What It Means to Be American
A National Conversation


My Business Card Says ‘Enthusiast’

Artist Zoe Crosher Finds Poor Funding Is the Biggest Impediment to Creativity

May 12, 2016

Zoe Crosher is the co-creator of the Manifest Destiny Billboard Project, a series of 100 artist-designed billboards that spanned the United States along Interstate 10. Before joining a Zócalo/Smithsonian “What It Means to Be American” panel discussion about creativity in America—“What Does American Ingenuity Look Like?”—she talked in the green room about the eclectic mediums she works in, D.C. punk rock, and that time Bill Nye flirted with her.

Q: You’re the child of a diplomat and an airline stewardess, so you’ve lived in lots of places outside America. Which was your favorite?
Probably the most interesting place was Moscow in the early ’80s. My dad was working in the United States Embassy. Our maid was a KGB spy. I remember eating cabbage every day.

Q: What’s one thing about California that east coasters don’t understand?
The vastness—and the freedom.

Q: What’s the earliest work of art you remember making?
I did music first. I started playing the piano in Moscow. I took it pretty seriously, but I kept getting in trouble because I’d reinterpret the music.

Q: Your business cards name your profession as “enthusiast.” What are you so enthusiastic about?
What was I going to say, artist? That’s the lamest thing ever. Originally I was a “correspondent.” Once I got to grad school, I decided on “enthusiast.”

Q: If you had to stick to a single artistic medium for the rest of your life, which would you choose?
The only thing I can say is that I’m not really a fan of photographs anymore. Right now, I’m really into sculpture. Can I just say conceptual art?

Q: What’s the biggest impediment to creativity?
Money. That’s it.

Q: What’s your best dance move?
I don’t have a particular move that I’m great at. I was part of the D.C. punk rock scene in the early ’90s. Teen-Beat [a record label] dictated my dance moves.

Q: When’s the last time you were really embarrassed?
Last night. Bill Nye flirted with me.

*Photo by Hugh Talman.