Living an Artistic Life

By Joni Starr, Chad Swan-Badgero

Editor’s Note: As arts educators we often wonder about the long term impact of our teaching. When they have left us, do our students grow into or out of their artistry and creativity? MAEIA is pleased to partner and work with individuals who fully embrace their creativity and who actively engage in artistic living. Watch for profiles of these interesting people in the upcoming months in our new blog series: Living an Artistic Life.

For our first profile I had the pleasure of catching up with Chad Swan-Badgero, Arts Education Program Manager with the Michigan Arts and Culture Council (MACC) and Founder and Artistic Director of Peppermint Creek Theatre Company. (PCTC)

 How would you define your current artistry?

At this time, and for my entire life, theatre has been my passion and my driving force. In the fifth grade I was bitten by the theatre bug and ever since then the theatre has been my venue for how I express myself artistically.

What does it mean to you to live an artistic life?

Pretty simply I believe that living an artistic life is engaging in and with art. We often believe that we have to DO art (i.e. paint, dance, sing), but I think everyone can live an artistic life simply by engaging with art. Attending a play. Visiting a local art museum. Dancing with your kids in the living room. Listening to your favorite opera (or in my case, cheesy pop music) in the car. By just putting ourselves in proximity to art and culture I believe it can seep into our bones and our souls and make life better.

Do you feel your artistry reaches out to other people?

Completely! My entire reason for running a small non-profit theatre company is to engage people in dialogue and address current issues. So often when I feel helpless with the state of the world, or frustrated by legislation, or just confused or ignorant about a topic, I go to the theatre understand those things better, and to work through those feelings. That’s also my motivating factor for producing – to reach out to other people in our community that may also share those same feelings of helplessness, frustration, or ignorance about the world.

What role did arts education play in your life?

The two most influential moments that brought me to the theatre came from arts education in school.

  1. In the fifth grade I was cast in a class production of You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown. This introduced me to being on stage – and what a tremendous feeling that was!
  2. As I was graduating from high school in Mason and I was eager to put on a show myself. My choir/drama director at the school, the incomparable Helen Hansens, not only encouraged me to go forward with the idea but walked me through the process of applying for the rights to a play. She took time to explain to me what it would take to successfully direct a show. If she hadn’t believed in me then, I would never have believed in myself. Now Peppermint Creek Theatre has been producing theatre for our community for over 25 years! Both of those transformative moments came directly through arts education.

What is your connection to MAEIA?

I am able to partner with MAEIA through my work at the Michigan Arts and Culture Council. We associate with MAEIA as a funder to support their work, research and advocacy in statewide arts education. MACC’s strategic plan states that “a lifelong education in music, visual arts, theater, dance, literature and media empowers us to be well-rounded citizens, expands our ability to effectively communicate and provides us with 21st century job skills.” We work with MAEIA to further that goal in Michigan.

Will you share a story of an important moment in your artistic life?

Early on in the life of Peppermint Creek Theatre Company, I was interested in directing the play, Corpus Christi. I was struggling with coming out to my friends and family. This play really voiced a lot of what I was grappling with in regard to my sexuality and faith. The show had been boycotted in New York and had received bomb threats in Los Angeles when it was performed professionally. A local theatre lover and frequent actor on stage cautioned me against producing the play in Lansing

noting that our community “wasn’t ready for it.” I am proud to say that my longing to produce theatre to help start a community dialogue won out. PCTC produced Corpus Christi in 2004. And it sold out! It was a total success. More importantly, the community showed that we were VERY much ready for the discussion about the intersection of faith and homosexuality.

That experience taught me first-hand the power that theatre has to create a safe space for people to be exposed to ideas that may be tricky, controversial, divisive or unanswerable. When we agree to sit and listen together quietly in a dark room, next to people who may feel differently than ourselves, it creates moments where we might be able to consider someone else’s story. I think that’s transformational.

Living an artistic life can mean many things to many people and as Chad has pointed out it can bring purpose, passion and fulfillment to our daily tasks. Are you living an artistic life?


Learn more about Chad’s work at the Michigan Arts and Cultural Council, specifically granting opportunities for arts education. Follow this link. Also, go see a play at Peppermint Creek Theatre Company. Follow this link.



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