Melissa Stern ’80

I'm an artist and live in New York City, and my work has always drawn a great deal from anthropology, which is what I studied at Wesleyan, and I still think is the greatest thing in the world for any artist to study.

I had a moment at Wesleyan during a class called "American Anthropology." It was a new field at the time, taught by Linc Keiser, who was my advisor at Wesleyan. And it was about studying ourselves - it was America studying itself as if it was another culture, studying itself from an anthropological point of view. 

Linc had done his field work in Chicago working with a gang called the Vice Lords - a very famous, notorious, terrible, tough, high-crime gang. And Linc had kept in touch with them over the years, and during this class he flew in two of the former gang leaders from Chicago. 

We were given the instructions to interview them anthropologically, to interview them about their culture, about their society, about the world in which they lived - as if they were from another place, because in fact they were.

And the experience of meeting these guys and talking to them ... was an amazing moment for me about connection.

Melissa-Stern.com