Give Now

Artist In The Making: Weaving In And Out Of Academia

Although MFA painter Erin Castellan has spent the last two years ensconced within academia, she’s spent more of her adult life outside of it.

Artworks’ Artist in the Making series continues with the first part of a conversation with Erin Castellan, an MFA Painting student at Indiana University’s Hope School of Fine Arts. Erin’s current artwork combines fabric, embroidery, and other traditional fiber techniques with painting and unusual material substances.

The multi-media work that Castellan will be showing in her thesis exhibition this spring integrates the multiple threads of her artistic life.

Raised in Morgantown, West Virginia, Castellan grew up drawing and painting, while following her mother — a fiber artist — on her rounds to neighbors’ sheep farms. Encouraged by her father to channel her artistic inclinations in a career-oriented direction, Castellan considered a graphic design major in her first year at the Rhode Island School of Design. It didn’t take long to realize that it wasn’t a good fit.

Although she’d always considered her mother’s field a hobby, Castellan gradually came to see how a textile design major could satisfy her aesthetic needs while at the same time providing  a livelihood.

After graduating in February 2003, Castellan set off on a cross-country jaunt to Seattle with several college friends. While toiling away in a motorized awning manufacturing facility, Castellan started a knitwear line, and continued painting — albeit in a space that was more “artsy cubicle” than studio.

The rigors of life in Seattle and a longing to be closer to friends and family in the East precipitated a move to Philadelphia, where a couple of three-month internships led to a five-year stint at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, working at the museum information desk and in the art supply shop. Castellan found the academic milieu and facilities conducive to her studio practice; at the same time, her knitwear line was successful enough to afford her a decent studio among a collegial group of artists.

Return to a strictly academic status didn’t occur until the fall of 2010, when Castellan entered the MFA program in Painting at IU.

“It’s funny, when I finished up my undergrad, I remember driving towards Seattle and feeling so free and light, thinking ‘I can do whatever I want, whenever I want!’. And I honestly had no desire to ever go back to school for my MFA. I just didn’t see it in my future at all. And then, after seven and a half years of living paycheck to paycheck, in rundown apartments and just scrambling to make ends meet, I was so ready to go back to graduate school to have the freedom to learn and make art without the stresses.”

Yaël Ksander

WFIU's Arts Desk Editor, Yaël seeks out and shepherds the stories of artists, musicians, writers, and other creative people. In addition, Yaël co-hosts A Moment of Science, writes essays for A Moment of Indiana History, produces Speak Your Mind (WFIU's guest editorial segment), hosts music and news hours throughout the week, and lends her voice to everything from accounting courses to nature documentaries. Yaël holds a MFA in painting from Indiana University, an MA in art history from Columbia University, and a BA from the University of Virginia, where she studied languages and literature.

View all posts by this author »

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from Indiana Public Media Arts & Music:

Support For Indiana Public Media Comes From

Search Arts and Music

Stay Connected

RSS e-mail itunes Facebook Twitter Flickr YouTube

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from Indiana Public Media Arts & Music:

Recent Visual Arts Stories

Visual Arts Events RSS icon

More Events »Submit Your Event »

Arts & Music is on Twitter

Find Us on Facebook

This Week on Earth Eats

La Cocina: A Food Business Incubator For Immigrant Women

Since 2005, San Francisco's La Cocina has helped low-income entrepreneurs grow their businesses. Some went on to recognition from the prestigious James Beard awards. A new book tells their stories.

Read more »

Earth Eats is a podcast, radio program and blog of the freshest news and recipes inspired by local food and sustainable agriculture.

More from Earth Eats »

This Week on Focus on Flowers


Some people love specific plants just because of their scent.

Read more »

Focus on Flowers is a weekly program about flower gardening hosted by master gardener Moya Andews.

More from Focus on Flowers »