New BCN series “Defining Leadership” redefines what it means to lead in community

By Taraneh Azar for BCN #135

May 3, 2021


The new BCN digital media series “Defining Leadership: The Artist Interview Project” is all about creating space for the stories of untraditional creatives and the unique ways that they lead in community.


Hosted by Cambridge-based creative leader Pauline, the series consists of in-depth artist interviews that inspire conversation around themes of resistance, healing, intention and what it means to challenge the limitations placed on creativity in a capitalist society where artistic practice and talent are more often than not exploited as a means for profit.


“The inspiration for ‘Defining Leadership’ was really just kind of being disappointed with the lack of just artist representation. I wanted to create a space where activists and artists can really just talk about their lives without judgment or policing of their narratives,” explains Pauline. “This is an end of the day for artists, by artists, and we only hope to grow that.”


Featuring artists who embody intersectional identities and creative practices, beyond being an interview series, “Defining Leadership” is a space for different artists and activists to come together and share stories of life, experience and inspiration. This emphasis on intersectionality and the variety that creatives can hold in inspiration and application is what truly drives the series. That, and a celebration of individuality.


“Intersectionality is probably the biggest theme outside of just individuality,” explains Pauline. “And intersectionality, it really means to me in terms of how we apply it, just having all different types of thinkers, having all different types of people in terms of artist expression. I've really wanted to make sure that it was people who embody a lot of different things. I didn't want there to just be one type of artist. I wanted there to be so many different types of artists, even in that one artist, if you will.”


Filmed by Jason Kimball and with animation by K. Myers, the series provides space for artists to discuss what it means to be creative to them and what challenges they overcome in life as it relates to practice, but above all what brings joy on a personal level and within the broader contexts of community, solidarity and healing. With discussions on creative health, uplifting others and the importance of community-level education, the series also offers a framework for approaching the intersections of art and community in new and profound ways.


In addition to a lack of representation around nontraditional artists who don’t necessarily conform to the boundaries placed on defining what it means to be an artist and community leader, Pauline’s personal experience as an artist, healer and individual more broadly speaking played a large role in inspiring the series.


“I've always been super shy and awkward. And I kind of was always given this almost expectation that people put on me, of me having to be this really confident, almost sassy, woman. And in reality, that's just not who I am. I'm very to myself, I’m very shy,” she explains. “I definitely can talk to people and all that. But that's when I feel comfortable. And I just kind of wanted to create more of a space for people who, you know, don't always get welcomed to center stage.”


Pauline notes that within this framework, representation is not just about showcasing people who embody intersectional identities but who take up space in different ways and who approach life, leadership and creativity in various ways — falling outside of what is expected and accepted by society. In addition to representation, creating space and platforms for everyone is essential to beginning to tell a truer story. And “Defining Leadership” fills those gaps.


“My hope that the series is that it can inspire conversation on the topics that are introduced throughout the interviews,” explains Pauline. “And my hope for this series too, is that it can uplift people, it can inspire people and it can even change some people's minds or make people think about something in a different way, or in a way that they've never thought before.”


You can watch the monthly “Defining Leadership” series on the Boston Compass Newspaper Youtube channel. And make sure to follow Pauline @conformingsucks and @bostoncompass on Instagram for updates!


Check out all the art and columns of May's Boston Compass at www.issuu.com/bostoncccompass