Melissa Kreider (b. 1993) is an MFA candidate (2017-2018) at the University of Iowa with a concentration in Photography and holds a BFA in Photography from the University of Akron. Melissa’s work examines sites of sexual and domestic violence against women and the linear narrative that exists if survivors choose to seek justice. Her work has been exhibited and published nationally and internationally. Melissa Kreider is a Graduate Teacher of Record at the University of Iowa, in the Art and Art History Department. Melissa currently lives in Iowa City, Iowa and owns two cats; a hardened street cat named Asphalt, and a cat with thumbs named Valentino. Melissa is the founding editor of Don’t Smile, an online space dedicated to showcasing photography by women artists.


2015 – 2017

Remnants is an exploration of the successes or failures of the reactionary structures that are responsible for engaging victims of sexual and domestic abuse. The images range from sites of sexual and domestic assault, the sexual assault evidence collection kits survivors often endure, to the backlog of rape kits in police evidence rooms, the crime labs in which these kits are tested, and finally the survivors themselves. All of these aspects create a complicated and intimidating maze of steps a survivor may maneuver if they choose to rely on the justice system for assistance. This work does not serve to trigger or create a negative response, but exists as photographic evidence of the reality many face when assaulted. 

Q&A: University of Iowa

Why The University of Iowa? 

Initially what attracted me to The University of Iowa was the faculty, program duration, and the opportunity to teach for all three years. Faculty mentors were my top priority while looking at schools, as working closely with others is integral to my growth as an artist. I wanted to work with both Jeff Rich and Margaret Stratton, so the decision was pretty easy once I was accepted. I also sought a three-year program so I could have ample time and resources to make a strong body of work and extend my access to facilities for as long as possible. I have also been given a full tuition scholarship (as is the norm with graduate students at UI) as well as a teaching job as the primary instructor of beginning photography classes. 

I was also drawn in by the new facilities that were completed in Fall 2016 as they offer anything you could ever dream of within an art building in terms of equipment and space. Each graduate student gets their own studio space and 24/7 access. Previously, I had never attended an art school in a building that was meant to be for education in the arts. The University of Akron’s Myers School of Art(where I earned my BFA) resides in an old Cadillac dealership. The University of Iowa’s School of Art was moved to an old Menard’s after the flood of 2008. Both spaces worked surprisingly well for our needs, but I wanted to experience learning and working in an environment designed specifically with the arts in mind. 

How has your experience at The University of Iowa informed or shaped Remnants

Remnants started the minute I began residency at The University of Iowa. I had been kicking the project around in my mind for almost a year before I made the first picture, but was unsure of the logistics of gaining access to some of the spaces I wanted to photograph. Both of my mentors as well as the community of artists I fell into were invaluable in growing Remnants into what it is now.

A Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (someone who conducts rape kit exams) who works in the College of Nursing has been an amazing guide to me while making Remnants. She and I have had many discussions about privacy, ethics, and logistics of making the work while providing me with further contacts that I would have never otherwise been exposed to. The school is bursting with enthusiastic scholars that are willing to help you in all departments if you reach out to them.

What kind of exhibition or arts-related job opportunities exist in the area for current students and recent graduates?

Since Iowa City is a small college town, there aren’t a ton of arts-related job opportunities that aren’t at The University of Iowa or at a nearby community college. PS1 is probably the most active art space in terms of happenings and exhibition opportunities. Students have the ability to show their own work or curate shows there if they please. Luckily Chicago is an easy three-and-a-half hour drive from Iowa City, so it’s easy to take a day or weekend trip there to attend openings and photo festivals that are held there.

What’s the most memorable piece of advice you’ve received from a mentor?

Make work about what you care about. Otherwise, you’re not going to make good work.

It’s simple, but it sticks with me. 

What advice do you have for prospective students looking to attend The University of Iowa? 

Visit the school in order to get a feel for the facilities and the community. You’ll know very quickly whether it’s a good fit for you or not. The University of Iowa’s graduate program is unique for two reasons; it is interdisciplinary, and by the end of your three years, you earn your Masters in Arts as well as your Masters in Fine Arts. The student community is vibrant and diverse. We have many opportunities to run into each other in town, engage in studio visits together, and have an ongoing dialogue due to the interdisciplinary nature of the program. As for the Photo community within the school, we are a close-knit family that challenges one another.

Where can we keep up with your department online?

What other photo programs and artists should we be keeping an eye on?

I am really enjoying the work that is coming out of the Hartford Photo MFA program!