Art Camp 2016 Epistle
December 31st, 2016
A community’s strength is in how far its arms can spread apart
without losing trust that it is connected to a body.
without losing trust that it is connected to a body.
Sarah Gallina, 2016 Artist in Residence
It is with great joy and gratitude that we bring news of what happened during the first full session of Art Camp, a Quaker artist residency at Friends Camp this fall.
From August 29th to September 27th 2016, ten young artists of widely varying media and background resided at Friends Camp in South China, Maine, creating an intentional community through Quaker practice and making art collaboratively and individually. The residency was organized in advance throughout the year by a planning committee comprised of Friends and Friends Camp staff past and present: Maggie Nelson, Isabel Bowser, Adam Faust, Beatrice Denham, and Roxanne Rapaport. The committee came together with a shared experience of the influence that Friends Camp and Quaker values have held over their art practices, and a shared dream of living out Quaker practice in a loving community of artists. For the organizers of this project, Art Camp is the living embodiment of the intertwined nature of art and the spirit.
As space was limited, an application process was held to select a group of residents, open to all adult visual artists of any media and level of experience. Artists were chosen based on their excitement to participate in building an intentional community, their need for the support of this community, their willingness to collaborate and share skills, and their readiness for themselves and their art practice to be transformed by Art Camp as a collaborative, artistic, and spiritual experience. In addition to four of the committee members, Art Camp residents included friends of friends, college classmates from Guilford College and art schools in New York City, and one person who found Art Camp via Instagram. Residents arrived from locations as far as New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, Wyoming, California, and even London! Many artists had graduated from art school or with an arts degree in the last one to three years, and a few had some or no formal art training. For all this was their first artist residency, but for few their first time living in intentional community. Of the six artists new to Friends Camp, one had some experience with Quakerism, but for most it was new. Artists’ media included but was not limited to painting, drawing, video, installation, collage, sculpture, dance and performance, fibers, photography, and book/zine-making.
Upon arrival, artists became familiar with Friends Camp and Quaker values, worshipping, holding meeting for business, and establishing how to live and make art together for the month. Many values were pre-established, including the Quaker acronym SPICES (Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality, and Stewardship) as well as consensus-based decision making, an emphasis on shared leadership and labor, and commitment to values rooted in social justice. An exciting product of the combination of art and Quaker practice was the continual reimagining of waiting worship- worship with movement, worship with drawing, and one worship during which artists silently walked through the woods picking up sticks which would later be used to build a labyrinth. The community took quickly to Quaker worship as a means of creative expression, and its influence could be seen in much of the work produced during the month, exploring themes of questioning, listening, silence, and searching.
After some preliminary guidance from the organizers, Art Camp operated largely as a collective to plan group programming, create weekly and daily schedules, to address group concerns, organize the final exhibition, and realize hopes and dreams. In addition to service hours to camp and community responsibilities like cooking and cleaning, activities included workshops and skillshares led by individual artists, critiques of works in progress, outings to explore the surrounding Maine arts community, meeting for worship, Vespers (Friends Camp’s well-loved tradition of watching the sun set over China Lake), games, discussions, group collaborations, trips to waterfront - all while still leaving a large, amorphous portion of the schedule open for making art individually and in groups, affectionately labeled “TIME”. Highlights from the month include a weekend camping trip and visit to Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, a silent movement activity called The Underscore, workshops in cyanotype, clay, and taxidermy, several collaborative film and photo shoots, and a day spent in silence. The month culminated in a group exhibition of work from all ten artists, sprawling through the grounds of camp for the public to view, coinciding happily with the weekend of the Common Ground Fair when camp fills with overnight guests.
Art Camp, as a project, is inherently experimental, and therefore there were road bumps and frustrations as much as there were joys and gifts. The most difficult challenge for the spirit of the group was the struggle to find a balance between each artist’s autonomy and the synthesis of the whole group, encountered most in the scheduling of each day with both open-ended artmaking and focused, intentional group time. The organizers struggled to find a balance of their own within the dynamics of the whole group, and it was a test of faith for them to know when to take the lead with Quakerly experience and follow the original intent of the project, and when to step back, have faith in the direction of the whole group, and leave space for leadership from all the artists.
Ultimately, it was the artists who attended Art Camp who made it the transformative, inspiring, and affirmative experience that it was for all. The composition of personalities, backgrounds, and media complemented one another perfectly, creating endless opportunities for learning, sharing, and collaborating that could barely be satiated in four weeks but forged bonds that will long outlast the residency. Artists found invaluable support from a community of their own making, earning validation and strength to keep making art even after Art Camp has ended. Early in our lives as artists and as people, it is difficult to see a hopeful alternative in a world that operates on dehumanization and capital, but for one month, we altered this world.
Art Camp was made possible by a grant from the Legacy Gift Fund of New England Yearly Meeting and a work exchange with Friends Camp that allowed it to happen there for no charge. Artists spent 8 to 12 hours per week per artist in service to camp, with projects assigned by incoming director Anna Hopkins, including clearing trails, building little libraries, and assisting in hosting other visiting groups at camp. Unfortunately this work exchange did not truly cover the cost to Friends Camp to host Art Camp for a month, so it is estimated that Friends Camp made a generous in-kind donation to Art Camp. This was unsustainable to Friends Camp and Art Camp will be taking the cost into consideration when funding future residencies.
We, the residents and organizers of Art Camp 2016, are full of gratitude for the support we have received from Anna Hopkins, Friends Camp, the Legacy Gift Fund Committee, and the Young Adult Friends Standing Committee. Currently Isa Bowser and I, Maggie Nelson, are continuing to shepherd the project forward, keeping what worked and shedding what didn’t in anticipation of Art Camp 2017. As everyone involved with this project, we look hopefully into the future, excited to continue our searching and our laboring in the service of community, art, and the spirit.
In the Light,
& Art Camp 2016:
Isabel Bowser (North Carolina)
Adam Faust (North Carolina)
Roxanne Rapaport (Washington)
Tiffany Freeman (New York)
Sarah Gallina (Tennessee/New York)
Maria Kokkonen (London, UK)
Samantha Metzner (North Carolina)
Coco Spencer (California)
Ari Ferdman (New York/Texas)