Although artists and writers need connections and benefit from collaboration in many ways, creating the work itself is generally a solitary act. And it requires shifting into a creative “zone” in which we are totally focused on our work, oblivious to our surroundings, schedules and other obligations. Sometimes, that’s easier said than done. Cell phones, the internet, appointments—they all get in the way.
Sometimes it is helpful to just get away from it all. To eliminate the distractions, reset, reflect and focus on the work. Artist residencies offer a way to do that, and it is one of the reasons they are so coveted. They offer a change of environment, a quiet place to work for an extended period, and various forms of support—usually housing and studio space, and occasionally other amenities such as meals, transportation or access to specialized equipment. Some offer a community of other artists with whom you can build relationships and share experiences with over meals; others are solo retreats. Most provide an opportunity at some point to share your work with their local community or offer greater visibility for your work in some way. But mostly, they offer a quiet place to work without interruptions.
I am doing my first artist residency this summer through the Heliker-LaHotan Foundationon Great Cranberry Island, Maine. Located just off the coast of Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park, it is the largest of five islands in the Cranberry Isles, measuring roughly two miles long by one mile wide. It is accessible only by boat, and beyond a general store, café, library and local history museum, there are few amenities on the island. I do not expect to have cell phone service. Internet is likely only available at the library (though the island is in the process of adding a broadband system). But that's okay. There are rocky shorelines; a large, protected tidal pond; a log boardwalk through a bog; trails through a spruce-fir, birch and red maple forest; and excellent views of the sunset over the mountains of Acadia National Park.
I will be at the residency for four weeks following two weeks of teaching at the Maine Media Workshopsin Rockport. I will have both a place to stay and a private studio overlooking the water. While there, I will lead a three-day photography workshop on landscape and place. (You are invited; see details below.)
Preparing for a residency is an interesting process: How much to plan versus how much to leave open to the experience? Will I work on a current project that needs some deep attention, focus on a new project based on the island, or some combination of the two? What equipment and materials should I pack, knowing I have to get everything there by boat and will not have local access to additional supplies? Should I take my own backdrops or make do with what I can adapt? Take a small lighting kit for studio shots or rely on natural light? Should I post as I can about the experience while I'm there or totally disconnect? What needs to be taken care of at home before leaving on a seven-week journey (as I am also driving to Maine and back)? If I’ve learned anything about travel over the years, it is to prepare, but to be open to the unexpected and change of plans, so that is how I am approaching this adventure.
I will likely take a break from posting my newsletter and on social media while away, but I will keep you posted on preparations over the next few weeks and share my challenges, discoveries and experiences in some way when I return. I am extremely grateful to the Heliker-LaHotan Foundation for this opportunity to take a deep dive into my creative work and look forward to the journey.