From a very young age we begin to identify with expressions and adopt them as our own—these expressions, after time, come to define who we are and what we do in the world. This was the case for Megan Watters, a multi-hyphenated artist, who can recall initially taking to art through “finding ways to entertain herself” at a young age. But this was no mere preoccupation for Watters. “Art was magnetic for me,” she says, as she expressed how she continuously found herself creating.
What began as a hobby would eventually turn into a career—Watters’s passion developing more and more along the way. From that point on, art would become second nature to her, taking many different forms. That magnetism would lead her down a path filled with artistic opportunities, experiences, and collaborations.
Watters attended college at Emory, a liberal arts school in Atlanta, where she studied psychology. It was during this time that she visited a job fair and found herself signing up for work in the theatre. She began working as a carpenter there, which wasn’t necessarily her forte— “I can use all of the saws and drills,” she says, “but you do not want me to build your cabinets.” However, working for the theatre was at least in the realm of what she wanted to do. Even then, Watters’s path would change yet again.
“One day, a woman walks in,” Watters explains. “She looked very poised, older, cooler—turns out, she was actually only about 26.” This woman was named Sara, and she was a freelance scenic painter at the theatre where Watters was working. “She came in to paint the backdrops and scenery—I didn’t even know scenic painting existed at the time—and I immediately wondered who she was and knew I wanted to work with her.” This experience spoke to the young girl in Megan who so seamlessly took to art as her form of expression all those years ago. Watters continues, “I eventually got linked up with her and she taught me a lot—stencils, how paint works, all of the technical stuff that I never learned because I wasn’t an art student.”
When the time came for Watters to graduate, she was working in a psych lab and had been accepted into grad school to study social psychology—a wildly different path from the artistic endeavors she was pursuing. Watters recalls, “I remember being at work one day and I went to my boss and broke down crying. I told him that I didn’t want to do this anymore.” She continues, “I hated working in the lab, I didn’t care for the people—and it wasn’t that they weren’t nice people—they just weren’t my people. It just wasn’t my scene.” Megan understood at this point that psychology wasn’t truly who she was, or what she wanted to do in the world.
“I remember being at work one day and I went to my boss and broke down crying. I told him that I didn’t want to do this anymore.” She continues, “I hated working in the lab, I didn’t care for the people—and it wasn’t that they weren’t nice people—they just weren’t my people. It just wasn’t my scene.”
“My boss actually helped me get an internship at the theatre doing Summer Stock,” Watters says about her time as a painter at the Heritage Theatre Festival in Virginia. “Summer Stock is tradition in America—where they put on 5 or 6 shows in summer, completely staffed by interns who work all day and party all night,” she says, “and they literally work them to the bone, but it’s an amazing opportunity to learn how to do theatre.” Summer Stock consists of all walks of life— from carpenters, to painters, to props people, and everywhere in between. “It’s tradition that you go there and work your ass off for like no money, and you pretty much get paid in pizza, meet people, and make connections,” explains Watters.
After her Summer Stock job, Watters found herself in Santa Maria, CA at PCPA as a design intern. She spent a year working with a designer, painting and making intricate models. “This was right on the cusp of 3D printers, so everything was still done by hand,” Watters says. “We would carve out full miniature models of things—when we wanted to use certain furniture or scenes, we would make the models absolutely perfect, which is pretty antiquated now.” She continues, “And because they had interns all year round, we were really able to do the craft in a way that you can’t often do with theatre outside of Broadway, because there’s just not money there.”
California would not be home to Megan for long though—yet another new beginning was on the horizon for her—and she moved her life to New York City. It was here that she came to own her craft and embody her expression by freelancing and working in fabrication shops.
“Fabrication shops build scenery for events like fashion shows—NY fashion week is a huge bread and butter for fab shops—photo shoots, and scenery for Broadway,” Watters explains. She worked in fabrication shops as a painter and project manager for 10 years, and she claims this as her expertise. “I did a lot of boring shit, a lot of sanding shit, and just not glamorous stuff—but then I also worked on some really cool things like pop ups here in LES, off Broadway stuff like Sweeney Todd, murals, and Macy’s windows—which have been a huge part of my career.”
“I did a lot of boring shit, a lot of sanding shit, and just not glamorous stuff—but then I also worked on some really cool things like pop ups here in LES, off Broadway stuff like Sweeney Todd, murals, and Macy’s windows—which have been a huge part of my career.”
Watters worked as a producer for Standard Transmission in which she managed Macy’s Holiday Windows, creating the festive window scenes we all love so much—like the story following Sunny the Snowpal in her journey to help repair Santa’s sleigh, or of Santa Girl who wanted to grow up to be Santa—as well as scenes for product launches for brands like Coach and Old Spice. The Macy’s Holiday Windows that she coordinated in 2019 were awarded the Platinum Pave Award, an award from an education and scholarship program, Pave, that centers around visual design and merchandising.
Watters’s artistic creations and contributions in NYC are plentiful, ranging from freelance scenic painting for various sets and clients, to painting numerous murals—Alliance for Coney Island being one example–to working on projects such as Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
Watters recounts her early NYC days—coming to the city as an artist trying to make a life and a living doing what she loves, “I spent the first half or more of my time in NY making art and having fun—but—really figuring out how to make money and pay my rent. Then I got to the point where I was building a community.”
Community is integral to Watters’s story and artistry. “I love a group project and I’m all about collaboration. It takes a lot of people to make something big and impactful,” she says. Through pursuing her artistry, she has been able to be a part of so many various collectives, such as Con Artist Collective and Handmade in Brooklyn. Watters expresses that her involvement in the community—making these dynamic, collaborative projects—has been the most rewarding part of her career. “Whether it was at Con Artist, where we put on many group shows and installations, or getting to build a haunted house with my best art friend, or the Soho art walks. You start to see and work with the same faces over and over. I love it.”
“Whether it was at Con Artist, where we put on many group shows and installations, or getting to build a haunted house with my best art friend, or the Soho art walks. You start to see and work with the same faces over and over. I love it.”
Watters also creates her own personal art, which centers mostly around botanicals. “Probably because I’m terrible at having actual plants…I kill them,” she jokes. “But I’m very into environmentalism. I’m big into trying to reduce waste.” Watters even completed a Master Composting program in 2019. “I might have a black thumb, like I said, I’m a shitty gardener,” she laughs, “but I am a Master Composter.”
“I might have a black thumb, like I said, I’m a shitty gardener,” she laughs, “but I am a Master Composter.”
Environmentalism has become a key passion for Watters—the composting movement especially after completing the class. “The DSNY and the botanical gardens work together every year to host the master composting program. It’s a 3-month program where you go to classes weekly and do a bunch of service hours, and then a big final project. Through that class you really learn the science of composting—it’s a teach the teacher program, so you go and learn, and the point is to tell people about it thereafter and get involved in your community.” Watters explains, “Whether it’s your community garden, composting site, or something personal. The point is to spread the good word of the worm.”
it’s a teach the teacher program, so you go and learn, and the point is to tell people about it thereafter and get involved in your community.” Watters explains, “Whether it’s your community garden, composting site, or something personal. The point is to spread the good word of the worm.”
This program has sadly been suspended due to budget cuts—as have many other environmental movements such as the programs of GROW NYC. However, not all is lost, as Watters explains that Save Our Compost NYC is fighting to keep composting free and public in NYC—providing petitions and resources for the initiative on their Instagram and under the hashtag #saveourcompost.
Watters took, and continues to take, her learnings and immersing herself in environmental programs. “My final project was really cute, I wrote a play about composting called Compost Magic,” Watters says. “I put together a study guide for it and my best friend is a teacher, so she taught it to her first and second graders at Flatbush Academy.” She reminisces, “So for their spring musical they recited the play and learned about composting—and I went and talked to them all about composting and recycling, then they learned the play and performed it. That was my contribution and it worked out really well.”
Watters’s expression has undoubtedly left a mark on everything she has come into contact with—NYC especially. She is defined by the multiskilled artist that she is, and the countless projects and communities that she has touched and created within.
That same magnetism that drew Watters into art now radiates through the artistic work she does—captivating the hearts and minds of people, pulling them in and together. From the holiday scenes in the Macy’s window that makes us feel like home, to the murals in the city that give us hope, to sets of plays, shows, and events that strike wonder in us—there is truly something magnetic about the art and expression of Megan Watters.