As part of a great overview of Artist Residency programs, Melissa Levin (Director of Cultural Programs), spoke to Jane Levere about LMCC’s programming.
Established in 1973 by David Rockefeller Sr. and other Chase Bank and civic leaders, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council had its home and artists’ studio space in the north tower of the World Trade Center destroyed in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001; one of its artists in residence, the sculptor Michael Richards, was among the thousands who died. The council has since migrated to various spaces across Lower Manhattan, including studios at 28 Liberty, and has expanded to other places in the city, like Governors Island.
The Harlem-based interdisciplinary artist Sanford Biggers, who was an artist in residence at the organization before the Sept. 11 attacks, said that participating in the program “bumped up my level of production” and introduced him to “a great group of curators,” one of whom gave him his first solo show, in Berkeley, Calif.
Now an associate professor at the Columbia University School of the Arts, he tells his graduate students that artist-in-residence programs provide “a place to work and also a dialogue with other artists in residence.It’s important to keep the conversation going,” he continued. The programs also “challenge and push you as an artist,” he said.
When the public takes part by visiting, such programs demystify what artists do, Mr. Biggers said. “It opens up the viewership to our work,” he said. “It’s a very different experience to go to a studio than to go to a gallery. The public can definitely learn how artists think.”
The activities for the public range widely. Ox-Bow offers art courses affiliated with the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for amateurs and for students enrolled in academic programs in both the summer and winter. Skowhegan has offered public programs for many years in Manhattan and inaugurated a new program space on West 22nd Street late last year with a performance of John Cage’s “Variations VIII” by two former artists in residence, Ander Mikalson and John Dombroski.
Chinati offers a weekend of public programming every October; this year’s featured viewings of its permanent collection, talks, performances and a showcase of work by local artists in Marfa. Chinati also provides tours and course offerings to local students of all ages; for example, ninth graders recently studied Carl Andre’s permanent installation there, while creating their own poems and artwork.
The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council encourages the public to visit the studios of its artists in residence, both in Lower Manhattan and on Governors Island; its artists also lead workshops at centers for the elderly throughout New York.