Rikiesha Metzger, cohort ’19, explores innovative approaches to sharing Black culture through the arts. Built upon a solid spiritual foundation and community involvement, her goal is to teach various forms of self-expression and introspection through the practice of art making. This year Rikiesha has participated in several conference presentations, gallery exhibitions, and was a contributing author in the recent publication, Heart Beating Beneath the Earth. She is an Adjunct Professor at Morgan State University in the Fine Arts Department.
IDSVA: Congratulations on your many achievements this year! You’ve participated in several conferences, group exhibitions, contributed to a recent publication, and just started a new faculty position at Morgan State University. When did your career start to build in this dynamic way? What factors were the catalyst for this incredible growth?
Rikiesha Metzger: Thank you for the congratulatory remarks. I would say that my career has always been built this way, ever since I accepted my calling as an artist. However, it wasn't until recently that I discovered the philosopher within me and I began keeping more intentional records of my journey. I now understand the importance of documenting these experiences to track my progress on this evolving journey of my artist-philosopher career, which is just beginning. To be able to put into practice all that I have learned, unlearned, along with my understanding of my purpose, these have been the catalysts for my growth. The experiences and opportunities I encountered, especially during my time as a student at IDSVA, played an instrumental role in leading me to this important realization.
IDSVA: How does your art practice inform your academic pursuits? Is your art the driving force, or is it your research? What else drives you?
RM: My art practice and academic pursuits are interconnected; they inform and complement each other. I do not view them as separate entities, but rather as integral parts of my identity as an artist-philosopher. To me, I do not feel the need to choose one over the other as my driving force; I welcome both components in my life equally, as they are essential to my holistic approach. Rather than choosing between art and research, I have learned to embrace my wholeness as a whole person. My motivations are multilayered and shaped by my life’s experiences, relationships and personal beliefs. Factors such as being a mother, wife, educator, woman, a Black person living in the United States, as well as my relationships, my spirituality, my connection to God is what drives me. This is extensive, but not exhaustive.
IDSVA: As an artist, what advice would you give to other artists who want to pursue thought leadership/academics as another arm of their career?
RM: My advice to artists looking to integrate thought leadership or academics into their artistic career is simple: seize the opportunity without delay. There is no better time than the present. Waiting can be costly, both figuratively and literally. Figuratively, it can cost you the chance to share your unique gifts and contributions with the world, missing out on meaningful connections with like-minded individuals during your artistic pursuits. By not taking action, you could potentially delay the impact you could make in the field as an artist-philosopher. On a practical note, delay can also take a financial toll, as we are all aware of the rising costs of everything in today's world.
IDSVA: What do you hope to achieve in the short term? Where do you see yourself in the next 3-5 years?
RM: In the short term, I am excited about the prospect of transforming my dissertation into a book that resonates with readers far and wide. Over the next 3 to 5 years, I see myself traveling across the world. My passion for global exploration has been a part of me since childhood, from my early experiences as a military child to my recent adventures exploring and studying abroad. It was not until the summer of 2023 that I discover that I am a nomad. To me, this journey represents an incredible opportunity to connect with people worldwide, sharing my life experiences to show people how interconnected we truly are.
IDSVA: Is there anything else you would like to share about your experience at IDSVA?
RM: IDSVA has truly been a blessing, offering me numerous opportunities to share my unique journey, background and reasoning for pursuing a Ph.D. in philosophy, aesthetics, and art theory. I am thrilled to have been a student and now a PhD candidate in the program. While the idea of a five-year program may initially seem daunting, time truly flies by. IDSVA’s blend of online and in-person residencies has taken me on a captivating journey around the world, broadening my horizons and unlocking a world of creative thinking through writing and artmaking. As one of the few Black women in the United States pursuing a Ph.D. in philosophy, aesthetics,and art theory, I am deeply honored to explore and define my role in this world as an artist-philosopher.