English alumna helps build community through poetry and performance
Chantel Massey ’13 has always been a writer and a lover of poetry, but she didn’t always recognize that she could turn her passion into a career. As a published author, teaching artist, and founder and creative director of UnLearn Arts, a literary arts organization based in Indianapolis, she teaches others how to hone their skills and express themselves through writing and performance.
When she first came to Wooster, Massey had a hard time narrowing down her interests. At first, she considered majors in sociology and communication studies. Although she always loved writing poetry and dreamed of performing it, it wasn’t until she took a class with Leslie Wingard, associate professor of English, that she considered English as a major. “She made me believe in myself as a writer,” said Massey. Encouraged, she changed her major to English, with a minor in communication studies.
Both during and after her time at Wooster, Massey continuously worked on developing herself as a writer. She workshopped the poems she wrote at Wooster, and in 2018, she published her first book of poetry, Bursting at the Seams.
That same year, she founded UnLearn Arts, a literary arts organization dedicated to amplifying and uplifting Black writers and writers of color across the Midwest. As founder and creative director of the organization, she designs programs and curriculum for writing communities, many of which consist of writers from historically marginalized groups. She also serves as a teaching artist for the Asante Art Institute of Indianapolis, an institute that teaches young Black artists life skills through training in the performing arts.
“I get to do something I love, and I also get to connect with people while doing it,” said Massey.
She credits her time at Wooster with growing her confidence and abilities as a writer and teacher. It was during her time at Wooster that Massey first began performing poetry and creating opportunities for others to share their art as well. After realizing during her first year that Wooster didn’t have any open-mic poetry nights on campus, she held poetry readings in her on-campus house. Later, she became the co-president of the poetry club and created poetry programs and events on campus, where she and other students shared their art and supported each other on their artistic journeys.
“My main take away from my experience at Wooster was that community, creative problem solving, and dreaming are very important,” said Massey. “I loved the opportunities to explore and be creative in a number of mediums artistically.”
To learn more about Massey and her work, visit her website.
Posted in Alumni on November 11, 2022.
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