The steps : // To: radical self-love // From: the intersection of domestic violence and higher arts education

Mary Kuan


The Steps // To: Radical Self-Love // From: The Intersections of Domestic Violence and Higher Arts Education is a radical valentine of self & community love for creative & queer femmes of color. This thesis is a collection of essays and oral histories, revealing patterns of abuse rampant in the intimate relationships built between multiply marginalized students and predominantly white institutions of higher arts education. The Steps paints a picture of The Harm (how institution-student relationships at the Rhode Island School of Design mimic those of domestic abuse) and The Healing (identifying and imagining ways in which students can further navigate/leave these abusive environments before, during, and after their relationship) through two forms of radical research — (1) the communal (oral histories) and (2) the erotic (essays). Each oral history centers our experience and provides insight into our community with contributions from various friends and peers who identify as Black, Brown, Asian, Jewish, mixed-race, queer, femme, female, nonbinary, trans, refugee, immigrant, neurodivergent, disabled, lower - middle class, and first or multi-generation American : the majority of whom identify as queer, American BIPOC femmes. Likewise, each essay details my observations and theories as a longstanding & loyal member of the RISD community —both after and during my personal/professional experiences with domestic violence. This valentine incorporates my knowledge as an artist, educator, student, survivor, and former domestic violence shelter advocate as a manifestation of authentic self & community love & care larger than institutional critique. The Steps is a resource for affected communities to heal.