Artists Communities: Michele Wiji


Milisa Galazzi: Thank you so much, Michele, for agreeing to be interviewed for ProWax Journal. As you know, I am deeply committed to exploring the intersection of artists and communities, and by choosing to interview you I am continuing to mine the ‘community’ side of that equation. You work as a full time employee at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Could you tell our readership more about your role there and could you describe a typical day?

Michele Wiji: I work at The Met as a Research Associate in the Modern and Contemporary Art Department, one of the 17 curatorial departments at the museum. Essentially, I have two roles in this position: one driven by research, the other administrative. The research can take many twists and turns. My work can include providing primary source material, which contextualizes existing works in the collection; delving into provenances of works of art; researching works of art in special exhibitions, and writing about them; or more obscure matters like tracking down art works that have been de-accessioned, discovering vintage documentary photography and providing information for catalogues that we publish.  

PWJ.Issue12_1.Pullquote.Misa_rightI am also heavily involved in organizing special loan exhibitions for our department. These exhibitions can either be generated solely by The Met or are a collaboration between our museum and other major institutions. Known as traveling shows, these exhibitions involve coordinating loans between several institutions, which can be complex. The average time to organize a special loan exhibition is about two years or more. This part of my job is a terrific task because I get to work with every single department in the museum, from editorial to conservation, photography, digital media, communication, finance, merchandising and even catering. I’m lucky enough to have a job where there is no “typical day.”

I begin my day with breakfast with colleagues from other departments in the staff cafeteria. It’s a wonderful way to catch up. About once a month or so, I will attend a lecture by one of the curators on an exhibition that has opened in the museum that I have not had the privilege to work on. I divide my day between research and administrative work according to the needs of the department. This may involve a trip to our incredible research library or the archives, or I might just work at my desk. My day may be punctuated with meetings. One of the best things about working at the Met is that if I am having a bad day, all I need to do is leave my desk and spend some time walking through the galleries. I challenge myself to look for a new object in the collection every day and I am never disappointed. It’s an extraordinary museum.  

MG: Michele, you have a wonderful sense of humor, and you often say that you “work with dead artists.” Can you talk a bit more about what you mean by that?

MW: Dead artists are very compliant people to work with. I like them! Joking aside, it’s really just an issue of chronology for me. I specialize in European Modernism, which means that my knowledge base is art made from about 1900 to 1945, mostly in Western Europe. This is a narrow scope, and I have other colleagues who have different interests. Most artists producing art within that time period are no longer with us. Working in this time period is interesting to me because I am able to focus on the art itself without being distracted by the artist. The art can stand alone as an independent object and be evaluated on its own terms.

Of course this is not to say that the artist is ignored. Viewing art from any time period comes down to the interplay between the artist’s intention when creating the object and the viewer’s reception of the work of art. When the artist is still alive, this becomes an ever-changing dialogue. When [the artist is] dead, the art itself becomes the legacy and can be viewed independently and in the context of other art works from the same period.

Art has no agenda. Artists often do. Picasso once famously said, “Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth,” by which I think he meant that while art may be illusory, art objects provide us with a window to understand life. So I like to focus on the art itself. As art historians it is our job to reconstruct the who, what, when, where, and how a work came to be. Most importantly we work hard to answer the question, Why did the artist chose this form of expression? When the artist is alive, the answers to these questions are often dictated by the artist. When you only have the voice of the artwork itself, you often get a different answer. I am very diligent about researching the artist and the context in which the art works were made. In addition, I do like the purity of solely looking at the art!

MG: From my perspective, Michele, the artist community in which you work comprises the deceased artist’s family members, gallery representatives, and/or the artist’s estate managers. This is a very important part of an artist’s ongoing community. Could you talk more about this community of people who represent the artist and his/her work after the artist is no longer part of the community?

MW: You are right. The artist’s work is obviously part of a larger community when the artist is no longer here to represent him/herself. Family members will often take on the task of caring for works of art and for maintaining the artist’s legacy. This community of caregivers for the art can come in the form of a not-for-profit foundation, a private museum, or gallery that still represents the artist or simply manages the artist’s estate.

MG: Because our readership is comprised of artists who are alive and actively engaged in art making, what advice do you have for artists who hope to have their artwork become part of the cultural conversation long after the artist has passed?

MW: This is a very difficult question to answer. I think it is really important for artists to remain true to their own mission and creative output. However, artists cannot be part of the cultural conversation when they are dead if they were not ‘being heard’ while alive. So the more that artists can share their artwork with others, the better. This is especially true when sharing their artwork with people who are writing and conversing about art. For this reason, artists must engage with curators, critics, and gallery owners. The great thing about the technological world in which we live is that artists can share their work via social media and really attract a very large audience. We are probably living in one of the most democratic times for artists to be part of the cultural conversation.

MG: Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts about Artist Communities from your perspective working at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City. I am confident that you have given our ProWax Journal readership much food for thought.


Artist Communities: Kate Neisser


Kate Neisser at the SCA Auction and Benefit in 2014

Kate Neisser at the SCA Auction and Benefit in 2014

Milisa Galazzi: Thank you so much, Kate, for being interviewed for ProWax Journal. In past issues, I have focused my column, Artist Communities, on interviews of artists and by choosing to interview you, I am looking more at the community side of the equation. You are involved with an acquisitions committee at the Art Institute of Chicago and I am interested to know more about how museums work with artists to acquire work for the permanent collections. Could you explain your current role on the Acquisitions Committee at the Art Institute of Chicago (AIC)? How does that committee function within the larger museum? Do most museums work this way or is this system fairly unique to the AIC?

Kate Neisser: I currently serve on the Acquisition Committee for the Society For Contemporary Art, (SCA) a group founded 75 years ago to support the contemporary department at Chicago’s Art Institute. Our committee works on a yearly cycle and begins its art selection process in the fall. At our first meeting of the season, each committee member chooses at least two artists from a list compiled by Art Institute curators and departmental advisors. Committee members then communicate with galleries and research their artists with the goal of developing presentations which we deliver to the group at subsequent meetings. Through studying the artist, traveling to art fairs, and thorough discussions within our committee and with our curators, we learn about the work and the artist. The committee spends the next seven months winnowing the list down until a handful of finalists remain. At the culminating event – our annual meeting – which occurs in late spring, the museum mounts a show which allows the SCA’s membership at large to view the actual works of the semi finalist. Finally, board members vote for the piece, or pieces, to acquire and the Society for Contemporary Art purchases the art from the artist or their gallery. Finally the work is donated by the SCA to the museum. Our process at the Art Institute of Chicago is different from many other museums because the Society for Contemporary Art is actually an autonomous non-profit and this allows us to operate and make decision independent of the museum.

MG: During the acquisition process, what does the committee take into consideration as you vet the art works and zero in on the pieces that are finally presented to the SCA membership for possible purchase and inclusion in the museum collection?

KN: The better question might be, “What don’t we consider!?” Our budget differs from year to year. So, of course, price is a consideration, though that is a minor concern given everything else we contemplate. We look at a work as an individual entity with its own merits and then we consider the artwork’s place on the contemporary art continuum for its particular medium. We typically consider how a specific work is a dynamic piece which may be vital to a distinct time, place, or technique which fills a gap in the museum collection. Since we only look at the work of living artists, we talk about the artists’ age and whether younger artists still need time to artistically mature. Often artists have restrictions on when and how works can be shown. That obviously needs to be considered. Sometimes, as with exceptionally large work, we even think about storage requirements or other physical needs of the artwork since the job of the museum is to protect the work in perpetuity. Clearly, we have a lot to talk about when the committee meets!

MG: What is your background/relationship to art and is your past experience fairly typical of the other people with whom you work on the committee?

KN: I grew up in a family of art enthusiasts. My mother helped found the store at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago where I spent Christmas break making mistakes as a cashier so young I could barely see over the counter! I studied art history in college and after graduation, I continued learning about art for pleasure and to inform my understanding of my family’s ever evolving art collection. Am I typical of an Acquisition Committee member? Not necessarily, but there is a common denominator: We are all active learners and art lovers who are endlessly fascinated by contemporary art!

MG: What advice would you give to our readership of artists who are eager for their works to be acquired by museums?

KN: I would suggest that artists show their art as much as possible while also maintaining the integrity of the work. Having said that, I recently met an art collector who purchased a piece of art having first seen the artist’s work on Instagram! Additionally, I would say, do not restrict yourself to gallery shows. Continue to put your art out there. Sometimes it only takes one person to—snap—change everything.

An avid Chicagoan, Kate Neisser lives in Lincoln Park and supports art throughout the city. She is a trustee of the Museum of Contemporary Art as well as the Society For Contemporary Art where she serves on the Acquisition Committee. She is also a member of the Prints and Drawing Committee at the Art of Institute of Chicago. Additionally, Kate has a seat on the national advisory committee for Skidmore College’s Tang Teaching Museum. The first president of Snow City Arts, a non-profit providing intense arts education for hospitalized children, Kate is most proud of her sons, Eddie and I.Z. who are her most beloved pieces of work.

Artist Communities: Louise Blyton


Milisa Galazzi: Louise, thank you so much for agreeing to partner with me to contribute to this issue of ProWax Journal. In the past, I have focused my Artists and Communities column on interviewing folks who have attended artist residencies. Last issue, I interviewed an artist who explores themes of community in her work. Continuing now to push the definition of ‘artist community’ I am virtually reaching out to you in Australia. After perusing your website, I am struck by how many countries in which you have lived and worked: Australia, China, France, Portugal, England, the United States–to name just a few places! Please talk briefly about how you define your ‘artistic community’ as you have lived and worked in so many places across the globe?

Artist Louise Blyton at Work

Artist Louise Blyton at Work

Louise Blyton: Thank you Milisa for asking a question that is so important to me yet, is rarely asked! From a young age, I knew I wanted two things; to become an artist and to travel. I grew up in a very white, Anglo town near the beach in Australia. My longing for history and culture was so strong that at the age of twenty, I ran off for a few months to India. I wanted to see what was outside of my country. I then came back to Australia, finished my degree, and promptly left again for Europe. I didn’t return to my native country for three years. This long trip greatly displaced me. I didn’t know where I “belonged.” As I finally found my voice as an artist, I realized I still needed to travel to feel connected. Australia has a very small history of non-objective art (although this is changing very quickly right now). For this reason, as a young artist, I looked to European and American artists to find a community of like-minded creators. Connecting to other artists outside of Australia gave me a sense that I wasn’t alone and that I was part of a greater visual language. Now through social media, I am able to connect with my contemporaries all over the world. When I went to New York to take part in a two-month residency at PointB in Williamsburg, I arrived at a ready-made “artistic community.” When I got to New York, I felt like I had finally met my family!

MG: You talk about ‘travel’ as a way for you as an artist to feel more ‘connected.’ Could you talk a little bit more about that?

Louise Blyton's Exhibition

Sugarland Exhibition

LB: I feel very strongly about the benefits of travel. I think traveling should be compulsory for those artists who are able. Through the journey, we begin to understand the world around us. As an artist, I enjoy the adventure of travel as well as the ability to conduct visual research. Through my travels, I am able to connect with art that I’ve studied for years in books and on-line and yet have never seen in person. Studying these pieces in person makes my connections to them far more meaningful.

MG: Please share a little more about how you as an artist use social media to connect with your contemporaries all over the world?

LB: Social media has become a large part of my life as an artist. I use social media to showcase what I do. In this way, the digital connection acts like a calling card. This way of connecting works very well for me, and I can honestly say that I wouldn’t have been in any of the many overseas shows without the ability to connect via social media. Building relationships with contemporaries is so important. We are privileged to live in a time that this type of community building can be done all over the world and not just in your own country. The beauty of social media is that you can banter with other artists in a casual format no matter where you live. You can show them a snippet of your life and engage with them on a more personal level. In this way, social media is unlike a website which showcases purely your professional life and can be very static.

The artist in her residency studio at PointB

The artist in her residency studio at PointB

MG: As an artist living and working in Australia, you traveled half way across the globe to spend time in New York for a two month residency at PointB. In what ways did that experience influence you as an artist and how did your work grow as a result of spending eight weeks living and working in another country?

LB: Gosh, I could write a book on this question but will keep it short. I’d only been to New York once before and that was purely as a tourist. I fell head-over-heels in love with the place! The amount of art and the number of galleries and museums was astounding to me. Many of my friends had taken part in this residency at PointB and I was very eager to take advantage of this opportunity. I have a very busy life in Australia and didn’t know how on earth I could fit a residency into my already full schedule. My former residency partner from Beijing, Cat Poliski, put her foot down and said, “That’s it. We’re going!” Once accepted, I settled quickly into the Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg that felt immediately like home (in fact it’s almost a clone of my neighborhood in Melbourne). The wonderful thing about a residency is that you can submerge yourself purely in your artistic interests with no other distractions outside of your art life. My main goal was to make contact with artists whom I had met through social media. I also made many studio visits that allowed me to meet some wonderful people. I also attended many gallery openings and I generally took part in the art community. You ask, “How did this influence on my work?” Well, that’s something that is still slowly evolving! I became obsessed with videotaping the water on the East River. I became fascinated with the memories that this river holds. I took over eighty videos and I’m still working with them. This is a long-term project that will find me back in New York again, I hope!

MG: What else would you like to share with our readers about this topic of Artist Communities?

LB: As an artist locked away in my studio, I can feel extremely isolated. It’s important for me to know that I am part of a larger community of artists, and a very supportive one, at that. Being part of a global artist community has been a great way for me to learn about other artists and their individual studio practices. I’m always amazed at the generosity of the artists I have met overseas and on-line. I truly look forward to these relationships maturing over time.


Artist Communities: Pamela Winegard

By Milisa Galazzi

Milisa Galazzi: Thank you, Pamela, for agreeing to be interviewed for this ProWax Journal column, Artist Communities. For the past year, the column has focused on individual experiences with artist residencies and how each artist created or maintained a sense of community through that endeavor. In this issue, we shake things up a little! Since you and your artwork address this topic of community, please explain how ‘community’ became a topic near and dear to your heart.

Pam Winegard in her Studio

Pamela Winegard in her studio

Pamela Winegard: My interest in definitions of community developed over a lifetime. As a child of a military father I was uprooted quite a bit. I carried that sense of being uprooted into adulthood when I joined the military. Both the detachment of moving and the sense of belonging to that transient community inspired my artwork.

MG: Can you tell me more about your early influences?

PW: From childhood in the 1960s through young adulthood in the 1980s, politics strongly influenced my acute feeling of belonging or not belonging. Women’s roles were changing. Watergate changed my relationship to national politics. As attachment to small towns changed, a twisted sense of nostalgia influenced how we carved out a community identity.

MG: Can you share some more with our readership about becoming an artist in this changing view of community?

PW: When I concentrated on serious study of art and an art practice, I knew that I didn’t just want to make art about superficial qualities or esoteric formalities. I was strongly motivated by visual narratives and storytelling. I explored traditional mediums, always working in a representational fashion. I began to chop up the picture plane, to break up the surface, create layers, and I started to explore a mix of materials. After about a decade of work, I found myself using non-traditional and more contemporary materials as a way of leveraging that discussion of community. In this way, layers of visual information became metaphors for all of the disparate elements of community. Breaks in imagery became the lacuna in the storytelling and the found materials or human detritus acted as memory links or physical connections. Architecture became a metaphor for our footprints.

MG: Pamela, you mention that politics have shaped your understanding of community. Can you talk more about that?

PW: I am strongly affected by my politics, my sense of patriotism, my liberalism, my feminism, my faith, and my family. All of these influences shape my understanding of my immediate and larger communities. I was privileged to live abroad as well as in the United States. I lived in West Berlin, Germany. I have some profound memories of that experience. I am Jewish. I have some profound experiences because of that, too. I have visited the Western Wall and traveled throughout Israel. I have been the new kid. I have been poor. I may have moved about 60 times in my life. I have been in the early generations of women who served fully integrated in the Armed Forces. I turn all that life experience into a discussion about who we are and what we do as a people. I consider the question, “What does it mean to be in a community?” and I confront identity or try to confront identity as a result of what I see happening around me today.

MG: Can you talk more about your present work and the ways in which themes of community literally show up in your art?

Pam Winegard, Paths to No Where, 2014, encaustic, found materials, graphite, and mixed media on luan panels, 24x 45

Pamela Winegard, Paths to Nowhere, 2014; encaustic, found materials, graphite, and mixed media on luan panels; 24″ x 45″

PW: I am working on several bodies of work specifically directed toward concepts of community. Paths to Nowhere is a diptych recently completed for a solo show in Austin, Texas. This body of work confronts homelessness; it began in response to itinerant population growth in communities like Austin, but reflects the ubiquitous situation across the United States. I created the work as a reaction to children crossing borders into the U.S. to escape horrific issues in their home countries. Symbols such as water towers represent gatekeepers of the more permanent element of the community; motels represent the transient way stations. Some images are quite literal with no need for interpretation. Others are symbolic, more ambiguous in order to lend themselves to the viewer’s own story. All of this work was created with the intention of weaving a larger visual story of community and interconnectivity.

MG: Thank you, Pamela, for sharing your thoughts about art and community!

Artist Communities: Ruth Hiller

By Milisa Galazzi

As a regular feature in ProWax Journal, this month’s Artists & Community is Milisa Galazzi’s (MG) interview with artist Ruth Hiller (RH) about her recent residency at the Golden Foundation Residency Program in “the beautiful rolling hills of central New York”.

Ruth Hiller at

Ruth Hiller at the Golden Foundation Residency Program

Milisa Galazzi: Ruth, thank you so much for taking the time to share with the ProWax Journal readership a little bit about your recent time spent at Golden participating in their residency program. Can you explain how the paint company and their residency program are connected? How long were you there, and how many other artists were there working with you?

Ruth Hiller: Golden Paint has a really interesting history. The founder, Sam Golden, made oils in New York City for famous artists in the 1930s to 1970s; it was Bocour Paint Company. Sam wanted to retire to upstate N.Y. and signed an agreement in the 70s not to make paint for seven years. After living upstate for a while, a lot of the artists he worked with in N.Y.C. were calling him to make paint again. He made mineral spirit acrylic for Louis Morris’s big spill paintings. Then he started the Golden Paint Company. It’s always been family run and now is run by his son, Mark, his wife, Barb, and their daughter, Emma, who runs the Golden Foundation. All are passionate about paint, quality, and artists.

They had a dream to run a residency because, since their dad’s time at the company, it was well known that their paint techs loved working with artists to fill special needs for products. That’s why they have so many products! They converted an old barn across the street from their paint factory into three small apartments, a huge kitchen, and five studios. They are so generous with their time and products. They came by the residency every day.

The residency was a month long and there were three artists there including myself.

MG: Ruth, you typically work with wax. Golden makes a tremendous amount of acrylic paints and mediums. Please share a bit about your interest in applying to a residency that was specifically designed to explore another medium.

RH: I love working with encaustic but had become frustrated with the fragility and the expense. I saw that Golden always had so many products that looked so interesting and I didn’t know how to use any of them! I had tried acrylic before and did not like the texture or the quality of the paint because I did not know how to work with it.

Some of Ruth's Work at Residency

Some of Ruth’s Work at Residency

The residency was appealing to me because the Golden technicians were available to help with any questions. It was a month with an unlimited amount of supplies and a fantastic studio. The technicians gave a few demos a week to teach how to use the products. The technicians formulate custom products for anyone and they are great at troubleshooting problems for artists. The demos consisted of:

  1. testing each and every ground and medium on a board to take home for reference,
  2. photo transfers, digital grounds
  3. pouring
  4. making skins
  5. working with Williamsburg Oils (which Golden bought a few years ago)
  6. working with glazing and varnishes
  7. visiting the paint factory
  8. working with their new watercolor line QOR

MG: As a professional artist, what was it like to have complete access to all of the materials that Golden makes? How, if at all, do you think you might use some of these materials in your future work?

RH: One of my favorite qualities of beeswax is the thickness combined with translucency. It was fun to be able to pour large quantities of acrylic mediums with wild abandon, not thinking about price or if it was going to work or not. As a professional artist I am always open to learning and experimenting with new products or techniques. Right now I am keeping my encaustic work separate from the work I do with acrylic. The mediums are not compatible. I will be exploring some ideas that deal with juxtaposition of the mediums and each medium offers different qualities that can complement the other.

MG: During your time at Golden, you had mentioned on Facebook that you experienced some frustration during your residency. Setbacks are a natural and common part of making art anywhere! If you are willing, could you share some of the challenges that you experienced?

RH: The biggest challenge for me was the isolation. Since there were only two other artists, there was not much interaction between us during the day. The factory and the technicians were down the street. I was working in the studio at least 12-hour days six days a week! I was learning a new medium and was doing a ton of test panels and not making what I thought was “real work.” I experimented for almost two weeks with the different products before I decided how I wanted to incorporate them into my work. Sometimes it felt like I did not know what I was doing or what message I was trying to convey through my work. I started to feel that maybe it was the medium. encaustic, that I loved more than the message.

MG: Looking back now, what do you think are the three most important things that you gained from your time at Golden?

RH: It confirmed my love of painting, no matter the medium. I gained time and space to play with any imaginable material for learning sake and not care about the outcome. I am excited to have the time to have learned a new medium to expand my horizons in my art making.

MG: Ruth, what advice can you share with anyone who is thinking about a residency experience, presently applying to residencies, or planning on embarking upon a residency in the near future?

RH: Do your research and make sure the residency fits your needs in your career. I was really interested in learning the mediums that Golden offered. A month is a long time but I feel that it is necessary to immerse myself completely. I have done workshops at Anderson Ranch for a week, and somehow that seems too short. It is also good to be able to drive with a car full of supplies to the residency. I would love to apply somewhere abroad, but shipping supplies is another consideration. There are other residencies that host more artists at once than the Golden residency, so one should decide how she or he wants to spend time during the residency. There was a residency going on at a nearby place, totally different vibe, writers, musicians and artists, but they didn’t have great studio space.

MG: Lastly, what else would you like to share with the ProWax readership on this topic? Again, thank you so much for your contribution, Ruth!

RH: I must admit that it seemed that acrylic was a lot less fragile and less expensive than encaustic. But, this isn’t the case. I poured liquid grounds on my panels that are just as expensive as the beeswax medium. I also thought that the working time would be less, but sometimes the pours and base coats took up to three days to dry. However, as a geometric painter, the taping situation is much easier with the acrylic, but it takes more coats to get the effects that I am looking for with the paint.

Artist Communities: Jane Guthridge

By Milisa Galazzi

As a regular feature in ProWax Journal, this month’s Artists & Community is Milisa Galazzi’s (MG) interview with artist Jane Guthridge (JG) about her upcoming residency at the Jentel Artist Residency Program in Wyoming.

MG: Jane, thank you so much for taking what I am sure is precious time to share with the PROWAX Journal readers a little about your preparations for your upcoming artist residency. You are in the process of preparing to go on your first artist residency, is that correct? Which one is it, how long will you be there, and why did you pick this particular residency?

JG: Yes, this will be my first artist residency. I will be at Jentel Artist Residency in Banner, Wyoming for one month starting in mid September. I was interested in a residency at Jentel because it will offer me the gift of natural beauty and time. My work is about the changing quality of light in nature and the transcendent experiences light creates. Being in a beautiful natural setting with expansive skies away from my day to day routine will offer me time to think, try new things and push my work forward.

MG: Talk a little bit about the application process. How long did it take to prepare the application and would you do anything differently now that you have gone through the process of applying?

Jane Guthridge in studioJG: At Jentel you are selected on the basis of your work and “the development or promise of a personal vision or voice.” This residency is about process not product, so I didn’t have to show a specific project that I was going to complete while there. My main concern was having good photographs showing a cohesive body of work that expressed my personal vision. The written application is very short. Most of the process is trying to edit your thoughts down to two or three sentences. I did call them a couple of times because I didn’t understand what they were looking for in their question. I was glad I called because I completely misunderstood the question.

MG:As you are presently preparing to leave for this residency, what are the kinds of things that you’re doing to “bank down” and leave your day to day life to make room for this extended period of time away from your home and studio?

JG: I have a show in Chicago right after I get back, so I am busy preparing for that. My plan is to have all the work shipped before I leave. I want to be able to use the residency as a time to explore and try new things (and the inevitable failures that go along with that) without the stress of an upcoming show.

MG: As you are packing for this exciting trip, what types of things are you bringing and why are you choosing those things, both studio supplies and personal items?

JG: My biggest question is what studio supplies I am going to take. I am currently working on small studies, experimenting with other media to see what I want to take with me. My current work is created on a large 40×60 heat table that I can’t take with me, so it is a bit of a forced change, which is one of the reasons I wanted to go to Jentel. There aren’t any art suppliers near Jentel, so this is a big concern for me. I did get a great tip from another artist who was just at a residency in the area – Amazon Prime – art supplies in two days, free shipping. For personal items, I got some new headphones (required in your studio), new music, I’ll take a yoga mat, a good book and I’m thinking about stationery and postcards. Jentel is pretty isolated, no phone reception etc, so I’m think about taking up the lost art of writing letters.

MG: As you set out on this art adventure of a lifetime, what kinds of things are you thinking about and how are you feeling? Could you summarize all that is going through your mind and your heart right now?

JG: I feel a little bit like a kid going to camp for the first time – excited and a little bit nervous!

MG: What else would you like to say about your preparations or your anticipation for this artist residency?

JG: One of the things I did to prepare for this residency was to reach out to ProWax and ask for advice. I found some people took very little with them as supplies, some everything they could, some just sketched and came up with ideas and others created entire bodies of work. The one thing I did hear from many, and will take to heart, was to go with an idea in mind and be prepared to completely let it go.

Galazzi is an artist living and working in Providence and on Cape Cod in the summer. Her graduate degree is from Rhode Island School of Design where she especially focused on her lifelong interest – art and community. Her website is and she is represented by ERNDEN Fine Art Gallery in Provincetown, Mass.



ProWax Journal 5: Artists and Community

Artists & Community

By Milisa Galazzi

As a regular feature in ProWax Journal, this month’s Artists & Community is Milisa Galazzi’s (MG) interview with artist Kim Bernard (KB) about her residency experiences.

Kim Bernard with Hydrogen Atomin Orbitals

MG: Kim, there are many ways in which artists seek “community.” What are some of the ways in which you have created community for yourself as an artist? I am specifically thinking about the fact that you started New England Wax and the Encaustic Facebook page. Please talk a little bit about your motivation to create these two communities and what you have gained from starting these communities?

KB: I believe, for many artists, communities are vital in making connections with other creative people.  It’s the place we feel a sense of belonging, share ideas and build a supportive network which sustains us as we ‘go it alone’ back in the studio.  Without ever intentionally setting out to create community for myself, I recognize that I have several:  Boston Sculptors, New England Wax, the Facebook Encaustic Group and the yoga studio where I practice.  In each of these groups I feel like I’m with my tribe, so to speak.

New England Wax started after I had been teaching encaustic workshops for a number of years.  At the end of the workshop, students would always ask if I would share their emails so they could stay in touch.  They’d ask if there were any associations or guilds to continue to learn from and exhibit with.  The question came so often I gathered there was a need.  Since I maintain contact with many artists who work with encaustic and those who have studied with me, I decided, in 2006, to reach out and start a group since there wasn’t one already.  Boom!  Before you knew it, it took on a life of its own.  Exhibits were being organized, bi-monthly meetings were being held, committees being formed and projects were underway.  NEW is still thriving today with 40 active members.

The Encaustic group on Facebook happened in a very different way.  Frankly, I got on Facebook to spy on my kids, but then of course started connecting with artist friends, family and students.  One day, being the organized type that I am, I started organizing all of my encaustic friends into a group.  Little did I know that I was inviting them to a group called Encaustic.  By the time I realized what I had done, people in the group were saying “Hey, what a great idea, thanks for inviting me,” so I went with it.  Now there are 1189 people in the group.

Making art is such a solitary endeavor, yet we’re social creatures.  You have to have so many different skills in different areas.  You have to be chef, cook and bottle washer.  By combining our efforts with a group of like minds, opportunities arise, you have peers to get advice and feedback from, who understand you when you’re in a slump and celebrate when you have success.  Who wants to live in a vacuum?!

MG: What advice would you give someone who is not at all connected to any artist communities?

KB: My advice would be to start your own… nothing big and organized, just something informal.  Contact a handful of artists, say four to six, who you feel are your peers, and meet monthly at one another’s studios.  Have a format so there’s discussion about the work, feedback and an opportunity to exchange ideas.

Another approach would be to search for a group that’s already formed, an association, co-operative, a group project, crit group, drawing group, etc.  Go to meetings and get a sense of if the group is a good fit.  Move on if it’s not or get involved if it is.

Another way would be to get out and go to openings, exhibits, artists’ talks, panel discussions, events and workshops.  Make an effort to strike up conversation, exchange contact information with like minds and follow up.  Put it out there that you’re someone who wants to have a dialogue, an exchange.  I know these things take time but I don’t think they have to be forced.  When you start circulating among art crowds, you start to see familiar faces.  Things will happen organically.

MG: Kim, if you could press start all over again and begin your art career “anew,” what, if anything, would you do differently in regard to this topic of ‘art and communities’?

KB: I wouldn’t change much with the exception of being more selective about the art communities I became involved with.  Some were a dead end, consumed a lot of my time and gave little back.  Some groups were not serious and professional enough or were too social.  One thing I learned (the hard way) to do well was to delegate and think twice before volunteering.  A handful of individuals tend to do most of the work.  For the wellbeing of the community, it’s vital for everyone to pitch in, as equally as possible.  Another thing I’m realizing, in retrospect, is that those communities where there is a balance of men and women functioned best.  That’s rare though because more women tend to gravitate to these communities than men.

MG: Thanks so much, Kim. What else you would like to add to the discussion on the topic of artists and communities?

KB: I think that about sums it up!

Galazzi is an artist living and working in Providence and on Cape Cod in the summer. Her graduate degree is from Rhode Island School of Design where she especially focused on her lifelong interest – art and community. Her website is and she is represented by ERNDEN Fine Art Gallery in Provincetown, Mass.




ProWax Journal 4: Artists and Community

Artists & Community

By Milisa Galazzi

As a regular feature in ProWax Journal, this month’s Artists & Community is Milisa Galazzi’s (MG) interview with artist Laura Moriarty (LM) about her residency experiences.

piece by Moriarty, taken at the Platte Clove Artist-in-Residence Program in the Catskill Mountain Wilderness

piece by Moriarty, taken at the Platte Clove Artist-in-Residence Program

MG:  You have applied to and attended a few different highly selective artist residencies. Please tell us a bit about your residency experiences. Where did you go, for how long were you there, and what was the general flavor of these experiences?

LM: Since 1996, I have taken part in seventeen residencies, including the Ucross Foundation, the Virginia Center for Creative Arts, the Oberpfälzer Künstlerhaus in Germany, the Printmaking Center of New Jersey, Pilchuck Glass School (four times), Cere’s Project Room, The University of Dallas Printmaking Dept., the Frans Masereel Center in Belgium (twice), Women’s Studio Workshop (twice), Collaborative Concepts, and The University of Virginia at Charlottesville. Most recently, I took part in the Platte Clove Artist-in-Residence Program in the Catskill Mountain Wilderness. These residencies ranged in length from one week to eighteen months, but were typically three to six weeks. Several of the programs were based on the model of the pure gift of time and space, while others were more project oriented or interactive with a particular community.

MG: You created your own residency in your art studio. Could you tell us more about your DIY Residency? What prompted you to do this, what did you do to prepare yourself and your work space for this type of work? What was the experience like for you?

LM: My DIY residency was really a stay-cation with a mission. At the time my day job involved activities that were closely related to those of my personal studio practice. I did a lot of traveling and planning for the job and the prospect of taking on residency applications, with all the tentative planning they entail, was too complicated for my schedule. Instead, I used my vacation time to work in my own studio. I had enough experience to know what makes a residency effective – a clean, uncluttered space, some defined projects that I wanted to pursue, and the luxury of uninterrupted time. I created a self-appointed residency. I basically prepared for it as if I were hosting a visiting artist in my studio. And since the visiting artist was me, that was super easy. I got a great deal of work done and made some important breakthroughs.

MG: In your opinion, what are the signs and symptoms that an artist is ready to take full advantage of all that a professional residency has to offer?

LM: I can imagine almost any artist benefiting from a residency. It’s actually easier to come up with situations in which an artist might NOT be ready, since I can only think of a few.  I have been in a couple of residencies where one of my fellow artists was not having a good time of it. For instance, there was an artist from Paris at Ucross; and she was really miserable in Wyoming. It was just too remote for her, and she didn’t connect with the culture. Another time there was an artist who was grieving the loss of a loved one. They tried to attend, but found it too difficult and wound up leaving pretty quickly. I would say the key is making sure the artist understands the situation and ensures that day to day life won’t present a distraction.

MG: This is a two-fer: How has your art changed and grown from your experiences being part of these sorts of artist communities? How have you as an artist changed and grown from being a part of these artist communities?

LM: Residencies are utopian in nature. They have allowed me to live my ideal life for a short time, completely immersed in my work every waking and dreaming moment. While it may not be possible to live this way all the time, residencies have often helped me to see how I might make shifts and adjustments in my normal routines that have significantly improved the quality of my life and my art.

MG: What advice would you offer an artist who is preparing to apply for a professional residency?

LM: Residencies vary greatly. Try to talk to other artists who have taken part in the residency you are interested in to make sure that it will be a good fit for you.

Thank you for taking the time, Laura, to talk about your experiences and thoughts about Artist Residencies!

Galazzi is an artist living and working in Providence and on Cape Cod in the summer. Her graduate degree is from Rhode Island School of Design where she especially focused on her lifelong interest – art and community. Her website is and she is represented by ERNDEN Fine Art Gallery in Provincetown, Mass.

ProWax Journal 3: Artists and Community

Artists & Community

By Milisa Galazzi

As a regular feature in the ProWax Journal, this month’s Artists & Community is Milisa Galazzi’s (MG) interview with Natalie Abrams (NA) about her McColl Residency. (The video below was taken during her residency at McColl.)

MG: Tell me a little bit about how you picked the McColl Center forVisual Art as your Residency. What, in particular, interested you about McColl in the first place? When did you apply and when did you go? What was the application process like?

NA: There were a variety of reasons I applied to the McColl Center for Visual Art. One reason was that they draw world class artists. Internationally recognized artists such as Mel Chin and Dread Scott were in residence just before and after me. While I was there the exhibition in the first floor gallery had been curated by Cynthia Reeves and included work by Janet Echelman. The caliber of artists MCVA draws is outstanding and the facility is gorgeous.  I also applied because it was local, and having never spent a significant amount of time away from my partner, it allowed me to experience a residency without that added stress of separation.

I applied in the fall of 2011 and was in residence over the summer of 2013, from April into late August.

The application included a three question Letter of Intent, work samples and image list, biographical narrative, artist statement, resume and references. The questions for the Letter of Intent were along the lines of, “What do you hope to achieve while in residence, how will this be significant to the development of your work, and how will your residency benefit from being in an urban environment with frequent public interactions?”

That last question is important because, in contrast to a lot of residency programs, MCVA is located in downtown Charlotte with the galleries open three days a week with additional required open studio days. While an artist can choose to close the doors and, technically, not interact with the public (except during open studio Saturdays), the reality is visitors knock on studio doors asking questions, ask to come in; there are frequent tours through the facility, and there are a variety of other interruptions. It is not a quiet, isolated studio experience. That being said, I found those experiences of interacting with guests and visitors to be wonderful, allowing me to develop relationships with people who are truly interested in art. Those conversations also really helped develop my ability to discuss my work.

MG: What did you do while you were there?  How did you choose this particular work to work on?  What supplies did you bring?

NA: I had intended to spend all my time at the MCVA transitioning my work from wall hung pieces to freestanding sculptural work. I’m interested in creating reef installations with my current process, but to do that would require the introduction of armatures, a different base set up and crating system. I was able to work out the basics of converting to freestanding pieces, but didn’t spend near the amount of time on it which I had expected. In reality, I worked on other projects which sprung up while there which were equally beneficial.

In my proposal, I chose to focus on developing installations because I’d become increasingly interested in them over the previous couple years, and very much wanted my work to develop in that direction. I don’t have a studio space which will allow me to work on that scale, so a residency was a natural next step.

Being local, it made bringing my materials much easier. I brought all my wax and wax working tools, lumber and some specialized woodworking tools and a few other miscellaneous things. I also brought a couch for people to sit on because I wanted the space to be inviting. I’ll be going on two residencies this year, one in Florida and one in New York, and what I’ll take for those programs will be completely different and much more minimalist.

MG: What was the most beneficial part of the Residency for you? What was the most difficult? What you are most proud of when you think back on your experience?

NA: I would say the entire residency was beneficial for me. Not coming from an art background, it was really fun to be in a communal atmosphere with other artists as opposed to the solitary studio practice I normally have. The presence of other artists working in different mediums was fascinating, and gave me an opportunity to learn, discuss, get feedback and critiques. The most difficult part was going back to a solitary studio practice. I think there should be support groups for people leaving residencies.

MG: If you could do the whole thing over again from start to finish, what, if anything would you change? 

NA: In the future, I’ll be a lot more self-sufficient.

MG: What else would you like to say?

NA: Know what you want to work on going in, but be flexible and open to experiences which may present themselves. Know what kind of a situation you’re going into, so you can be prepared. Don’t make assumptions. Ask questions ahead of time. If you have specific requirements, make sure the facility knows that and can accommodate. If there are things you need in order to pull off your project, make sure someone is addressing those needs, whether it’s the facility you’re going to or yourself.

Residencies truly are what you make of them, so make it everything you want that experience to be. 

Galazzi is an artist living and working in Providence and on Cape Cod in the summer. Her graduate degree is from Rhode Island School of Design where she especially focused on her lifelong interest – art and community. Her website is and she is represented by ERNDEN Fine Art Gallery in Provincetown, Mass.

ProWax Journal 2: Artists and Community

Artists & Community

By Milisa Galazzi

As a regular feature in the ProWax Journal, this month’s Artists & Community is a short conversation about Artist Residencies between artists Milisa Galazzi (MG) and Krista Svalbonas (KS).

MG: Can you tell me a little about the art residencies you have attended?

KS: I have attended Vermont Studio Center (VSC) and Cooper Union. At VSC I was one of 50 residents in a community that was comprised of both artists and writers. At Cooper Union I was only one of four other residents. Both were month-long residencies. Looking forward to many more, hopefully!

Svalbonas' studio at Vermont Studio Center

Svalbonas’ studio at Vermont Studio Center

MG: What was the most powerful/longest lasting aspect of your artist residency experience?

KS: VSC and Cooper Union were very different experiences and they both had wonderful lasting effects. At Vermont Studio Center the program really focused on exchange. We all lived together, ate together, worked and played together. I made some wonderful friendships and connections at that residency along with finishing a body of work. At Cooper, living space and food was not provided and we each carved out certain hours in our schedules for work so the residency was much more quiet and less about artist-to-artist interactions. From that residency, I was able to finish a body of work as well. The culminating group show gave me my first opportunity to work off the panel and onto the wall, which I have been doing ever since.

MG: With 20/20 hindsight and a magic paintbrush, if you could now change one thing about your artist residency experience, what would you now change?

KS: Thankfully there is nothing I’d change about either residency. They each gave me what I was looking for at the time and the much-needed fuel I wanted to grow as an artist.

MG: What advice do you have for someone who is thinking about attending, in the process of applying to, or is imminently beginning an artist residency?

KS: Do your research and know yourself. There are so many residency programs all over the world and each one is unique. Know what you want as an artist and understand who you are. Do you simply need time away from daily activity to do your work? Is a rural environment the right fit for you? An urban environment? Or perhaps a residency in the Arctic Circle? What is it that fuels you as an artist and what do you expect from a residency? Many programs offer professional development or exhibition opportunities; others simply offer solitude and space while others offer community. Not every residency fits every artist.

MG: What else would you like to say on the topic of artist communities?

KS: Do a residency! I can’t state enough how beneficial a program like this is, not only for forging connections with others but also for finding a deeper understanding of yourself and your work. A residency provides a unique space for self-discovery, free from your daily routine and void of any pressure you may feel in your life. It’s a wonderfully freeing environment.

Milisa Galazzi is best known for her large scale installations, works on paper, and conceptual paintings. Her work highlights human relationships punctuated by physical distance or separation by time and she is represented by ERNDEN Fine Art Gallery. Galazzi holds an MA with Honors from the Rhode Island School of Design were she extensively researched community-based art education settings. Her research is published by Harvard University Graduate School of Education, Project Zero Press, 1999. In addition, Galazzi holds a BA from Brown University where she studied Studio Art with minors in Women’s Studies and Cultural Anthropology – all of which directly informs the content of her art making. Galazzi works full time in her studio in Providence, Rhode Island, and on Cape Cod in the summer months.

Online artist residency information:

1. The Alliance for Artist Communities: Residency Directory

2. Two Coats of Paint: “Artists’ Residencies- Upcoming deadlines” by Sharon Butler (Sep 2013)  

3. Hyperallergic: Surveying Arts Residencies Today (3 Part Series) by An Xiao (Apr 2012)

“Part 1: Surveying Arts Residencies- Do They Still Matter?”

Part 2: Surveying Arts Residencies- How Residencies Can Help

Part 3: Surveying Arts Residencies- How to Make it Happen

4. Blouin Art Info: “A Guide to 20 Top Artist Residencies and Retreats Across the United States” by Alanna Martinez, Chloe Wyma (Mar 2012)

5. Blouin Art Info: “A Guide to 20 Adventurous, Offbeat, Or Otherwise Outrageous Artist Residencies” by Alanna Martinez, Chloe Wyma (Mar 2012)

Galazzi is an artist living and working in Providence and on Cape Cod in the summer. Her graduate degree is from Rhode Island School of Design where she especially focused on her lifelong interest – art and community. Her website is and she is represented by ERNDEN Fine Art Gallery in Provincetown, Mass.

ProWax Journal 1: Artists and Community

An Artist’s Community

By Milisa Galazzi

Click. I turn out the studio lights. Alone, I leave my art making space. Driving home in continued solitude, I ponder… . Intrinsic to my work as an ‘artist’ is hours on end in my studio in partial or full seclusion. How then do I create an artistic community? How does my community involvement benefit my art making, my art career, or simply assist me as an artist?

I recently asked this question of a few art colleagues. New Jersey artist Krista Svalbonas fosters community in several ways. In addition to the academic environment at The Art Institute of New York, where she serves as a professor in the Design Program, Svalbonas finds connections through cultural ties.  “I’m Latvian,” she says. “There are many art related groups for Latvian artists including a conference and a camp dedicated to art.” She continues, “I had work acquired by a European museum after it was in a traveling show in Latvia.”

Debra Claffey, recipient of the 2011 Artist Entrepreneurial Grant from the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts, highlights the opportunity for influence as a member of an arts community: “I’m a long time member of Women’s Caucus for Art, which I view as my ‘giving back.’ I can share what I learn and help with ‘raising the bar.’ It’s also my political contribution to gender equity since WCA is an non-governmental agency that supports the United Nations by using art platforms to address such issues.”

Social media connections have erased boundaries that limit artists to meeting locally. Jane Allen Nodine shared, “Networking via electronic media has been a very rewarding experience for me.” Nodine is the Assistant Chair of Fine Arts and Communications Studies at the University of South Carolina Upstate. She adds, “Participating in these online groups and knowing there is a place  I can go to voice concerns and ask questions and get respectable feedback is worth its weight in gold!”

Catherine Nash, who balances her studio work with artist-in-residence teaching, lectures, and workshops across the country, offers, “One has to reach out to find like minds.”

Artist community is not a passive experience. Artists must bring professional standards and expect the same of colleagues in order to best benefit the whole. Like many artists, I am stronger for being part of multiple artistic communities; in some I share the mediums in which I work and in others I simply interact with like-minded art colleagues. In future ProWax Journal articles, look for Q&A with artists who have successfully completed time at various artist residencies, both national and international. Stay tuned for more dialogue about art and community!

Galazzi is an artist living and working in Providence and on Cape Cod in the summer. Her graduate degree is from Rhode Island School of Design where she especially focused on her lifelong interest – art and community. Her website is and she is represented by ERNDEN Fine Art Gallery in Provincetown, Mass. © Milisa Galazzi 2013