Art / Ask anyone who has spent hours staring at the trail of words behind a blinking cursor, repainted repeatedly over the same canvas or strummed clumsily through the chord progression of a song-in-progress, and she’ll tell you how solitary an artist’s pursuits can be.
For many, the social aspect of art making comes either during frequent bouts of procrastination or upon becoming well established in a community of artists. The former comes naturally to most–the latter, for some, not at all.
That’s part of the reason why the newly reconceived Artist in Residence program at the Honolulu Academy of Arts is such a blessing for master of fine arts candidates at the University of Hawaii. The six-week residency, open only to graduate students or recent MFA recipients from UH, gives artists a studio at the Academy, where they can create art before the community and showcase their talents at one of the premiere art institutions in the state.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity,” said Boz Schurr, pictured above, who was selected as one of two residents this semester. “Really one of those door-opening, wonderful, dream-come-true opportunities, because you get to do a self-directed project in the community. And it gets you out in a public space and it allows you to work on a project freely with funding.”
Each artist gets a small stipend for materials during his or her six-week tenure at the Academy, which requires resident artists to work on-site each weekend throughout the duration of their residency. Schurr, who starts her residency November 7, plans to film herself painting on six masonite panels–one per week of her program.
“What I’d like to do is set myself up in a way that invites the audience to participate,” said Schurr. “So they can give me suggestions of what to paint and it will be like a continuous story, one narrative. At the end of each week, I’ll have a finished painting. And then I’ll combine the videos and it’ll be time-lapsed so it will look like speed painting. Hopefully when it’s all completed, it will be like one story.”
Schurr said that the program has already made a difference in her art by forcing her to articulate an idea she had only thought about peripherally.
“Before, it was just the vaguest glimmer, just a very passing thought,” said Schurr. “This was a great opportunity to put it into a concrete form. I refined it specifically for this project.”
And as Schurr prepares to bring that vision to life, the first resident artist, who took her post on September 19, is busy filling her studio at the Academy with floating sculptures.
“Allison Uttley is actually a printmaker but she’s working with mylar and creating–I don’t want to call it balloons–but they’re these floating mylar sculptures,” said Aaron Padilla, assistant education curator at the Academy. “It has to do with thoughts and memories, making these abstract forms. She envisions the space being filled and people will have to navigate through it.”
Padilla, who launched the Artist in Residence program, said the interactivity outlined in artists’ proposals represents one of the major requirements for applicants.
“It was really important that they wouldn’t just be sitting in a corner painting,” said Padilla. “They needed to integrate some sort of interaction or engagement with people who come to the museum.”
And while the Academy wanted to be sure to provide something valuable to its visitors, much of Padilla’s inspiration for starting the residency came from his own experience as an artist.
“I got my MFA at UH, so, of course, that’s where a lot of this is coming from,” said Padilla. “I just thought, wouldn’t it be cool if there was this opportunity when I was in school? And there wasn’t.”
But at its core, the program isn’t about helping art students or even entertaining museum-goers. Rather, it’s a vehicle for enhancing local art.
“People say to me, ‘Good for you to give back,’ but it’s not about giving back,” Padilla said. “If you want art to happen, you have to create the opportunity for others. As long as there’s the opportunity, you’re cultivating something bigger and the community is going to get better as a result.”