Rethinking Artist Residencies

Project Summary

A central theme driving the cultural tourism strategy of Gros Morne National Park over the past two decades has been artist residencies in the Park. This prototype has three aims with regard to artist residencies:

  • Diversify a well-established practice as it currently exists in Gros Morne National Park
  • Integrate it into broader social and environmental interests. I.e. what policy elements can artist residencies engage?
  • Through a collaboration with the World Policy Institute and Musagetes ‘Arts Everwhere’ platform, establish Gros Morne within an international network dedicated to placing artists in residence.

To this end, this prototype aims to explore the artist residency through our three commitments of the ‘Liminus lens”: 1) complexity and a systems-view of social, cultural, technological, and natural phenomena; 2) interdisciplinarity, and the need for multiple languages, approaches, and knowledge traditions to engage with such phenomena; and 3) engagement, where various relevant publics are not destinations where we take our knowledge, but collaborations with whom we make that knowledge.

This prototype will work with Todd Lanier Lester, from the World Policy Institute. Todd is based in Sao Paulo, Brazil and Sebastien Sanz de Santamaria, co-founder of Residency Unlimited (New York). Todd and Sebastian will make two visits to Gros Morne as part of the prototype, first to explore the context as an arts residency destination, develop collaborative partnerships while in place, and begin formulating possibilities and questions for exploration through an arts practice. This preliminary visit will host an international roundtable that will exist on multiple web platforms. The second visit will carry these initial explorations to fruition in collaboration with other international arts practitioners. Through this process, Todd and Sebastien will explore with us a series of strategies and relationships that will help establish Gros Morne as an international destination for arts residencies.

Partnership Development

Todd Lanier Lester – Todd Lester has worked in leadership, advocacy and strategic communications roles at Reporters sans frontiers, the Astraea Lesbian Justice Foundation, and most recently as the Executive Director of the Global Arts Corps, an organization that creates theatre to advance reconciliation in societies emerging from violent conflict. He founded freeDimensional & the Creative Resistance Fund, an organization that helps activists-in-distress by providing safe haven in artist residencies.

He has dedicated periods of his career to work on microfinance in Cameroon, refugee rights in Egypt, post-genocide reconciliation in Rwanda, Track II diplomacy in the Southern Caucasus, at-risk youth engagement in Brazil, and the North-South Peace Accord in Sudan working with organizations such as CARE, International Rescue Committee, Carter Center, Peace Corps, Population Services International, Dutch Refugee Council, and the United Nations.

Todd holds a Masters of Public Administration from Rutgers University and diplomas from the Summer School in Forced Migration at Oxford University and Film & Media Studies at the New School. Todd received the Peace Corps Fund Award for founding freeDimensional; was named Architect of the Future by the Waldzell Institute; and serves as a Senior Fellow at the World Policy Institute where he leads the Arts-Policy Nexus initiative. His new project, Lanchonete, is a 5-year experimentation of artistic witnessing focused on a neighborhood in the center of São Paulo.

Todd was a keynote speaker and participant at Liminus 2015 in Woody Point Newfoundland.

Sebastien Sanz de Santamaria – co-founder of Residency Unlimited

Sebastien Sanz Santamaria has been living and working in New York City since 2001. He has been closely involved with the artist-run organization and arts collective Flux Factory, working in both the development of its programs as well as creatively through collaborations at institutions such as the Queens Museum of Arts and the New Museum. For five years he was Assistant Director of the International Residency Program, at Location One. In 2009, together with Nathalie Angles, he co-founded Residency Unlimited as an artist-centered organization dedicated to producing customized artist residency structures to support the creation, presentation, and dissemination of contemporary art. After completing a preparatory year at the Academie Julien (Paris) in 1997, Sebastien received a BFA from the Ecole de Beaux-Arts de Montpellier District in Montpellier, France.

Todd Hennessy – Todd is the director of the School of Fine Arts, Grenfell College and participated in Liminus 2015 where he established strong connections with Todd Lester in 2015. He is eager to partner with him on this exploration of the future of artist residencies for Grenfell and Gros Morne.

Gros Morne Cooperating Association – GMCA has been the driving force behind the Cultural Blueprint strategy and is a key strategic player in positioning the Park as an international destination for arts residencies.

Gros Morne Summer Music – GMSM has been developing various artistic residencies in the Park for thirteen years. Much of the Liminus vision is itself the result of an extended residency for GMSM artistic director David Maggs. Being exposed to the Park, the values of Parks Canada, and the communities that live within the Park has inspired the evolution of GMSM into an interdisciplinary festival aiming to connect the arts to themes of health, technology, sustainability, indigeneity, and the natural world. Trying to replicate this experience for other artists from abroad is a natural extension of our own experience.

Jennifer Galliott, Galliott Studios – Jennifer is herself an accomplished visual artist, potter, and teacher. She also runs the local coffee shop in Woody Point, Newfoundland. Proposing to partner this arts residency with this core local business offers a deep connection to the community, and partners the project with one of the dynamic individuals working to develop Woody Point.

Benefits to the Region

This prototype brings an international figure in artist residencies to Gros Morne National Park, and helps engage this context from the perspective of establishing it as an international destination for arts residencies. In other words, Todd will help the context figure out different ways it can host artists, while at the same time, create a greater awareness amongst international arts organizations of the Park as a potential host.

Furthermore, as a practicing artist, Todd’s work will expand what we typically conceive of as an arts residency. Can an artist inspire policy recommendations? Can an artistic process foster community development and strategic planning insights? Can an arts residency invite different modes of community engagement for locals and visitors alike? Shifting the model of arts residencies away from an extractive process of gaining inspiration and returning with a discrete work towards one focused on social practices will have important impacts on the region itself.

Given the interest from Grenfell (a key stakeholder/partner), we expect this broadened idiom to allow Grenfell to explore, at low risk, alternate ways to shape its artist residencies, both as host, but also as an organization directing arts-based activities in Gros Morne.

Liminus Learning

1. Accelerate learning – How do we learn from this?

Reframing our sense of how the arts can engage across aesthetic boundaries into ostensibly non-aesthetic dimensions of community, identity, value, action, organizational behaviour, engagement practices, etc. is fundamental for our Liminus mandate. If we can get this right, we gain a significant advantage in a rapidly expanding marketplace, one which is seeking to engage critical industry-specific dilemmas through innovative, ‘out-of-box’ problem-solving methods.

2. Develop Concept – How does this clarify the concept in our partner’s eyes?

More than any of our other prototypes, the crux of this project lies fundamentally in how well we manage to integrate its component parts into our community and its local agencies. Therefore, this prototype represents our best opportunity to establish develop local roots and strong social capital, and to communicate the spirit of Liminus in highly grounded and relevant ways.

3. Manage Risk – What is this a smaller piece of?

Liminus proposes to work at the heart of complex problems, whether they are in health, sustainability, social justice, or other fields. All these fields are presently experiencing frustrations in solving some of their most pressing dilemmas, with the cost of failure rising rapidly (consider the cost of meeting climate targets now, as opposed to in the early 1990s; or the cost of obesity-related illnesses now as opposed to the mid 20th century). Curiously enough, as so many of these dilemmas prove to be the ‘wicked problems’ of complex adaptive systems, their respective fields are turning to the arts with increased interest. From a Liminus perspective, there is a global opportunity here. Can we establish compelling methodologies for integrating the arts into complex adaptive systems in ways that create functional and fruitful engagements? If so, we position ourselves as a strategic leader in facilitated retreats and workshops dedicated to complex problem-solving. In doing so, we cultivate a capacity that is central to our retreat and workshop practices, securing much of the feasibility of the larger Liminus vision.