If you were to have ever asked me when I moved across the country from New York to Los Angeles if I thought that part of this enormous transition would be making new girlfriends, I would have said no. Not only would I have said no, but I am sure I would have swiftly added that I already have my friends. But now here I am in Los Angeles, finally feeling settled a little over a year later, and I have a community of women surrounding me that easily offer welcome and love for the simple return of my presence. All of this happened when one of my dearest friends introduced me to Emily Kate Warren. Emily is a professional makeup artist from Texas and we immediately bonded over her daughter’s and my matching red hair and love of country music. She invited me into her vision for boxcar+muse and I have proudly participated in almost every series event. Along the journey Emily met Ariel Nazryan, a theatre director relocated to LA from New York with a background in Women’s Studies and an MBA in Entrepreneurship, and the two formed a partnership with the wondrous result of celebrating, uplifting, and empowering women. Here is the interview that I recently conducted with the founders of boxcar+muse for Project:Women.
What is boxcar+muse and what does it offer?
Emily: boxcar+muse is an indulgent and imaginative play and workspace, a connector of diverse women, and a platform for fun and meaningful experiences. Our mission is to provide every woman with the inspiration, tools, space, and camaraderie she needs to live her fullest life.
The world will be a safer and even more magnificent place when women are continuously engaged in the joy of exercising their genius.
What is the story behind the name boxcar+muse?
Emily: So my grandmother remembered quite late in her life that for a period of about a year or two, during the depression, her entire family lived in a boxcar. She’s always been my muse and when thinking of names for the company, my husband actually said, what about boxcar? I wanted it to be softer. THEN…as magical fate would have it, one of Ariel’s main reasons for earmarking time to talk to me early on was that she was intrigued by the name because she too has a boxcar story. She found The Boxcar Children story book in an abandoned school library sale and it brought her great inspiration and comfort for many years. She created boxcar-like clubhouses and places to gather her friends and she even has had a lifelong dream of having a boxcar as an office in her house! Isn’t that so amazing?!
boxcar is steadfast, sturdy, courageous, and works alone but also well together. We added the plus sign to show that boxcar + muse means it’s a place and a concept. The place AS the muse, but can also inspire you to think about things when there…to actually muse, the verb.
For more info, watch this short video…
How did this concept come about?
Ariel: Part of the magic of boxcar+muse is how Emily and I each arrived at a crossroads on separate journeys and found each other there—at the intersection of idea, opportunity, love, and bravery.
For me, my life mission is to create meaningful and delightful experiences—art, events, spaces, monuments, products, communities—that satisfy our universal needs for belonging, challenge, and self-actualization. Once we have satisfied our physiological needs for things like food, shelter, and safety, our craving for love and relationships, challenge and accolades must be satisfied. And although many people stop there because it feels so good to have our psychological needs satisfied, we then crave self-actualization—creativity, morality, self-care, spirituality—the things which allow us to really reach our full potential when practiced. That’s my mission, to make things that help people feel, not just happy and satisfied, but deeply fulfilled. And I’ve been on that journey since I was starting clubs and shops and making plays and poems as a little kid, even if I didn’t have the words for it then. I decided I wanted to live in a world where it was practical, possible, and wonderful to practice rituals of creativity and self-care like it was no big thing.
Emily: I have always been an activist for women’s rights and we basically have so many less than men. The idea for boxcar+muse had been stewing in my mind for years and years. Especially when I lived in San Francisco, and found it profoundly difficult to maintain new friendships—old ones have the gift of years together to make them last and new ones, they take time to foster. It’s difficult to start fresh with so many other obligations (work, family etc). Something that had never been a problem for me before. I had about three close friends that I managed to keep up with, but other leads never really took flight. And it was very lonesome. I wished for a place where everything was all just waiting for me: things to learn, stuff to do, friends to be had, activism, kindness, volunteerism…and I think later in life I realized I’ve been building this since I was born practically.
What is your biggest dream boxcar+muse?
Emily: I would like to reach as many women as possible so that the world will be a safer and even more magnificent place. I believe women are the answer to so many of the world’s problems! My biggest dream is that by starting as we are, the ripple effects of our encouragement empower women to make small changes in their own life toward living positively and joyfully, that those ripple effects are spread throughout the world starting with one small spark.
What is “guilt-free self-love?”
Ariel: So many women in our community are concerned with what they “should” be doing, or with being able to draw a straight line between money and time spent and concrete benefits to their work or family. (Mind you, we can indeed draw those lines!) But they find it hard not to feel guilty when deciding whether to participate in a workshop series or take time for themselves “just because”. And we want to make both the decision-making and the participating guilt-free.
Emily: This is the concept that doing something for yourself, for the sheer purpose of experiencing joy in that moment, is not selfish.
Are there particular women who have inspired you? How do you honor them through boxcar+muse?
Ariel: When we imagine what boxcar+muse will be like in its next incarnation or when we’re generating programming ideas, I make sure that things pass the friend-check—would each of these vastly different women enjoy this if they lived here, would each one feel comfortable, feel welcome, thrive here? Does this work for introverts, workaholics, people of color, trans folk, social butterflies, artists, programmers…my friends inspire me to make a place they’d each be proud to bring their other friends to!
Emily: For my own personal inspirations, my grandmother has inspired my entire life creatively.
What expected or unexpected gifts have you experienced since starting boxcar+muse?
Ariel: The best gift has been the one from my daughter—her curiosity and excitement shows me that for her, there is no question about the future of this thing. She wants to go to boxcar+muse, she wants to work at boxcar+muse (she’s four), she wants to hear every detail when I get back from a workshop experience, and she has asked if she can be my business partner too, when she’s older.
Emily: I have experienced love, support, trust, and in the beginning, so many experts have been willing to donate their time and expertise to spread our message.
If you asked me again today whether or not making new girlfriends would be a critical part of my transition from one coast to another, my answer would be a resounding “yes!” Now here I am just returning from a birthday brunch with three fellow muses. I have felted soap in my bathroom and my nieces have a pajaki (polish tissue paper chandelier) hanging in their playroom, both of which are products of muse sessions. The picture of me accompanying this article was taken at a boxcar+muse event by fellow muse Jane Houle. I know these women’s children and have iced their birthday cupcakes. These women root for me, pop into my restaurant job unexpectedly just to hug me and make me feel special, and remind me I am more than what I do to pay bills. My existing friendships have been improved with the depth of my connectedness to this community, as have my marriage and my mind. Emily and Ariel are cultivating a place for women to engage in themselves by embracing community and I am honored to be a boxcar muse.