In the art world, getting an artist residency is like winning the lottery. The artist gets some money, space and the freedom to create. In almost all cases, the sponsor of the residency is a prestigious organization giving the artist credibility as a resident.
Last week I mentioned the new Space Taking Artist Residency by Fresh Arts, a nonprofit that focuses on the success of artists. The name "Space Taker" is a reference to the organization’s former name, Spacetaker.
Fresh Arts launched the residency on March 13 with a six-week program providing artists with a 1,800-square foot gallery space at Sawyer Yards; a $2,400 honorarium, marketing, mentorship and project support to be an income-generating opportunity for creatives.
Just getting the space at Sawyer Yards would be enough for many artists, but Fresh Arts’ new program also serves as a launchpad for residents to try new methods of engagement with the public while measuring short- and long-term impacts to further bolster each artist’s career.
In an email, Fresh Arts Executive Director Marci Dallas gave me some of the background to creating this really cool residency.
“This program was created in response to the devastating year that artists have had as a result of the pandemic - according to a survey by Mid America Arts Alliance, one in five Houston artists lost 100 percent of their income and more than half of artists have lost 51 percent or more of their income,” Dallas said.
Three proposals out of 77 were selected from Houston artists based on artistic value, programming and adaptability to COVID-19 safety measures. Multidisciplinary artist Koomah, movement artist Y.E. Torres and performance artist Stacey Allen are the inaugural residents.
ARTcade by Koomah, in collaboration with the artist collective The Locas, premiered on March 13. ARTcade is a 1980s-style mock video game arcade and immersive interactive art experience created to incite a youthful excitement around viewing and purchasing local art.
Torres’ Renegade Telegram debuts in May and is a site-specific performance installation featuring costume creation, specialty performance, live music, workshops and a series of short dance films featuring “the fringe and emerging art forms of flow arts.”
Allen’s A Single Thread Weaves a Future begins in July and will explore time and sustainability via the mediums of photography, dance/movement, fashion and literature, drawing inspiration from Black women who revolutionized the Houston community.
Torres summed up nicely why opportunities like the Space Taking program are important for artists in Houston.
“Due to the loss of revenue from a lack of performances, public events and teaching work, opportunities such as this Space Taking program create a safe and much-needed opportunity for creatives, professional and emerging artists to work collaboratively while sharing their artistry with those confined to their home spaces,” Torres said. “In addition, these opportunities give both established and emerging artists a chance to come together to produce new work and expand their audiences.”
Find more information at fresharts.org.