The first group residency I had the privilege to experience was at the Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts in Wyoming during October of 2017. It’s been a little over a month since I returned from BCFA, and since then, I have been thinking about what I had gotten out of the experience, and what I can keep in mind for my next future residencies.
At BCFA, you spend a month to work and reflect as part of a group of eight creative individuals; four visual artists, two writers, and two composers. It was like living with seven roommates from all across the country, sometimes one or two artists are from another country on the other side of the globe. We dined, cleaned, and sometimes cooked together. One night, we got together for movie night, preparing popcorn and drinks. In fact, there were many nights that often involved alcohol, ice cream, and long talks. We managed to have one bonfire night, which might have to be most favorite and memorable group activity.
My project was focused on exploring compositional design and plein air techniques in landscape painting with oils. I did several plein air paintings around and in Brush Creek Ranch. I took over a hundred reference photos from my hikes and drives, saved for another day for larger studio paintings. I wish I had taken the opportunity to hike more, as Brush Creek had several trails throughout its acres of scenic overlooks.
The bonfire night was cold, but not snowy. Bundled up in a coat, scarf, hat, and gloves, eight creative individuals, each pursuing their own projects with passion, sat around a large crackling fire. We made s’mores, drank tea and wine, and conversations overlapped as our voices carried across the warm fire pit. Topics ranged from our art practice, to social issues and current events, to thoughts about the chef’s cooking.
Even the most introverted anti social artist opens up to the vulnerability that being in nature with nurturing resources provide. You’ll find that spending four weeks in close proximity to other artists encourages one to make connections with people in deeper ways.
The environment itself may or may not have an indirect, or direct, influence on an artist’s work, regardless, I find that I was able to understand more so what exactly an artist residency does for a creative individual. It’s important to be open minded, to go with the flow, to give yourself permission to be vulnerable and receptive to how your art will reveal itself.