In conversation with the artists
The Swimming Hole Foundation offers residencies to groups of artists, designers and educators who are exploring environmental and social justice through collaborative work. In Animal Well Being artists Nancy Davidson, Lyn Godley, Rick Klauber, Sky Pape, David Provan, and Rebecca Welz referenced the theme of birds in their collaborative project. The project was open to the public Saturday, July 23rd, 2022.
Tell me more about the premise of this residency.
The premise of this residency was to bring together six artists working across a range of mediums, and to provide space and time to collaborate on a common topic–The well-being of the bird population with whom we share our planet–with the ambitious goal of producing a multimedia installation in five days.
To successfully collaborate, everyone needed to be willing to step outside of the isolation of their private studios and the comfort zone of their preferred processes. In a similar way that birds must adapt to environmental challenges, the artists found they too needed to adapt to a collaborative process. The Swimming Hole Foundation barn served as the common studio space for all the artists, the proximity to one another fostering an organic exchange of ideas, information, processes, and even art supplies. The residency supplied meals and living arrangements, allowing the participants to completely focus on the project, unfettered by daily concerns and distractions. The result was a sense of community and a constructive, creative environment.
What has been your experience collaborating in this project?
Debera Johnson structured the residency at the Swimming Hole Foundation to maximize it as a place for fertile experimentation and productivity. The breathtaking beauty of both the interior and exterior spaces infused the work. The panoramic landscape encouraged expansive thinking and Debera’s vision and personal presence contributed enormously to the overall atmosphere. There was an element of letting go and a willingness to take risks within this supportive setting.
The range of the artists’ approaches was a positive factor that significantly enlivened the collaboration. Working together developed much like a “hive mind” as the group operated quickly and efficiently to create and mount an exhibition in five days. Generosity, flexibility, and humor were key ingredients in the project’s success.
What did the visitor see?
For the Upstate Art Weekend Open House, the exhibition featured new and existing works by each artist. There were drawings and paintings on paper and wood, inflatable sculptures, wire sculptures, paper sculptures, and a digital projection mapping installation with content contributed by each artist. The animated light projection integrated artworks along with the individual and communal processes, reflecting a compilation of visions, and the expansiveness of the artists’ singular and collaborative voices.
Do you have any advice you would like to share with future residents?
The group, who didn’t know each other prior to the residency, found it helpful to have had some Zoom meetings in advance of their arrival. This allowed for discussion on the overall theme and practical considerations of what advance preparations might be needed for the week.
The group was curated by Rebecca Welz, who insightfully considered the range of approaches and personal dynamics that would be at play during our stay.
Best advice for other residents – laughter is a life-saver in any collaboration.