their future projects and passions. They began by sharing some of the motivations behind their art, which ranges in medium.
“I’m a very outspoken person and I was when I was here in BC, and it was a challenge here in BC,” said Esposito, who said she’s only been back to BC once since graduating before the panel . “But I really believe in breaking down systems of power. This is literally all I do and I can’t believe I get paid for it.
Graves and Wang shared similar aspirations behind their work, explaining how art can create a space for those who need a voice.
“I come from a place of dance,” said Graves, who founded Urbanity Dance, an inclusive nonprofit in Boston. “For me, I think the act of taking up space with our bodies is a pretty revolutionary and profound act…I’m really interested in investing in others.”
Wang, a director and filmmaker, said much of her art is inspired by finding impactful ways to tell the stories of others. Her movie Farewell in part it chronicles the story of her own family, but also the experiences of others who are often not represented in the film.
“That’s what’s exciting about the arts,” she said. “It’s like no one fits in. We need voices that don’t fit. That’s exactly the point.”
Alumni also offered advice for current BC students who want to make an impact, whether through the arts or other fields. All three acknowledged the pressures that come with navigating college and how they handled it while finding their way to careers in the arts.
“I definitely felt the struggle while I was here because I felt like I was in a bubble,” Graves said. “It’s very easy to think of, you know, the ‘BC bubble,’ but at the same time they’re telling you, ‘go set the world on fire.'”
Esposito had a similar experience and talks about finding a balance between college being a safe space and knowing when to push the boundaries. She said that as a queer person on campus, she recognized that despite her struggles, she still has opportunities just by being here.
“I think the ability to tear things down often comes from being able to be part of the group that benefits from the things that need to be torn down,” Esposito said. “So that’s something that everybody in this tent can do because you have that opportunity. It’s right in front of you.”
When Wang was a student, she said she saw BC as an opportunity to break away from the status quo. Although she didn’t discover her passion for film until her senior year, she said the people and freedom she encountered at BC inspired her choice to pursue it.
“When I was in BC, I was just trying to get away from my parents, my family and expectations in general,” Wang said. “And I was also trying to find my identity as an artist. So it was confusing, it was exciting… I was just doing a million things. I felt free in a way.
After shifting gears to discuss current projects they’re working on, including Wang’s upcoming TV show and Esposito’s new stand-up tour, the panelists ended their conversation with advice. Specifically, they offered advice they wished they had given themselves 20 years ago while sitting as students at BC.
“You have to trust your gut,” Wang said. “If you need research time, do it. You know, this is the time for this research, so just keep exploring. Keep an open mind and an open heart.”