Community, Travelogue

Little Paper Planes’ LPP+ Residency Wrap-Up

Notes on a two-week residency: what, who, where, when, how, why, and my experience of the LPP Residency in the 1240 Minnesota Street studio building. 

What

I just wrapped up Little Paper Planes’ LPP+ residency in San Francisco.

The residency offers access for two to four weeks to:

  • A private studio in 1240 Minnesota Street, Minnesota Street Project‘s Artist Studio Program.
  • Support and promotion for a public event (artist’s talk or reading).
  • Access to the resources at 1240: a kiln, woodshop, digital media lab, and Adobe resources.

In return, artists-in-residence are asked to present at the public event, and make a ‘zine or print multiple (usually a small edition of 20-25) related to their residency for sale in the shop to help offset the cost.

Little Paper Planes’ residency studio at 1240 Minnesota Street. I added (and removed) the drying and tool racks.

STUDIO. The studio is probably about 8’-9’ wide by about 16’ deep. It is located in 1240’s second story, off the digital media lab. The second floor also has a small kitchenette and a restroom. It gets a little bit of natural light from a nearby skylight, and there is a large worktable (4×8’ sheet on sawhorses), a drafting table, and a folding chair.

PUBLIC EVENT. I had a talk inside a white cube studio/gallery in the middle of the complex. It was pretty low-key and DIY. Kelly lent a projector and I set up stools and got cups and snacks.

RESOURCES.

Electric Kiln. The kiln is huge and programmable. My ceramics knowledge is limited, and that’s all I can say confidently about the kiln. AIRs should bring their own (cone 5) clay, (cone 5) glazes, and clay tools. Note that while I was able to purchase clay at Douglas and Sturgess in SF, I had to go to Clay People in Richmond for glazes. Thinking ahead and ordering your supplies to be delivered is advisable. Note that there’s no wheel; I hand-built all my ceramic objects. Kelly helped me load and program the kiln for both of my firings.

Woodshop.

The woodshop is beautifully organized and maintained by Jesse Schlesinger. There’s a fancy saw-stop-outfitted table saw with a 48”+ outfeed table, a sheet saw, and sliding compound miter saw with a lot of possible angles. These are all attached to dust collection systems or vacuums, and there’s air filtration system too! There’s also a planer, an orbital sanders (and a handheld belt sander if I remember correctly?), a jigsaw, and a reciprocating saw. There are a variety of hand tools including two sets of Makita drills and impact drivers. There is also an impressive clamp cart. Minor expendables like sandpaper and personal protective equipment like goggles and ear protection are also available. It was easy to schedule an orientation early in my residency with Jesse, who is very meticulous about safety and cleanliness. He was flexible in letting people get approved to use some machines and not others according to their comfort level.

There’s a digital media lab with a large (44 or 48”?) inkjet printer. Residents should get an orientation from Sean McFarland and bring their own paper. You pay for ink by self-reporting on a clipboard. There are also two scanners—one flatbed ~12×18”, one smaller flatbed for film. There are at least three iMacs too. There’s also a color laser printer that accepts up to 11×17” paper (75¢ per US Letter per side). I used that to print my postcards, which had really vibrant colors. I got my paper at Kelly Paper, one of the great weird chain stores of the Bay Area, where you can purchase papers by the sheet. I cut the postcards down on a really nice rotary trimmer that studio member Miguel Arzabe made available for shared use.

There’s also an Adobe studio, as in Adobe the software company, on premises. I had my clay work cut out for me so I declined learning more about those resources. During my stint they had a screen-printing workshop, though you have to have screens burned by an offsite service provider.

There are also other resources at 1240: a full kitchen, a patio area with picnic benches that are a great place to work on sunny days, bountiful carts for moving things, lots of brooms, dustpans and work sinks, and rolls of brown butcher paper available. One of the studio artists is also setting up a darkroom. I was really impressed with the amount of space and the quality of the resources. It’s clear that the vision for 1240 is to make it nice and keep it nice! Many artist studio buildings exhibit a scarcity mentality (I’m thinking of some warehouses in NYC; some don’t supply toilet paper, and others are just fluorescent-lit hallways of closed doors where you rarely meet neighbors.) 1240 feels very deliberately abundant and supportive.

There’s also a free area where I found useful wood for my slab rolling, and some great rulers and stencils. There’s another area with extra furniture, where I found two wire racks and a pair of sawhorses for drying my clay pieces. Being able to scrounge and find good stuff, and to leave behind stuff to share is so great for traveling AIRs.

In addition to these resources and staff support, the community at 1240 was really great.

Who

Little Paper Planes is a store featuring goods by artists. It was founded by artist Kelly Lynn Jones in 2004, and has had a storefront in the Mission District in San Francisco since 2013. Kelly and I were classmates in the MFA Fine Arts program at the California College of Arts in San Francisco. I was happy to be allied with an independent, woman-owned, artist-owned business in San Francisco, especially one with accessible price points.

Kelly is really chill. She was very easygoing about everything. She didn’t have any paperwork for me aside from 1240’s contract. I initially proposed to make ceramics for activity kits and games. Two weeks is quite short to make ceramics, so I switched to making pottery (which for me is more intuitive), and Kelly seemed totally cool with it. I also wasn’t sure what the outcomes from the residency would be, and how many objects she would want for the shop. She was really easygoing and didn’t want to take too many objects, which worked out great since my glaze technique can use improvement. She also mentioned making a ‘zine that reflects the residency, and was very open-ended about the format and the time line. I wanted to finish it before I left, so I made postcards (not a zine!) and she was totally cool with it.

1240 Minnesota Street has a healthy staff of artists. In addition to Jesse and Sean, there’s Brion Nuda Rosch, the director. Michael Rubel is in charge of facilities and is really friendly and helpful in receiving shipments.

Furthermore, the 30 or so studio artists at 1240 seem really dedicated to creating a friendly community. My residency happened to overlap with a BBQ/potluck, and it was really nice to meet folks. I am fortunate in that I lived and practiced in the Bay Area for a long time, so I already had met Jesse and Sean before, and was friendly with studio artists like Dana Hemenway and Richard T. Walker. I really got the feeling that studio artists have a sense of ownership in 1240 and feel responsible for contributing positively to the shared resources, whether with knowledge (such as helping to run the kiln), labor (helping set up the BBQ), or good will (sharing food and welcoming new artists). The value of being part of 1240 extends far beyond the square footage of a private studio.

Where

1240 Minnesota is across the street from the Minnesota Street Project, on—of course—Minnesota Street in the Dogpatch neighborhood of San Francisco. A huge Philz Coffee is next door. There are more restaurants about two blocks away. Center Hardware is also nearby.

I have family in the area, I had access to a car and accommodations. By car, 1240 is really convenient off of the 280, though parking can be tough. I didn’t have to take public transportation but the Third Street light rail is two blocks away.

When

I opted for a two-week residency. Kelly gave me option of staying four weeks, but with no stipend, I would have been financially overstretched. Also, a shorter time frame was better back-to-back with another residency. I am new to clay, so I didn’t have to foresight to realize that two weeks is very short for ceramics. It took about four or five days for wet clay to get bone dry for bisque firing. Then each firing took about 36 hours. I really had to jam the first seven days to get the studio up and running, get all my supplies, and hand build my 50 pounds of clay. I was also able to get a three-day extension, as the next artist wasn’t moving in for another week.

How

I applied via the Open Call. [See the Art Competition Odds.]

Why

I can envision a wide variety of artists enjoying the resources at 1240: photographers, woodworkers, clay (hand-builders), and drawers/painters. Those resources are plenty of reasons to apply for the residency.

I was also really attracted to learning more about Minnesota Street. Minnesota Street Project opened a few years ago, when many SF galleries were closing. I think it has brought a lot of fresh energy and optimism to artists and gallerists in San Francisco. My residency overlapped with the San Francisco Art Book Fair at MSP. Kelly was kind enough to invite me to be a featured artist at her booth, so I contributed ‘zines and letterpress prints from my Working Together series. I enjoyed SFABF as a visitor, too—it was great to see so many local and out-of-town artists and publishers in one really buzzy, exciting place.

My Experience

I really had a great time being part of the 1240 community and accessing the resources there. When I realized I needed to make some molds, I scrounged in the free area, found some wood, chopped it up, and had three molds within an hour or so. Back in NYC, accessing a woodshop is much more complicated for me. When I glazed my bisque pieces, I worked on a large table in a communal space near the kiln. A roll-up door was up, letting in sunlight and a light breeze. It was just so pleasant.

Glazing in the shared space on a pleasant SF day.

The residency aims to provide opportunities for artists to experiment. Having not done ceramics since high school, I took a hand-building class at La Mano Pottery (an independent, women-owned business in NYC) this spring. The instructor (and La Mano co-owner) Julie Hadley was very encouraging. It is so nice to feel unafraid to mess up, especially when you are learning new techniques and trying to get comfortable in a shared space with clear rules and etiquette established among members. In five classes, I learned enough to figure out what kinds of tools I liked and needed, and was able to hand-build pieces that remained intact in the kiln! I had shipped out the linoleum blocks from Working Together (only realizing in hindsight how much money I would have saved in shipping if I unmounted the blocks in NYC). I used the linoleum like stamps, imprinting them in the wet clay.

Works in progress.

I only dip glazed two pieces at La Mano, however. So when it came time to glaze my LPP pottery, I was treading on thin ice. I bought four quarts of glaze and hadn’t tried any of them before. I suppose an experienced ceramicist would have insisted on making some test tiles. Quarts are very small quantities for dipping, so I applied by brushing. The instructions suggested 2-3 coats, which I suspected to be too heavy, and indeed, the results were often unsatisfactory. Though it was disappointing that many pieces didn’t come out as I’d hoped, I have the perspective to see that perfect outcomes would have taken a lot of dumb luck, given my minimal skills and experience in ceramics. I learned a lot and had fun. I gained some confidence in my hand-building and valuable lessons in glazing. I am so grateful that the residency aim is experimentation.

A small serving tray, imprinted with the image of Subjugation and Obedience, will be available at LPP.

 

A trivet with the image from Dropping the Ball and Picking Up the Pieces, and a “Cool Down” postcard.

 

MOODS & MODES postcard set

I am also happy with the print multiple I made. At first, I sketched illustrations of pottery, but it felt like someone else’s work, or like a Bay Area motif. I realized that just plain calligraphy, like the Working Together book cover, would be true to me. I took full advantage of the chance to print on weird papers, and use lots of colors that would be quite laborious to print on letterpress.

Double plant pot and postcards available at LPP soon.

The set of 8 postcards is called MOODS & MODES. Some reflect the ideas in Working Together (“Thank you for listening” inspired by “Listening”). Others are inspired by the pottery inspired by Working Together (“Cool down” came from the trivet, which was inspired by “Dropping the Ball and Picking Up the Pieces;” “Let’s grow together” relates to the double plant pot inspired by “Shared Growth”).

MOODS & MODES will be available at Little Paper Planes, which is currently renovating and will re-open with a studio for art classes next week. You can support LPP’s Kickstarter to offer classes.

Huge thanks to Little Paper Planes, Kelly, 1240 Minnesota Street, Brion, Jesse, Sean, Michael; Dana, Miguel, Beth, Liz, Sandra, Henna, Richard, and all the kind and welcoming studio artists; Genevieve and Elizabeth; and Michael, Angela, and Sophia.

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Art & Development, Travelogue

Sanitary Tortilla Factory Residency Wrap-Up: What, Where, When, Why, How, and My Experience

I was the first artist-in-residence at the Sanitary Tortilla Factory in Albuquerque, NM. Here are the residency basics and reflections on my personal experience. 

WHAT

Studio on Residency Day 24: Hand-lettering signs.

Studio on Residency Day 24: Hand-lettering signs.

Sanitary Tortilla Factory houses over a dozen artists’ studios, a sign shop, a wood and metal shop, a gallery, and, now, a five-week artist-in-residency program. I came across the call for proposals on NYFA. It solicited proposals around social practice and/or sculpture. There were two residents selected: Alex Branch and I. (Coincidentally, we both happened to be female NY-based artists who also daylight as art handlers.) I was the first AIR. Alex’s residency is scheduled to start in mid-August. The residency entailed:

  • The use of the 500 s/f gallery as my private studio.
  • Access to the shop.
  • On-site living quarters.
  • A $2k stipend ($1,500 materials and $500 for travel).
  • An exhibition in the gallery following the residency.

The gallery/studio: My project was not studio-oriented, so it sometimes felt like an embarrassment of riches to have a 1,100-square-foot gallery to work in. I was grateful, though, to address the gallery early on, when I had more slack time as I was waiting for submissions to come in. I drew oversized maps and hand-lettered questions for a response wall. The public could interact with them at an artist’s talk in the beginning of the residency, as well as throughout the exhibition following the residency. This was helpful since a major component of my project was located at various sites around town.

Studio 360: The STF gallery/ my AIR studio on Day Four of my residency.

Studio 360: The STF gallery/ my AIR studio on Day 4 of my residency.

It was very helpful to have a large space for two workshops with a local youth arts organization.

A participant's contribution on the response wall.

A participant’s contribution on the response wall.

STF was very kind in not asking me to open my studio to be public outside of scheduled events. I really appreciated the flexibility to work when and where I saw fit: in the gallery, in the apartment, or at other locales.

 

The shop. The wood shop has a table saw, and a chop saw with 16’ fence with measuring tape and adjustable stop. There’s also a band saw, a drill press, a belt/disc sander, an air compressor with brad and construction-grade nailers, a table router, and a joiner. There’s also a forklift. There’s welding equipment but my knowledge of metalworking is so limited I shouldn’t attempt to describe it. I borrowed sheri’s Makita impact drivers and drill on an as-needed basis. I brought my own small hand tools and PPE. Getting the dust collection system up and running is sheri’s next project.

Hitachi chopsaw with a real long fence.

Hitachi sliding compound miter saw with a real long fence.

sheri trusted my self-assessment of my skills, and we didn’t do a shop orientation. Sometimes orientations are welcome, and sometimes scheduling them can become a hurdle to getting your work done.

 

The apartment is a beautifully appointed studio, with a full kitchen, WIFI, a washer and dryer, and a dishwasher. (I donated an exercise mat for yoga and stretching.) The apartment is located on the side of the STF building with a private entrance off an alley. They installed a cute sculpture/cactus garden in front.

Apartment 360, on Day 1 of the residency. They added a flat-screen TV after this photo was taken.

Apartment 360, on Day 1 of the residency. They added a flat-screen TV after this photo was taken.

Just across the alley is a beautiful patio shared by Sidetrack Brewing and Zendo Coffee, both quality purveyors. Their spaces became a mini-extension of the residency—they’re great places to read on cool mornings, and meet up with local artists in the evenings.

Just two blocks away is grocery store with a pretty good selection for its size. I was happy to find almond milk, organic carrots and kombucha there. They had really cheap (conventionally grown) cherries and cantaloupes during my visit.

Alternatively, you can get pricy but farm-fresh produce (including great salad greens grown in ABQ), eggs, and fancy bread at the Downtown Grower’s Market on Saturdays and the Railyards Market on Sundays. Both are within walking or biking distance.

Friend of STF Rebecca lent a red girl’s bike (I brought and donated a helmet and bike lock). Coming from NYC, I found Albuquerque to be bike-friendly. Nobody honked at me or drove too close. The North Diversion Channel Trail is a neat bike path (where I spotted a roadrunner) that runs between a channel and the I-40.

sheri provided transportation as needed in her capacious cargo van, to the lumber yard, to/from the airport, etc. She also spent a day driving around and installing signs with me. It was possible to install these signs alone, but I was very grateful to have a buddy.

 

The exhibition. My project had three components: story collection, the offsite signs, and the zine—and the timeline and budget just covered them. I didn’t plan an elaborate a solo show for the exhibition. The exhibition showcases the zine, and has a looped slide show about the process, with photos of workshops, signs, and the sign locations. There are also interactive elements, where the public can post thoughts about what belonging means, and collectively map their roots and their places of belonging in Albuquerque. I’m grateful that sheri was supportive of keeping the effort for the exhibition minimal.

Members of the public connecting their roots and places of belonging in Albuquerque on hand-drawn maps.

Members of the public connecting their roots and places of belonging in Albuquerque on hand-drawn maps.

 

Participants pinned and labeled their places of belonging. The painted numbers indicate locations of commemorative signs.

Participants pinned and labeled their places of belonging. The painted numbers indicate locations with commemorative signs.

Albuquerque’s art scene is highly geared towards First Fridays. There are lots of galleries open, and audiences in droves. Launching the exhibition on the First Friday in July was a great send-off. I left town the next day.

 

WHERE

Sunset from Barelas.

Sunset from Barelas.

STF is located in Downtown Albuquerque. To the north just a few blocks is Central Ave./Route 66, and the main strip for night life and Kimo’s quirky Art-Deco-meets-Southwest movie theater. I was lucky enough to arrive just as a film festival started; I really enjoyed an evening of local shorts.

To the South are the Railyards and Barelas, a historic, largely Latino community that is also home to Working Classroom, and a few scrappy artist-run spaces.

If future residents haven’t spent much time in Albuquerque, I recommend renting a car and visiting Meow Wolf and other cultural offerings in Santa Fe and going for hikes in wilderness areas. I really enjoyed visiting Taos Pueblo and Casa San Ysidro in Corrales. It was a great way to learn about New Mexico history, and experience how places help tell the stories that happened there.

Taos Pueblo.

Taos Pueblo.

WHEN

My residency was from June 1 to July 8. It was hot. The daytime highs were usually in the 90s, and sometimes in the 100s. I was very glad I brought a sun hat. The advantage of summer is the great farmer’s markets. But some resources—like the clay studios at UNM and Barelas Community Center—were closed for the summer.

 

WHO

STF is staffed by the director sheri crider. In addition to running the STF studios, gallery, and residency program, sheri is also a practicing artist and contractor. If it sounds impossible to juggle all three, you haven’t met sheri. She’s an absolute dynamo. She’s indefatigable. I immediately liked her. She’s down to earth and has lived a lot. She is pretty chill, and you don’t get the sense that she likes rules or will enforce boundaries awkwardly. I got the impression that she doesn’t have time for bullshit, but she never made me feel that she didn’t have time for me. Someone assisting sheri is also helping with STF’s social media, and I’d accidentally mistaken them for STF staff. I was initially concerned about lack of staff capacity, as I’ve experienced the impact that good and bad studio managers and/or residency coordinators can have on residency experiences. I think it helped to adapt accordingly, by trying to be more self-sufficient and creative about who I asked for help.

sheri crider and Valerie Roybal made a bee hotel that is installed in an ABQ open space.

sheri crider and Valerie Roybal‘s project-in-progress in the shop: a bee hotel that is now installed in an ABQ open space.

Barb Bell, sheri’s partner, helps out, especially with events. Michael Apolo Gomez is helping me out with photography.

The lines between STF and sheri crider are blurry. I lightly hitched rides on expendables in the studio, shop, and the de-facto STF office—sheri’s studio. Sometimes I asked, sometimes I intuited. I hope that what I gave in return—intangibly via the project, and tangibly with expendables I reintroduced into the shop ecology—is a fair trade.

There was only one resident artist at a time. I was very grateful for the friendliness and welcome of STF studio artists, especially Travis Black, Beau Carey, and Karsten Creightney. Travis and his assistant/studio mate Ani Bea were ever friendly and caring. Beau was nice enough to share his work with Working Classroom interns when they came by for a workshop, and let me tag along when he went to the art supply store. Karsten brought a truckload full of scrap lumber for forthcoming AIR Alex Branch. Tami Abts and Josh Stuyvesant of A Good Sign were instrumental in receiving shipments and getting them picked up, loaning me a grommet press, and also sharing what they do with Working Classroom interns. When you are new to a town and a shared space, being around people who are happy to help is immensely reassuring.

As Lucy R. Lippard was a juror (along with Bill Gilbert, who had to leave for Japan), sheri was kind enough to invite her over for lunch. I’d been reading “The Lure of the Local” and it was tremendously helpful in thinking through the complications and paradoxes of doing work about being an outsider and making work about the local.

 

WHY

I’d heard sheri say one of the goals of the residency is so artists from elsewhere learn about the art happening in Albuquerque. While New Mexico history is incredibly deep and complicated, I definitely gained an appreciation for the art community, as well as various people, culture, and places here. The list of reasons that this place is special is astoundingly long. There is space, physically and creatively, for artists to take risks here.

I heard others express an interest in increasing the production and visibility of social practices and community-engaged art in Albuquerque. ABQ seems to have many drawing-and-painting-oriented artists and community muralists. I think Ellen Babcock’s Friends of Orphan Signs is lovely in it site-specificity and community engagement.

For me, I applied because its offerings matched my goals and interests. I was intrigued because there are few residency opportunities focusing on social practice, and I’d wanted to return to New Mexico since my first time visiting seven years ago. Having my proposal reviewed by Lucy R. Lippard was a bonus. Moreover, it provided an opportunity to realize a new project that merged my interests in participatory projects, research, and community engagement. I really wanted to do something as an artist that formed an alternative to divisive, hate-mongering rhetoric.

My projects often have an emotional touchstone. For this project, the touchstone was the feeling of welcome and pride I find in a newspaper clipping that my mom has kept for over 30 years. It’s an article announcing the naturalization ceremony that welcomed 50 “new Americans,” including my parents. I am not an immigrant, but I identify with immigrants, and I really love how this project encompasses how different people find places where they feel belonging. For example, Zahra Marwan, a Kuwaiti-New Mexican UNM alumni and illustrator, said that when she first heard the cante, or singing, in flamenco class, it reminded her of the call to prayer in the Middle East. Barbara Bell wrote about being of service to her elderly Hispanic New Mexican and Mexican neighbors. (You can read excerpts from all the stories in the Belonging zine).

 

HOW

This residency cycle was supported by the Fulcrum Fund in partnership with the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and The FUNd at Albuquerque Community Foundation. Without funding, I couldn’t have done the residency or project. I wouldn’t even have applied to it. (Some folks in ABQ danced around the question of if I have a day job. I do—in fact, more than one: art handler/crew lead, freelance designer, and artist’s assistant.) As you might have guessed, the residency is also subsidized with sheri’s labor, resources, and generosity.

 

MY EXPERIENCE

I had a rough start—I flew in from NYC with a woozy-making head cold. The 5,000-foot elevation, sun, and dryness took a toll, too. I was a mess. Thankfully, Travis, Ani, and sheri checked in on me, and cued me in to the prevalence of local allergens, and I switched from cold meds to allergy meds.

As I’ve written before, residencies offer new resources while removing you from many of your own. That includes the emotional support of people who love you. Setbacks can test your resilience and how you bounce back from self-doubt, isolation, and uncertainty. It really makes you appreciate people who offer genuine care, encouragement, help, and enthusiasm.

This was my first residency project in which social practice and community engagement were key components. Soliciting participation for this project was challenging, and at times, frustrating. There were many factors: I have few connections to Albuquerque, and the residents of a place nicknamed “The Land of Mañana” can be noncommittal or slow to respond. Quite a few contacts were away on vacation, and some services were closed for the summer. A service organization scheduled a workshop but did not show up. I’d emailed refugee groupsw and attended their events, but didn’t receive any stories from them. I posted an open call to which people responded with enthusiasm online and at the artists’ talk, but few followed through with submissions. Sometimes I was frustrated with the small returns in light of so much outreach effort. Other times, I rolled with the city’s leisurely pace. Perhaps one social practice skill is mono-tasking being patient.

The lifeblood of the project became partnerships with Working Classroom, an arts and education program for young artists from historically ignored communities; and Saranam, a two-year housing and education program for homeless families in Albuquerque. My connections to these organizations were quite happenstance. I mentioned going to ABQ to Ronny Quevedo, an artist who I rarely run into in NY. He connected me with Working Classroom. I was connected with Saranam via Erin Fussell.

I also suspect that the topic of belonging is both sensitive and uncommon—identifying your place of belonging may take time and be uncomfortable. You have to risk exposure and vulnerability.

As a result, I kept the story submission open until three weeks in to the residency.

This left two weeks for production—painting 13 signs, installing most of them, having a hand in 6 of the 7 activity sheets, building and painting 5 boxes, and writing, editing, and designing the 24-page ’zine. There were many late nights. I was pretty exhausted by the end.

In past residencies, I learned about the need to simplify, let go of unnecessary details, and not make myself crazy. I took that to heart, using it like a mantra. It was helpful. For example, I made mini signs for the oversize map in the gallery, and then I started making miniature activity boxes… How cute would it be to make an actual mini box with a hinged lid with mini activities inside? I wondered. But with priority components still in progress, I knew enough not to fall down that rabbit hole.

Though this project was similar to past projects involving a survey and zine, it also involved a higher degree of social practice and public art. I’m satisfied with how the project came out, yet I still look forward to more critical distance and feedback from participants and audiences. On one hand, I aspire to be free of the need for external validation. On the other, validation is gratifying, and moreover, this is a community-engaged project, in a new place. How it goes over is important. I was really moved when one audience member said, “using art to give people a voice, to start a dialogue, to ask questions and most importantly to listen” is “most relevant today.” I suppose this comes back to patience as a social practice skill: how the zine will be read, if and how the signs live on, and if participants and places are affected—these all will play out over time. The residency has ended, but project’s new phase as a publication and public artwork is just beginning.

Overall I had a wonderful residency experience. I’m especially grateful for sheri and her easygoing manner, her openness to my project and suggestions, and her help and encouragement.

Find the zine and activities at BelongingABQ.com. Photos will be posted soon.

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Art & Development

Center for Book Arts Residency Wrap-up

Notes on a year(-and-a-half)-long residency.

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Printing linoleum cuts on the Vandercook letterpress.

WHAT:

I was awarded the Center for Book Arts’ 2016 Workspace Artist-in-Residence Grant. The program offers a materials stipend, 24-hour access to the Center for Book Arts’ letterpress print shop and bindery studios, a group exhibition, and the chance to take nearly unlimited classes in printing, book arts, and related workshops on paper marbling, making bone folders, etc. (Read my Residency Notes, Part 1, penned practically a year ago for more about the classes I took.) The Center also has an exhibition program and weekly events, so there are always book arts to view and new perspectives to be exposed to.

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The steps in binding a pad of Color | Cootie | Feeling | Catcher, a collaboration with Leah Rosenberg. Make a guide to evenly space the holes. Use a pin tool to punch holes (put a weight on the text block to hold it steady). Wax your thread. Start your thread so the tail goes out the side of the block (to hide the knot later). Sew down the length of the book, and back. Tighten each stitch. Tie a knot in the middle of the pad (to hide the knot, see?). Use a bone folder “beat the swell,” which is to smash down any additional thickness gained from binding.

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Steps in adding an endpaper-wrap: Use a triangle and bone folder to score a line in the endpaper. Fold along the score. Mark the depth of the pad on your end paper. Score and fold at the mark. Use pieces of newsprint as a mask to apply PVA only to one half of the end paper. Glue down to your text block and beat down with a bone folder. Smooth the edge with a bone folder too. Flip the book over and apply glue to the last segment of endpaper and smooth with a bone folder. Tada!

WHEN:

The residency is from January to December, theoretically. In reality, it’s looser than that. As a live-out studio program for local artists, they don’t have to enforce strict end dates. In fact, they offer AIRs the chance to continue working in the studios until their exhibitions, which are typically scheduled in April of the following year, affording three ‘bonus’ months of studio access. (I returned my keys for incoming AIRs and thus was keyless those last three months. It worked out most—but not all—of the time.) Additionally, AIRs are required to complete letterpress and binding classes before using the studio, and may be screened additionally before printing unsupervised, so matching schedules is advantageous.

My residency started in January 2016. I had already made a three-month, out-of-state commitment last year, so I tried to make the most of the rest of the year. I expected to be more active in the fall, but my seasonal job sapped my time and energy, and I got sick often. Moving forward, I have a more realistic sense of what I can achieve in the fall.

The Center underwent through renovations in December and January, through the spring. The space is modest, storage is limited, and programming can interfere with studio access. As mentioned in my prior post, flexibility and forbearance are helpful.

I was able to dedicate more time in the lead-up to the exhibition, so the bonus months were critical to my growth.

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In Bookbinding II, I learned how to pare leather to make hardcover books with a decorative cord on the spine.

WHO:

There are usually 5 AIRs every year. Every year’s cohort of artists is different. Some years’ AIRs are very tight, and other years’ are less present and supportive. If you’re thinking of applying, here are some tips (I was on the selection panel for the 2017 program): You don’t have to be experienced in book arts or printing. You should have a well-developed, thoughtful body of work. You should be prepared to make the most of the opportunity. And you should contribute to the Center with your presence and practice.

There are also three Scholars—who have more bookbinding experience and propose specific book projects—who start their residencies in the fall. In addition, there is a community of renters—often artists and bookbinders who produce their own work or work for clients there. The Center also regularly books Stewards to provide technical advice during certain nights of the week (ask regularly, and double-check).

I was very grateful to be able to turn to the Scholars, renters and Stewards for help. They answered questions and provided technical advice and feedback. I couldn’t have made my final project without their help! I also learned from them by osmosis, observing different styles of working, and expanded scopes of what I thought possible in book arts.

The Center for Book Arts is a small non-profit. The staff work hard, pull long hours, and do unglamorous tasks to keep the place running. Renters, teachers, and supporters supplement by pitching in or bearing with inconveniences. I’ve been thinking about how print shops are communal spaces that foster interdependence. I have had opportunities to reflect on the ups and downs, and the boundaries that make for healthy relationships.

WHERE:

One of my favorite aspects of this residency is the great location at 27th and Broadway, in NoMAD (just north of Madison Square). It took refreshingly little effort and time to get there after work. It’s very easy and convenient to get there by subway. I also got a Citibike membership, which was worthwhile. There are ample options for healthy food and groceries nearby. (That may sound trivial, but it amounts to more studio time and focus.)

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Printing a “pressure plate” of cut paper, and wood type.

WHY:

I also really appreciate the way that the residency and access to the Center enhances my skills and capacities. One of my most memorable moments was responding to an evolving situation quickly by printing a poster, and being able to distribute it while still printing to appreciative people. I’ve adapted to having access to printing; my foray into Riso printing while the Center was being renovated was an expensive reminder of printing otherwise.

Of course, I wouldn’t have been able to create my final project without this residency. I greatly increased my book arts skills. Though I’d done relief printing in undergrad, I hadn’t ever gotten very comfortable with letterpresses. By the end of the residency, I’d gotten more fluent at solving problems, and working with, not against, the nature of lead type.

My final project is Working Together: a mix-and-match book of nice and not-so-nice modes of collaboration. It’s inspired partly by investigating collaboration as a subject and a practice over the past two years, and partly by politicians’ disregard for others over the past several months. While mix-and-match books—as well as teaching cooperation—might be associated with childhood, I have come to think that collaboration is not a skill once mastered, but a lifelong series of choices.

I’m very grateful to the Center for Book Arts for this opportunity, and by extension to the NEA, NYS Council on the Arts, NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, and NY City Council for supporting the Center for Book Arts.

I feel like I’ve worked my way into the rhythms or the fabric of the Center. It’s nice to feel a sense of kinship with the other shop users, and to feel that I have a place I can go to, belong, and do my work. The Center welcomes AIRs to stay on with affordable studio rental rates, an option I’ll likely explore in the future.

Working Together is on view, in the Workspace Artists-in-Residence exhibition, through June 30.

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Art Competition Odds

art competition odds: Art OMI’s 2015 residency program

Art OMI’s 2015 residency program received 990 applications for 30 accepted residents.

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Participants comprise about 1:33, or 3.0% of applicants.

This is a higher rate of applications and worse odds from past years.

See all Art Competition Odds.

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Art Competition Odds

art competition odds: Art OMI’s 2014 residency program

Art OMI’s 2014 residency program received over 800 applications for 30 accepted residents.

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Participants comprise about 1:26, or 3.75% of applicants.

See all Art Competition Odds.

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Art Competition Odds

Odd art competitions

Artists have to establish their own criteria for discerning valid art competitions from rip-offs. When are the odds are too high? The fee exorbitant? The opportunity measly? We all have different tolerances.

I recently came across a residency that made me question the value of its opportunity. The winning artist receives a free, work-only studio for 8 weeks, with a materials budget of up to $800 depending on the project scope. The organization does not assist out-of-town artists with finding living accommodations. No other funding is included. This means that the artist is responsible for travel, housing, and a per diem, not to speak of an artist’s fee.

Yet the organization expects the artist to:

1. “Produce a new project that explores the history, architecture, aesthetics, or culture of the building site and surrounding community”…

2. … That results in “a public product at the end of the residency period.”

3. Post regularly on a blog.

4. Give one public lecture.

5. Avail themselves for for studio visits.

6. Provide high quality documentation of all work.

These are all things I’d aspire to do at each residency, but written expectations are paramount to requiring artists to do all these things, and that is different. Not everyone is comfortable speaking publicly (due to shyness, but also because of different language and speech abilities), familiar with blogging, or even equipped to submit documentation. Even if artists were willing and able, items 2 to 6 are distractions from studio time. In changing opportunities to responsibilities, it puts too much burden on the artist.

Consider it this way: What is the cash value of the residency?

The studio is 240 sq ft. That’s not huge. If you calculated the cost of studio rent at $1.75 per sq. ft; that’s $360/month, and $720 for two months. With up to $800 available for a materials stipend, that’s a $1,520 possible value.

How might the costs compare?

1. New project: An $800 materials fund could be easily exceeded for a new site-responsive project. Let’s assume the artist does not exceed the budget; the cost is $0.

2. Public program: Installing art for a public presentation takes additional labor and materials.

The Canadian Artists Representation Copyright Collective recommends a variable fee schedule which would net the artist, at minimum, $40 to $50/hour for exhibition preparation and installation. In addition, CARCC suggests an artist’s fee of $1,441 for a solo project exhibition at a small institution. Even if the project were considered a single work, the recommended fee would be $351.

But that’s in Canada, you say. Well, if an American artist calculated his/her time at $25/hours (a very modest freelance rate when you calculate health care and income tax), and we estimated the installation goes quickly in 4 hours and strikes in 4 hours, and that the organization supplies all the materials, the outlay in labor is $200.

3. Blogging: Say 2 hours/week  x 8 weeks = 16 hours. At the modest rate of $25/hour, the value would be $400.

4. Lecturing: Guest artists usually receive at least $100 for artists’ talks for college classes. The prep and contact time would easily take 3-4 hours.

5. Studio visits: Guests artists are also usually compensated for doing studio visits too. Let’s ballpark this at $100. Again, most artists enjoy speaking with likeminded peers, but mandating an action is not necessarily the best way to achieve the desired result.

6. Provide high-quality documentation: Photographers regularly charge $50-100/hour for their services. Of course artists should document their own work, but again, requiring it means he/she must carry or rent photographic equipment, finish work on an advanced schedule, spend time lighting work for documentation, and conduct post-production on the images. This could easily take 8 hours, or in a modest estimation, $400.

These tasks alone tally up to $1,200. That’s $320 short of the possible value, until you consider the additional out-of-pocket expenses for the artist:

  • Travel
  • Accommodations
  • Per Diem
  • Any materials in excess of the stipend for the project, or exhibition installation/strike
  • Shipping materials and tools to the residency
  • Shipping materials, tools, and artworks back home
  • Exhibition insurance
  • Labor: studio work, administrative work, etc. Artists do the work whether they are paid or not, however, in partnership with an organization which exists to support artists, I think compensating artists for their time is not a revolutionary idea, but a quite logical one.

This could be a really fantastic opportunity for the right artist. (Though, in my informal survey of art competition odds, single-award opportunities like this present the worst odds for entrants.) To me, it looks like the costs implied by the expectations do not outweigh the few benefits.

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