Alexa Turnbull has always had a passion for art, which is why she is currently a student in the Master of Fine Art Program at Western Carolina University.
Alexa is using her talent to fuel her other passion, which is helping incarcerated members of the LGBTQ community and sex workers. It’s a cause she feels deeply about, which is why after receiving her bachelor’s degree from Florida State, Alexa set up Seether Bookstore.
Seether Bookstore is an online and pop-up bookstore that sells used books, zines and other printed goods, with all of the proceeds from the sales going to buying and sending books to those incarcerated people.
“It started with my ongoing building frustration with the lack of community support that was available for folks who were incarcerated, and trying to get them books was always a pain,” said Alexa, a native of Fort Myers, Florida. “I figured I know people all over do stuff where they raise money to get books to incarcerated people. I wanted to focus on a marginalized group, specifically because I am just one person and I knew I needed to have a really set goal if I wanted it to be successful.”
Turnbull partners with groups such as Black and Pink, Tranzmission Prison Project and Sex Workers Outreach Project, providing her a direct link with incarcerated people to find out what books they would like. She then uses her proceeds from the Seether Bookstore to fulfill those requests.
Alexa came to WCU in the fall of 2018 after a friend in the MFA program suggested she apply. She visited Cullowhee before her application was accepted and while she was here, Alexa attended a queer studies conference in Asheville as a representative of Seether Bookstore. The conference allowed her to meet others in Asheville who were doing work similar to hers.
Her artwork mostly involves printmaking and video performance. She’s had video-based exhibitions in the United Kingdom and Moscow.
“One of my favorite parts about doing video art is being able to send over a video file and be in a show somewhere and not have to package up artwork, because that gets pricey,” Alexa said. “I didn’t get to go to the showings, but one day. For now, the virtual presence of me is good enough. It still feels pretty cool.”
Her work currently is featured in Gallery 130 in WCU’s Fine Art Museum. It explores how communities utilize independent presses and self-publishing to strengthen marginalized voices and bring people together. It is part of an ongoing project titled “Printed (still) Matters.”
“Ink and paper have always been tools of distribution, organization and expression, but I am specifically interested in how printed matter plays a role in filling voids in a society where people have been marginalized,” Alexa said.
Alexa is undecided on which path she will take after graduation, but it will include some time off from school. Part of her loves teaching, and she would like to become a professor. Another part of her wants to work with a nonprofit doing prison advocacy and solidarity work. And then there’s a huge part of her that would like to attend law school.
Whichever route she takes, art will always be a part of her.
“I’ll still make art on my own time because that’s something that I’m going to do forever, whether it’s my source of income or not,” Alexa said.
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App Deadline: February 1st
National Visiting Artist Program