Artists asking Artists
Katrina Neumann talks with Maeve D’Arcy
About Contemporary Artists Center at Woodside
Katrina Neumann, March 2014
Photograph (c) 2014 by Maeve D’Arcy
Katrina Neumann (KN): For full disclosure to RMAR followers, you and I met at the Contemporary Artists Center at Woodside in Troy, New York. By looking at their website, it is hard to decipher what the residency is, what the studio spaces look like, and what kind of artists they are interested in bringing into the space. Would you mind talking about the kind of artists you met, the church, our studio space, and our living quarters?
Maeve D’Arcy (MD): Yes we did meet at Contemporary Artists Center, and I’m so happy for that! CAC is a communal living residency environment with open-air studios and lofted bedrooms in an old church in Troy, New York. Each artist gets a studio space and accommodation, either in a shared bedroom with one other artist, or in a private room if requested beforehand. The church itself is stunning, with cathedral ceilings and stained glass windows. The studios vary slightly in size, some with more wall space, but there is room to spread out if needed, and there is an adjoining building that is currently being renovated. I believe that building will offer more space for performances, installations, and public programs.
The resident artists that attend vary in medium and background, some attending directly out of school (graduate and undergraduate levels) and others are teaching at universities and institutions internationally. It’s a very intimate environment and everyone gets to know each other really well, really quickly. One of my favorite things about living with a bunch of artists under the same roof are those conversations in the kitchen at 2am or 2pm about art and life, the mundane and the mystical.
KN: Being in this location, coming specifically for the residency- than for the city or the location- develops a special atmosphere for the artists working at the residency. Can you talk a little bit about the work ethic, program, and atmosphere at CAC Woodside?
MD: Well one of the artists described it as a paradise! Everyone is quite hardworking and respectful of fellow artists. It’s fascinating to learn about other artists preferred working schedules in this environment. Some artists stay up for 24 hours to complete a piece, and others keep to a more structured schedule. There are weekly runs to the local grocery store. All the artists take turns doing household chores to keep the place clean and comfortable.
I think we all realize what a privilege it is to be able to attend an artist residency; and we respect each other’s work and space because of that. At CAC you have the time and space to sit, read, look at, think about, and make new work. The main benefit is that it’s not your home or your permanent studio. It separates you from the responsibility of family and friends, you’re away from your job as a professor or as a waitress; and no one is allowed to interrupt you in the studio, or tell you what to do!
Artists produce a lot more work than they would have in the same amount of time in the “real world.” That being said, you make incredibly strong connections with other artists and you learn about their work. Artists develop an extended network of support and shared opportunities for shows, grants, and other residencies. If you attend with a specific project and time frame, and you don’t want to socialize, that’s okay too! You’ll be left alone in peace. But I highly recommend getting everyone together for a bowling night in town—50-cent beers on Tuesday nights!
KN: There were many benefits in attending this residency, that seems amiss in their information on the website; such as most everyone is given the option of the work stipend to subsidize the cost of the residency per week. What were some benefits for you that you might not have guessed were at CAC Woodside?
MD: I definitely recommend taking advantage of the weekly work exchange to subsidize the cost of the residency. When I applied I assumed that a four-week residency was the best amount of time to spend there. When I arrived I realized that some artists stay for longer periods of time (as well as shorter two week residencies). By the end of the four weeks I did not want to leave, and kept extending my time there “one more day” for a couple of days! It’s good to know ahead of time that if you want to have a more extensive residency stay, it is possible. It is also possible to extend your stay after you been there for a while and have fallen in love with the place!
Artists can organize “field trips” to go on mini-adventures in the area. If you do research beforehand you can go to events or exhibitions at MASS MoCA or EMPAC (Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center).
KN: One aspect about the program I enjoyed was being placed back into a critical dialogue with my peers- even if sometimes the conversation was mere support; it was exactly what I needed at the time. I also loved their welcome package and the general hospitality that was provided by Executive Director, Hezzie and Jon Johanson, and CAC crew.
What were the critiques like for you? Did you find them to be an important part of the program? What was an important part of CAC Woodside to you?
MD: It was really helpful to have the critiques and the feedback they provided each week. I was working on a couple different threads of my practice during my time up there. Everyone was very supportive, but also raised questions to help artists move forward. I like having people check in on me in the studio, it helps to navigate how you are spending your time. Hezzie Johanson is really good at pin-pointing that missing link in peoples work, and asking crucial questions, that maybe never get answered, but help in the evolution of the work while you’re there, and even after you’ve left. Having her there leading the crits was definitely beneficial. Also artists have the opportunity to request an exit critique with a visiting artist who will visit your studio before you leave the residency. I know many of the artists found those crits very helpful.
KN: Upon leaving from CAC, what would you say that you took with you after the experience? And, what are one or more things that you would change about the current program or space?
MD: My time at CAC was really important and allowed me to make the transition from Graduate School in London, to my life as an artist in the states, and to re-connect with my practice outside of an academic environment. I met some amazing artists (including you!) during my time there, and I’m excited to follow their work and careers, and collaborate on projects in the future. Hezzie and Jon are wonderful. They welcomed artists to the residency with a group dinner where you get to meet all of the artists that are already there, as well as the other newcomers. Also Azure and Christian, the newest members of the CAC team, are awesome and add to the great energy at the residency.
I think it would be helpful to have a lot more photographs on the website of the studio spaces, and the inside and the outside of the church. Also I think it would be helpful to expand the artist registry of past artists so that future residents and past residents can be connected.
I was asked to show with Tonic Artspace in Bridgehampton following my time at CAC, and I also spent a portion of my time at the residency applying for grant and show opportunities. Being surrounded by talented people is so motivating, and meeting artists with such diverse backgrounds opens up opportunities. I would definitely encourage artists to apply. Get thee to the church and get to work!
Photograph (c) 2014 by Maeve D’Arcy
Photograph (c) 2014 by Maeve D’Arcy
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MAEVE D’ARCY was born 1986 in New York City, New York. D’Arcy received her Master of Fine Art degree from Central Saint Martins, and a Baccalaureate from CUNY Hunter College and Bard College. She has recently attended the Contemporary Arts Center at Woodside and The Vermont Studio Center. She exhibits internationally in both Europe and the United States. D’Arcy’s work investigates repetitive mark-making that becomes a meditation and an exploration of painting, drawing, time, and sculpture.
Maeve D’Arcy currently lives and works between London and New York City.
Upcoming Projects: East Hampton Star Review of Maeve D’Arcy at Tonic Artspace