by Anna Stalker
Organization: Grain
Published December 24, 2014

What a Year of Interviewing Makers in St. Louis Has Taught Me

This year marked an important milestone for the Curator–we launched our 100th profile at the beginning of this month, just as the city dressed up for the holidays. We have had 100 conversations: one in the offices of a multi-million-dollar company eye-level with the Arch, another dodging the sun on a rooftop overlooking the city, and yet another as our feet stirred the warm soil of a community garden. We have accumulated hours of crackling, phone-recorded audio alongside gigabytes of photographs and film that are an affirming testament to how open people will be if given the chance.


On my first day at the Curator, I secretly Googled “how to interview people.” I approached my first practice interview with a checklist–I had a meticulously assembled list of questions, and the conversation was just a way to draw out the relevant answers. I came to realize that I created lists of questions as a safety net to prevent an awkward, blank moment where I had nothing to say. Having a pre-made agenda, however, meant I was never really present, but thinking ahead to my next move instead. As I gradually let go of my safety net, I began to genuinely listen to what the person across from me was saying. The truly revealing questions–the ones I needed to ask–were present inside of what they were telling me in that moment.


There have been times when I was afraid. It felt too raw, too invasive, to ask how someone felt at the end of an important relationship, or in a moment when they were convinced their career was over. What right do I have to pry into the specific darkness of someone I just met? I am continually surprised, however, by how willing people are to share their most challenging moments. Moving into a new year at the Curator, I hope to continue to provide a space for these vulnerable conversations.

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