Meet the Facilitator

Bri Custer

I earned my B.A. in Studio Art ('14) and later my Master's in Education ('19) from the University of New Hampshire after working a number of years in administrative rolls. I left the monotony of those jobs for the security and excitement of teaching, but when the pandemic hit, I began to re-evaluate everything. Art was what I wanted to be doing, and it was always what I wanted to be doing.

After finishing out the school year as a public school teacher, I left to become a full time artist.

The idea for The Non-Toxic Crit group started in the garden. Not some figurative garden, but while actually pruning and weeding and laboring in my front yard. I was stressed about the decision to leave my teaching job, and longing to connect with other artists. We were a couple of months into the pandemic, and I felt like I was drowning in uncertainties. How was I going to make this choice to be a full time artist work? How can I build community outside of a traditional classroom? How can I do it in a way that feels like the right fit for me?

I knew I needed more, and my mind raced as I clipped back overgrown evergreens. I thought about what I loved about teaching most: talking about art., making connections, and building community. Those are the things that set my soul on fire. The Non-Toxic Crit Group was born.

Q&A with Bri


What would you say are the ingredients for a strong critique group?

A collective willingness to learn and entertain multiple perspectives, plus enthusiasm and trust. 

What are your passions outside of your art practice?

Oh goodness, so many things. I love to garden and cook and be at home, but I also love an adrenaline rush. My husband and I downhill ski in the winter and mountain bike in the summer, and both of those experiences bring me out of my head and into the present moment in a similar way as painting. 

What are some of your favorite art resources?

I try and get my hands on as much as I can. I feel like there is always so much to learn and see. My favorite art podcast is Art For Your Ear by the Jealous Curator, my favorite big art book is Robert Motherwell: Early Collages, and my very favorite resource for art philosophy is The Grove Book of Art Writing.

When you were a participating artist in The Non-Toxic Crit Group, what was the most valuable part of the process for you?

I faciliitated and participated in the first couple of crit groups I offered. The most valuable part for me has been having a community of artists that share so many diverse perspectives and philosophies about their creative practices. It's energizing to be part of such a community. 

If you could impart any piece of advice to other artists, what would it be?

Your individual perspective is what makes your work meaningful--things like how you wield your medium and your life experiences--so don't get lost trying to shift to be what you think you "should" be as an artist. Focus more on what feels right for you, and don't ever stop having fun. 

How do you manage self doubt?

I find it really helpful to reframe self doubt or talk back to it. For me, it's always going to be part of the process of creating, and instead of thinking about that inner critic as a bully, I try and listen to and consider where the fear and doubt is stemming from and offer myself compassion. I'm also pretty tenacious, so I tend to see fear as a marker for an opportunity to face something new. 

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