2. What were you able to accomplish with the Lighton International Artists Exchange Program grant? Describe in detail.
The center itself turned out to be a good example of the Danish community-based support for the arts. Much of the center’s funding – nearly half of the operating budget – is covered by grants from the local government. Part of the reason the center ended up so far away from Copenhagen was to help distribute arts funding more evenly in the country. On top of that, the center has a broad base of support among locals, the “Friends of Guldagergaard.” Among their various activities and contributions to the center, many come in to help with mailings, and the group has coordinated donations to the center to get furniture like the dining room table. And yet, none of these people are tremendous donors. Membership to the group is a pittance, a symbolic gesture. Danish society lacks both the extravagant wealth and the extreme poverty which makes the donor system of private funding work in America.
Regarding the group of artists, I was somehow expecting that the center had managed the impossible task of sifting through top artists in the pool of recent graduates of BFA and MFA programs in the region. Here would be the best of the best. I had little understanding how this would occur, or how I had managed to get into the group. Conversations with Priscilla Mouritzen, who sat on the application review board, revealed how this feat had been accomplished. Rather than advertising the program to applicants from anywhere and everywhere, the center solicits applications from a targeted list of schools. Each school identifies a few applicants who are capable and interested in attending the program. They were also open to unsolicited applications, like my own, from those interested enough to initiate contact. From there, the center has a much more manageable task of narrowing down the field to a group of 10-15 artists.
This year the task was challenging with an especially large pool of qualified applicants, so they decided to split the program into a BA and an MA group in consecutive months. This was also decided with the recognition that the MA students are often at a significantly different level of development than the BA’s. All that said, I realised that that judging who was the “best” was not as important as selecting a group of serious artists with demonstrated work ethic and a serious commitment to developing their work. In that respect, every member of the group was exceptional.
Regarding programming, I was initially disappointed by the changes in the schedule. A combined number of unrelated problems led to the cancellation of both artist workshops, and two out of the three workshops from professionals in the arts. Magdalene Odundo was injured in an accident, and Paul Scott had to postpone his arrival because of the PhD he’s currently writing. Both the catalog design and the exhibition design workshops were cancelled as well. The only one we did have was the photo workshop, which happened to be the one I needed the least. Despite this, I managed to learn a good deal from participating directly, working with the two artists from the group who volunteered to do the graphic design for the catalog, and hanging around the gallery as we nudged and juggled spaces late into the night. Though I wasn’t a primary decision maker for either project, I managed to learn a good deal.
There was also no formal presentation of graduate programs. Even so, I managed to learn a lot about the different programs in the region by speaking with others, including visiting professors Richard Launders, from the Bergen National Academy of the Arts, and Karen Harsbo, from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. Their visits were highlights of the program. Karen Harsbo facilitated a group introduction to each others’ projects in the first week of the program, while Richard Launders gave individual tutorials to each of the participants in 5th week of the program as we were getting into the last push before the exhibition.
The “network” that has resulted from this project is the aspect of my project which most closely resembles my expectations. Though our sharing primarily involves pictures and stories at this point, the group has established both the means and the desire to share information and opportunities. Our first collaborative effort is already in the works, looking for additional venues to send our exhibition.
Regarding technical skills, I did in fact observe and learn new techniques for producing models and molds. Besides these techniques that I saw and learned, I improvised a number of techniques for using molds much more quickly than I had been used to in school. Not only have these new techniques have helped me to drastically improve and simplify my studio practice, but this research also led me to explore a new body of work that I had not anticipated.