Desmond Peeples is passionate about the arts in rural communities. “When a small town’s artists and arts organizations are empowered and active, they enable neighbors, peers, and coworkers to meet in the strange spacetime of creativity and rediscover each other; they can help transform the way an entire community sees and feels itself.” One way Desmond is trying to accomplish these connections is through Mount Island, a literary magazine for rural LGBTQ and POC voices, for which they are the founding editor and editor in chief.
Desmond shares their thoughts about being an artist in Vermont.
How has living as an artist in Vermont affected your creative process?
The land has been a gift. A supreme presence whose spirit I’m lucky and challenged to be in conversation with. The solitude has always been a driving force, sometimes toward creative actualization and sometimes just toward loneliness. I’ve cherished the intimate sense of community here, but growing up as a queer, mixed-race Black Vermonter was a constant, often dogged, hunt for respect and solidarity, and for intimacy with others like me. Making art has always been a tool in that hunt, whether for soothing the spirit, interrogating truth, or reaching into community.
Since returning to Vermont after some years bouncing around the country, I’ve realized how essential community is to my creative process. With the help of countless other artists who feel similarly, I’ve been learning how to better ground myself in community where it exists, and to create it where it’s needed. It’s an ongoing struggle, but it—like Vermont—means the world, means home to me.
What is something about your art that has changed over time?
For years the ethical substance of art was my primary concern, but now style is equally important to me. I’ve become obsessed with how style and substance can work together, in service to each other’s reckoning with the human experience.
What is your vision for the next several years?
I’ve been working on two novels I’d like to see published, both set in the Enlightenment era. One’s a punky look at queer lives back then, the other an alt-history fantasy about a pagan nation’s invasion of Europe.
I’d also like to devote more energy to making music. I’ve been mulling over a folky, bluesy album for a while. And I’m itching to return to singing in drag—that’s an irreplaceable feeling I miss.
Then there’s running Mount Island, the first issue of which comes out this October. Our long-term vision is a sustainable publishing house grounded in equitable community-building.
The “I am a Vermont Artist” series explores how artists’ creative expressions reflect their experiences of ethnicity, gender identity, religion, disability, or age. Covering all artistic disciplines, and a range of backgrounds—from New Americans to the state’s first residents—we hope to amplify voices that deepen our understanding of what it means to be a Vermont artist. This story by the Vermont Arts Council originally appeared at https://www.vermontartscouncil.org/blog/i-am-a-vermont-artist-desmond-peeples/