A FAREWELL FROM FOUNDER KIER-LA JANISSE

2020 has been a year, hasn’t it? I’m coming off a two-day power blackout as a write this, from the small island I moved to earlier this year – which was my first step in a year full of transition that included my decision to leave the organization I founded in 2010 so that it could continue to grow under new leadership. In some ways it’s been Miskatonic’s most successful year, which sounds strange to say. But the COVID crisis finally pushed us to pursue online classes, which I’d been resistant to for a decade, thinking it wouldn’t replicate the sense of community we have at the in-person classes. But instead, online accessibility created a sense of community all its own, and put us in the middle of a vibrant global discourse that has been really exciting to participate in.

Huge thanks to Miskatonic’s branch directors Josh Saco (London), Joe Yanick and Jacqueline Castel (NYC), and Graham Skipper and Amy Voorhees Searles (LA) who all really pushed for the online program and helped make it a reality. It’s been such an honour to work alongside these brilliant people, to have them believe in the school and devote so much of their time to making it a sustainable and respectable operation, and for bringing ideas to the table that have helped Miskatonic grow far beyond what I could have originally envisioned. I’m so, so grateful to them. Along with our Advisory Board of international horror champions, filmmakers, scholars and entrepreneurs, you simply couldn’t ask for a better team.

Thanks also to the branch co-directors who helped build Miskatonic from the ground up over the years: Mario DeGiglio-Bellemare and Kristopher Woofter (Montreal), Virginie Selavy (London), Marc Walkow (New York) and Elric Kane and Rebekah McKendry who oversaw our first few classes in LA. I’m great with having big ideas but also a bit shambolic when it comes to executing them, so these were the resilient pioneers who shaped it into something real.

Having said all this, there is another bittersweet departure to announce: Jacqueline Castel, who has been co-director of Miskatonic NYC since 2018 with Joe Yanick, is also moving on from her position to pursue her personal artistic projects. “It’s been my continued goal as a creator to explore and disseminate countercultural ideas to larger audiences, and it was an honor to join the ranks of Miskatonic to further that goal and support both established and emerging voices in the horror genre,” she says. “I will deeply miss my time as a co-director in NYC, but look forward to expressing my support of the institute differently, and where it originally began, as an inspired member of the audience.”

And speaking of those audiences, I also want to thank our amazing venues who have housed them, all of whom have been struggling through the COVID setbacks and who are going to need our support to bounce back once events can open up safely again: The Horse Hospital (London), Film Noir Cinema (NYC), The Swedenborg Institute (London) and The Philosophical Research Society (LA). All have been amazing allies for Miskatonic and have allowed us to do the kind of out-of-the-box programming we want to do without financial pressure.

And last but not least, thank you to my friend and longtime colleague Shelagh Rowan-Legg, who is stepping in to run Miskatonic in my place. Hopefully Miskatonic will enrich your life as it has mine.

And so, this is my last message as Executive Director of the Miskatonic Institute – I’ll always be the founder, and will likely sit on the advisory board at least for a spell, but from here on out, Dr. Shelagh Rowan-Legg is your captain and I’ll be along for the ride like everybody else. Thank you all for ten inspiring years.

xoxo

Kier-La Janisse
December 23, 2020

Photo: Kier-La Janisse (L) and Jacqueline Castel (R) with artist Penny Slinger, at Miskatonic LA in December 2019