In 2006, Stewart moved to Boston to study painting and metalwork at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. She wound up learning something very different: "I dropped out and decided to get my degree in circus arts," says Stewart, who transferred to Brattleboro, Vermont's New England Center for Circus Arts. She's skilled in everything from fire eating to acrobatics, but focuses on aerial work with hoops and ropes.
Stewart considers her new method of self-expression an especially honest art form. "I was getting fed up with how easy it is to bullshit your way through art," says Stewart. "With circus art, either you can physically do what you're doing, or not." One thing art school did teach her, however, is how to give and take critique — which comes in handy in her own performances and her work at her Cambridge circus studio, Esh Aerial Arts. It's about to double its space and class schedule, offering more options for future pros and curious first-timers alike.
If you're among the latter, don't feel daunted. "In high school, I got out of gym to go read in the library," says Stewart, chuckling. "Before circus school, I couldn't do a single pull-up. Now I can do several, and I wouldn't change a thing."