Multimedia artist Grace Coudal is an undergraduate student at the University of Michigan studying Art & Design and LGBTQ studies. In addition to her academics, she runs STAA COLLECTIVE, an activist artist group that explores themes such as identity, sexuality, and intimacy. Grace also co-founded Between Girls, a space for girls to have honest conversations about intimacy and identity. She also is an experienced designer, photographer, and fibers artist. I sat down with the 20 year old artist hailing from Chicago to talk about how she became an artist and her perspectives on art.
At a young age, Grace told me that she was into sports, and even rowed competitively for two years in high school. Ultimately it was a zine class in elementary school that sparked her need for creativity, opening her mind to making art that was personal, relatable, and could be sellable. Grace says the teacher of that zine class showed her that there was more to art than just crafts, and to be accepting of one’s gender and sexuality. Later on, Grace would be out on the water for crew practice and let her mind dwell on the artistic projects she could be doing–she then realized that she could be putting her time towards art instead. For the rest of high school and in college, Grace met other unique artists and realized that art was truly her passion.
Art has many meanings–to Grace, she believes it to be “a universal language that challenges and enhances and confuses your brain in a way that other fields don’t. It’s so much deeper than day-to-day stuff, and up to the person to define.” As an artist, Grace strives to be honest and vulnerable in order to make others feel seen and heard–art with social impact is her speciality. She says, “Conversations, books, podcasts inspire me to make art that talks about [sexuality and human connection]. I make art that’s seen as taboo and I love hearing other people’s stories.”
One inspiring project of Grace’s is a suit and lingerie set created last year promoting rights for sex workers. Grace explains that she is “so satisfied with it because it’s impactful and a wearable–it’s intriguing material and people interact with it, so it continues to have a life. I like to interact with art daily by wearing it.”
Clearly, Grace is on a path to do great things and influence others to be truly open and vulnerable. For now, she’s a junior in college, but sees herself as an entrepreneur of a sustainable business–“I never imagined working for someone else. I envision running a brand or art group and still pursuing my own work. I know it will happen.”