Sculpture February 1998 Vol.17 No. 2
Inspiration and Renewal:
Residencies for Sculptors
by Jane Ingram Allen
A residency provides a place whose primary reason for being is the support of artists in their creative work. It is a place where individual artists work on their art in their own way and live together with other artists for a certain period of time. Residencies can provide uninterrupted time free from the distractions and obligations of daily existence. Most residencies are open to sculptors, and many offer unique and special attractions for sculptors.
Many factors play a role in the realization of this unique environment for artists. Most residencies offer artists a place to live and work and do not ask them to do anything in return except be artists. Many residencies also provide a stipend to help residents pay for travel, materials, and other personal expenses. A few places do ask artists to help pay for room and board, and many have a small application fee. During some residencies artists are asked to volunteer time or donate a work made during the residency.
Most residencies are not exclusively for sculptors but also include visual artists and artists from other disciplines, such as composers, writers, and choreographers. Many sculptors find it particularly stimulating to have non-visual artists as well as other sculptors and visual artists at a residency. Lasting friendships and helpful career contacts can be some of the benefits of a residency experience. In the following pages, I will discuss a few notable residency programs, although there are many more not mentioned here that are also available to sculptors.
Sculpture Space in Utica, New York, is one of the few institutions offering residencies specifically for sculptors (another is Socrates Sculpture Park, which offers residencies to work outdoors in its Queens, New York, site). The John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Arts/Industry Program in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, also attracts mostly sculptors. The Kohler program provides residencies for artists working in clay, cast iron, and brass-all processes used in the Kohler factory where it is housed.
Many other organizations provide short-term residencies to sculptors. Some residencies are like retreats, offering a few months in beautiful surroundings and interaction with other creative people from a variety of disciplines. These residencies focus on the creative process and are not product-oriented. They can be places to get away from it all and develop ideas; they emphasize rejuvenation, experimentation, and creative development. The Corporation of Yaddo in Saratoga Springs, New York, and the Millay Colony for the Arts in Austerlitz, New York, are examples of this retreat type of residency in a picturesque natural setting.
Lesley Leduc, public affairs coordinator at Yaddo, says that many of their residents welcome the "spiritual refreshment in the company of stimulating people working in different mediums and fields," a special attraction of Yaddo. Itty Neuhaus, a New York City sculptor in residence at Yaddo in the winter of 1996 and 1997, says that she felt "incredibly comfortable" at Yaddo. She added, "the pressure is off; you are accepted on your past work." This retreat-like atmosphere at places like Yaddo and the Millay Colony can be invaluable for the development of a sculptor's work.
Jennifer Pepper, a Brooklyn-based artist who was a resident for one month at Millay in 1995, says that the beautiful setting offered excellent opportunities to walk and meditate. She arrived without knowing what she would do, and an experience with sound at Millay caused her to begin works visualizing sound-an idea she is still working with. She did 200 drawings and cast some pieces at Millay. Pepper also valued the strong sense of community and enjoyed sharing ideas and studio visits with the five artists there. Kim Waale, a Syracuse sculptor, was also a resident at the Millay Colony, in 1996. To her, the experience was "like working on a different planet." Waale found herself working on an entirely different schedule, stay ing up all night, getting up at 10 o'clock the next morning and continuing to work. Her one-month residency of focused time in relative isolation was "terrific for my work," she says.
Other short-term residencies for sculptors focus on the completion of a planned project which may culminate in an exhibition at the site. The Mattress Factory, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and the Connemara Conservancy in Dallas, Texas, are examples of this project-oriented type of residency. Mattress Factory resident artists are selected each year by the curator and work on site usually from two to six weeks. During the residency all expenses are covered, plus artists receive a negotiated stipend. Residents at the Mattress Factory create a site-specific installation which is then on public exhibition and may be added to the institution's permanent collection of installation art. Over 100 artists, many well-known, have created works at the Mattress Factory. Kiki Smith was recently in residence there, producing a site-specific work using two floors of one of the Mattress Factory's two buildings. This work is based on Smith's study of the collections at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh and drawings she has made of specimens from the collection. Her installation will remain on view through July 1998.
Connemara Conservancy, a 72-acre nature preserve on the outskirts of Dallas, has for the past 10 years been inviting 10 sculptors each year to create site-specific works on its land. The sculptures remain on public exhibition for three months and are then removed to leave the land in its original condition. The sculptors are paid a $1,300 stipend and offered free room and board at the conservancy during the two weeks in early March when the works are made and installed with the help of volunteers. The sculptors also are given accommodations when they return in May to take down the works and restore the site. This residency at Connemara is an opportunity to realize a large-scale outdoor sculpture work in a short but intense time period.
In a longer residency more time is available for a sculptor to develop work and adjust to the place. Many sculptors say they change directions, learn new things, and produce lots of new work at this type of residency. There is less pressure to get something done and more time to relax and think deeply. There is also more opportunity to experiment, to make mistakes, and to change ideas. For shorter residencies it usually works best to have a focused plan. But all of the sculptors agreed that it's best to be open to changing that plan and adapt to the place and people at the residency. The Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts; Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Snowmass Village, Colorado; and the Roswell Artist-in-Residence Program, in Roswell, New Mexico, are examples of longer residencies not oriented to predetermined projects.
The Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown emphasizes residencies for artists who are usually young and just beginning their careers. Hunter O'Hanian, executive director at the center, says that its focus is to provide "time and space for emerging artists regardless of age or background." The Fine Arts Work Center offers seven-month residencies for visual artists and writers. Residents receive a $375-per-month stipend and visual artists, an additional $75 monthly allowance for supplies.
Ellen Driscoll was a resident at the Fine Arts Work Center for two years, from 1983 to 1985. While there she worked on wood sculptures that were primarily expressionistic and architectural and did lots of drawing. Her extended residency in Provincetown showed her what it was like to live as an artist and made her realize what that kind of connection to her work could mean. She says that she was able to maintain that connection even after the residency.
Sculptor Paul Bowen, a British native, also came to Provincetown near the beginning of his career, in 1977-79. He liked the place so much that he decided to make it his home and has worked there for the past 20 years. He liked being in a seaside town, and his work continues to be inspired by the sea. He states that the residency at the Fine Arts Work Center changed his life as an artist, because "the undiluted experience of studio time deepened my involvement in my work." He describes Provincetown as relatively isolated during the winter months, a factor that contributes to concentrated time in the studio. For Bowen, the summer months of bustling activity and many art-related events and visitors created a nice contrast. He says that the Fine Arts Work Center residency gave him his first chance to meet a "real writer." He especially enjoyed the association with other creative people who were intensely focused on developing their work.
Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Colorado offers October-to-May residencies for sculptors as well as other visual artists. Their new facility for sculpture opened in June 1997. The 2,500-square-foot studio building with 10-foot-high ceilings has huge retractable doors so that the space can be an indoor and outdoor working space. Doug Casebeer, program director for ceramics and sculpture at Anderson Ranch, said the new studio has equipment for working in metal, wood, plaster, and other materials. According to Casebeer, James Surls, a visiting artist at Anderson Ranch this summer, liked the new sculpture studio and the place so much that he has decided to move there from Texas.
The Roswell Artist-in-Residence Program in Roswell, New Mexico, also offers sculptors a sustained amount of time to focus on their work. The full-year residencies offered at Roswell provide a $500-per-month stipend as well as $100 per month for each dependent living with the artist. Roswell is probably the only residency that welcomes spouses and/or families. Each artist is offered a partially furnished house and separate studio space at the complex. Adam Curtis, who was a resident at Roswell from 1991 to 1992, says that his extended time there gave him a chance to make the transition, get used to the space, and really focus on his work. In Roswell he worked on concrete and steel sculptures. Curtis felt that Roswell had lots of space, good resources, and excellent support from the community while he was there. The program at Roswell was started in 1967 by Donald Anderson, himself a painter, in cooperation with the Roswell Museum and Art Center.
Coleen Sterritt, a Southern California sculptor who was a Roswell resident in 1994, valued the expansive countryside at Roswell and the relative isolation that helped her focus on her work. She says, "the residency affected my work tremendously. I got to the core of what I wanted to express. This one is unlike most others-there's no urgency to produce work. You can go and lick wounds for four months and it's okay. The residency is not about production; it's more reflection about your life as an artist." Sterritt says that she made major changes in her work with this time to focus. She also finished about 10 pieces and did many drawings.
Sculptor Robbie Barber, a resident at Roswell for the 1991-92 year, also appreciated the luxury and significance of having a full year as an artist in residence. He says that in his case, being just out of graduate school and ready to focus on his work, the residency was a great experience, though it might be difficult for someone already working or teaching to take off a full year. Barber found that the Roswell landscape, people, and local flavor began to affect his work. One of the works he completed was a large painted steel sculpture titled "Goddard Nomad V" (1991-92), an homage to rocket pioneer Robert Goddard, whose collection of rockets is on permanent display at the Roswell Museum and Art Center. Since his Roswell experience, Barber has continued to make mixed-media pieces, many times using images of trailers and other vehicles.
The residency program at Sculpture Space is a particularly valuable program for many reasons. Sculpture Space offers two-month residencies in a well-equipped space geared to the needs of sculptors. The facilities are ideal for those working in fabricated metal, but the studio space is flexible and just about any type of work can be done there. New equipment is added each year as funding allows. Sculpture Space Director Gina Murtagh says that this year they are adding advanced computer systems to enable sculptors to use this technology in their work. One room at Sculpture Space is dedicated to installation work, and a garden and grounds are available for installing outdoor works. The outdoor space is equipped with a 50-foot monorail hoist.
Sculpture Space has no individual studios other than one 400-square-foot installation room, and three of the four residents usually share the 5,500-square-foot main space. Some sculptors say that they find this sharing of studio space inconvenient and intimidating; however, some say it makes them react to each other's work and creates a dialogue they might not have otherwise. All say they learn to adapt to the space and the shared situation.
Sculpture Space has a broad definition of sculpture, and resident sculptors work in materials ranging from rubber to steel and use many different and unusual processes such as inflatable sculpture, burned and charred wood forms, crocheted fiber, and kinetic sculpture. British artist Steven Pippin developed his technique of using washing machines as pinhole cameras during his 1991 Sculpture Space residency. This period was his first exposure to the United States and led to subsequent museum shows at the Tate Gallery and in the Project room at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
One of the advantages at Sculpture Space is having an on-site technical assistant who is a working sculptor. Jonathan Kirk, studio manager at Sculpture Space, is available to help artists with the equipment and technical requirements of their work or to introduce them to new possibilities and new processes. For example, Kim Waale, while at Sculpture Space in 1996, was just beginning to learn welding. Kirk showed her MIG welding, and she was able to fabricate a large metal piece.
Securing inexpensive materials and large quantities of whatever a sculptor wants to experiment with in his or her work can be challenging in a new, temporary location. Sculpture Space residents mention that Kirk is familiar with local resources and very helpful in guiding artists to them. Waale says that the Sculpture Space stipend and the available resources made it possible for her to buy quantities of casting rubber and resin, to acquire materials to make larger works, and to experiment with her materials. Many resources are available in Utica with its industrial base and many salvage and recycling centers. Sculpture Space has cultivated these community relationships over the years, and residents have benefited from these contacts. Jennifer Pepper says that in her residency at Sculpture Space in the summer of 1997 she was able to "experiment with materials in vast quantities," and created an installation piece using a large number of baseball bats obtained as seconds from a nearby bat factory.
Although Sculpture Space does not provide housing or group living spaces for residents, eight sculptors each year are awarded funded residencies that offer a $2,000 stipend which can be used for expenses during the residency. Sculpture Space staff members help the residents find affordable and convenient nearby housing. The staff hopes to be able to provide housing on site in the very near future. Sculpture Space has already purchased a building next door and plans are underway to renovate the structure as apartments for residents.
During their two-month residency at Sculpture Space, sculptors are free to use their time however they wish and there is no pressure to produce finished work. This laboratory-like emphasis is welcomed by most residents. Sculpture Space also periodically offers receptions for the public to see work in process and interact with the residents. Some residents feel that this "opening" interferes with their concentration and interrupts the process of their work, because they have to show something even though they might not be ready. Others feel that the openings give them an opportunity to get feedback from other artists and the public while their work is in process. Most residents at Sculpture Space produce finished pieces which are used in later installations and exhibitions, but some say they have used the time to work things out, change direction, experiment, and plan for future work.
The site of a residency is very important to sculptors-perhaps more so than other artists because sculpture is about space. A residency gives a sculptor exposure to a completely new and different space. Many sculptors have small, crowded live-in studio spaces in urban areas, but at residencies they find themselves working in large industrial spaces or outdoors amidst trees, grass, hills, and the boundless sky. With access to bigger spaces sculptors can make works they would never envision in their own studios.
John Bjerklie, a Brooklyn sculptor, went to his September 1997 residency at the Ucross Foundation Residency Program in Clearmount, Wyoming, "with a bit of a plan," he says, "But I did far more than I could envision." The Wyoming landscape and Ucross's location on a working cattle ranch certainly influenced the sculpture he made there. Since Bjerklie likes to work with recycled materials that have their own history, he decided to use bits and pieces of a barn and corral that had been dismantled and left on the site. During his one-month residency he made an installation of eight structures occupying roughly 10 acres of land near Ucross Foundation headquarters. He says, "It is a sculpture park created for the birds and any other creatures observing the site." The Ucross experience also gave him time to develop ideas and he is continuing to build on the ideas generated there. Bjerklie said that he especially enjoyed working outdoors, using his own version of barn-building with basic hand tools, a very different work environment from his urban Brooklyn studio.
Many other resident sculptors say the work they do in a residency often relates to that particular place. Itty Neuhaus, who has done many residencies, says that she always responds to a site and her "work comes out of this response. Going to new places generates new ideas and new work." At Sculpture Space during her 1994 residency, she did a site-specific piece titled "Catch the Light II" which continued her interest in using light as a sculptural element. The work consisted of a black fabric sleeve fitted around a window that funneled light to a hemisphere made of wax brick melted in place. The igloo-like form was lit from within, giving the illusion that the heat or light from the window could be channeled and concentrated inside the form. Later, during her winter residencies at Yaddo, Neuhaus began working with snow, inspired by finding the hollow spots in the snow left where three deer had slept. She says that the independent momentum of her work is "constantly changing and influenced by new places."
Jennifer Pepper was also inspired by place during her residency at Sculpture Space. She examined the space of a bathroom in the Sculpture Space facility by crocheting around its edges. She also installed a site-specific work in Sculpture Space's garden area. Kim Waale found that place also affected the work she did at Sculpture Space. During her winter residency, part of the sculpture she was working on involved knitting wire while seated next to a wood stove. She made a large metal piece that she would not have had the equipment to make in her own studio. It's natural, she says, for sculptors to be affected by space: "sculpture is molding and making a world." Different terrain, different geography, different climate, different culture, and new people-all these things about a particular location strongly affect the sculptor's work.
During any residency the sculptor is removed from everyday obligations and provided uninterrupted time to work. The sculptor is then able to focus, with the gift of time, on his or her work. Gina Murtagh, director of Sculpture Space and herself a photographer, says that the "key to a good residency program is that you have no other responsibility." Most sculptors agreed that the greatest benefit of a residency was the time to focus, go deeper, and examine themselves and their relationship to their work. Janet Goldner, a New York City sculptor who has done residencies at Yaddo, the Millay Colony, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, says that residencies give her time to think through a body of work. She adds that many times the equipment and facilities at a residency may not be ideal for making sculpture, but the benefit is mainly having time to focus. Most sculptors said that they accomplished much more in a shorter period of time than they would have been able to do in their studios at home with all the responsibilities, distractions, and deadlines of everyday life.
Jennifer Pepper says that the greatest advantage of a residency is the "ability to be an artist full-time, to shut out the world and be able to work through ideas rapidly because of not having to work in fragmented bits." During her residency at Sculpture Space she experienced a kind of "hyper focus" and she began to think of everything in terms of her sculpture-even the act of sweeping the studio floor.
One of the greatest benefits for many sculptors in doing a residency is receiving validation for being an artist and feeling the respect given to the work of creating sculpture. They are treated as artists and nothing else is expected of them except that they concentrate on the work of being an artist. That does not necessarily have to be producing sculpture, but can be thinking, researching, and planning. Some of the most valuable residency experiences reported by sculptors are those that do not necessarily produce many new works, but that make a change in the direction of their work or allow the sculptor to focus on knowing him- or herself. When speaking about her residency at the Fine Arts Work Center, Ellen Driscoll says that this experience gave her "time to confront myself, go down deep and encouraged risk and experimentation." She added that a residency "helps you to know yourself better, extend into areas that might not pan out, to say to yourself-I can follow this and see where it leads. Sometimes the real world doesn't allow that kind of open-endedness."
Jane Ingram Allen is a sculptor living in Hamilton, New York. Her new Web site, with information about her work as an artist and as a writer, is located at www.borg.com/~allents.
Suggested references for more information about residencies for sculptors:
Artists Communities A Directory of Residencies in the United States That Offer Time and Space for Creativity is a 1996 book by the Alliance of Artists' Communities. It has an introduction by Stanley Kunitz. Allworth Press, 10 East 23rd St., New York, NY 10010. $16.95.
Artists and Writers Colonies Retreats, Residencies and Respites for the Creative Minds was written by Gail Hellund Bowler in 1995. Blue Heron Publishing, Inc., 24450 Northwest Hansen Rd., Hillsboro, OR 97124. $15.95.
Sculpture Magazine The International Sculpture Center Directory of Artists' Residencies was published in the February 1997 issue of Sculpture. The directory describes more than 60 U.S. residencies. International Sculpture Center, 1050 17th St. NW, Suite 250, Washington, DC 20036. $7.
The Visual Artist Information Hotline Call 1-800-232-2789 to get a fact sheet titled "Artist Communities/ Artist-in-Residence Programs," which is available free of charge to artists.