Paducah Kentucky A.I.R. Residency
Dec 1 – 14
I started this blog post with a daily log of what I did during my two weeks at A.I.R.Studio and although I found my daily activities fascinating, I am almost positive that it would bore most readers.
First of all, for those of you not familiar with an artist residency, it’s a work retreat for artist. A residency is time to learn new techniques, try new approaches, and create a new piece or a series of pieces.
What makes the Paducah Lower Town area unique was a city plan for this area of downtown with it’s beautiful homes and apartments that were in extreme disrepair. Artists were offered a program, in conjunction with the city and a local bank, to take ownership of these homes and refurbish them and open art galleries and studios. At one point there were 50 artists living in this neighborhood. Currently there are about 20 artists that still reside and work in the area. Although many of the artists have moved on, the program revitalized the homes and old style apartment buildings that now make up a delightful neighborhood.
So on the first of December my Paducah adventure began.
I was lucky enough to have a companion on the ride down to Paducah, my friend and “aunt” Dana. The 8-hour drive flew by with endless blabbing.
It was SO fun to experience the initial excitement of A.I.R. with Dana. She was just as spastic as me. We unpacked and immediately fell in love with my little apartment and my studio space.
We walked around town; cute, quaint, quite, an old style downtown even with cobble stone roads and the Ohio River right on the edge of downtown.
The next day we headed to the National Quilt Museum. I have never seen Dana so excited. She knew many of the artist and quilters that had work on display. I had my own personal tour guide. Beautiful work, loved the art quilts.
We cruised around town, shops, antiques, galleries, and lunch at the famous Kerchhoff’s.
In the studio and we began building the cube sculptures I wanted to focus on during my two weeks and Dana worked on a resin piece.
Out to dinner at the delicious farm-to-table Freight House before Dana headed home.
When you are going to spend a few weeks alone, you need to find some entertainment. The holiday parade with over 100 entries sounded like something I could not miss. Again, I was in for a small town treat.
Next on the agenda beside studio time was to visit and soak in one of the local churches. There were half a dozen beautiful, stunning, huge churches right in the downtown area. I visited the Episcopal Church. It was lovely. The stain glass windows, the carved wood arches and benches, just a beautiful, inspiring way to start my two weeks.
Now my studio time started in earnest, with a boutique of flowers sent by my husband Bruce to brighten up the studio.
No distractions, and unplugged for the most part, my days I started and/or ended with a coffee from the neighborhood coffee shop, Etcetera. The staff got to know me I was there so often!
My first sculpture, Cube #1, was going to be birch trees. I love birch trees and walked to the Paducah Library to research them in more detail before I began. The word Birch is connected with the verb “to Keep, to Care” by the Slavs. They considered the birch to be protecting people. (Unfortunately I do not have a good source reference here…HS/college teachers everywhere are giving me points off for this! I did find it in a book at the library, honest).
I started with a flat approach to the birch trees. I wanted to use beach rocks from Marquette, Michigan. Marquette is one of my favorite places and I have had a supply of rocks for years and knew I wanted to incorporate them this week in some of my pieces.
I spent a considerable amount of my time on Cube #1 and the birch trees. I also wanted to try a quilt inspired and an Aboriginal style pieces. The large studio space was perfect to have several projects in various stages. I loved the ALL the space!
Everyday I took a walk to the river and around town. The Ohio River is a major waterway for commerce. Barges pushed by tugboats travel the river loaded with coal, rocks, sand, and fuel of all sorts. They can carry so much weight that it is cheaper to transport these goods via the river. The Ohio River connects to the Tennessee just east of Paducah and the Mississippi is just to the west.
I did venture out of the downtown area to work with the teens at the Oscar Cross Boys & Girls Club. Twenty teens worked on 5×7 projects, crazy afternoons!
Soon, it was already my second and last weekend. I needed to venture out of the studio so a Poetry reading at Etcetera and then to the Beer Werks for a beer and a burger and a punk rock band fundraiser. It was a good cause, so I listened to punk rock, ate a burger and people watched. I introduced myself to a couple that looked as out of place as me. Had a few beers with them and then headed to the local dive bar, the Silver Bullet. Lots of karaoke and dancing, it was fun!
My last weekend, I walked the neighborhood and introduced myself to shop owners. I especially enjoyed talking with Kijsa at her shop, Kijsa Housman Studios. We are on the same page about earning a living with a creative product, and how sometimes that means the customers dictate what you make! Great visit.
A cup of coffee with Michael and Victoria at Terra Cottage Ceramics.
So, as my time came to a close, I had met most of my goals.
Cube #1 – This prototype gave me direction on how to construct, design and propose a concept like this to clients.
Cube #2 – The “open” cubes concept. A much harder concept to make-work. The inside of the cubes reflecting the outside cube and stacked in a random, wacky way.
Quilt #1 and #2 – I tried to large panels with a quilt concept that Dana and I had seen at the museum.
Aboriginal inspired pieces – Just as my time was coming to a close, I competed a few small pieces that I used small squares and tried to mimic the Aboriginal style of using small dots to create their “Dreaming” canvases. I also wanted to try multiple colors of grout on one piece.
I used visuals from the hike up Sugar Loaf in Marquette Michigan. From that vantage point, when you look one way you see Little Presque Isle and when you look the other way over Lake Superior you see Little Presque Isle.
The trip, the experience, the opportunity to explore new ideas and techniques with no pressure for a piece that will sell, or met my clients needs was liberating and just plain fun.
Special thanks to Alonzo and Kay for giving me this opportunity and sharing their space with me.