Oolite Arts residency cultivates encouragement, experimentation at Anderson Ranch
Visual artists from Miami-Dade area wrapping up five-week program
Around this time every year at Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Snowmass Village, something of a phenomenon manifests among a cohort of 14 resident artists visiting from the Miami-Dade area.
Whatever it is each of them came here to do at the beginning of February as part of the five-week Oolite Arts “Home and Away” residency program, it’s almost inevitable that their trajectory has changed by the time March rolls around.
“I had one idea when I came here, and I find myself doing something completely different,” said Victoria Ravelo, who is based in the ceramics studio through the end of the residency on March 9.
On Thursday afternoon, about four weeks into the program, she wasn’t at the kiln but rather at a pressure-washing station at the Patton Print Shop where she was zeroed in on a printmaking project with Catherine Liu, the Ranch’s studio coordinator in painting, drawing and printmaking.
Upstairs, in the Dee Wyly Painting Building, the painter Francisco Masó was putting his brush to tile for what he said will become his first ceramic piece. (Many of his other works hung on the studio walls were painted on textiles or paper.)
And over in the Wood Loft Studio, Monica Lopez de Victoria was waiting for her ceramic pieces to cool off from a firing in the kiln. It’s not her typical medium, either — she came here primarily to work in the Ranch’s Digital Fabrication Lab and often works in two dimensions, not three — but has found in the residency the opportunity “to do the things that maybe have been in the corners” of her creative practice, she said.
“If they work, or (if) they fail, too, it’s been nice to have the space to experiment and really see what gels, or what fits together,” she said.
Dennis Scholl, the president and CEO of the Miami-based visual arts organization Oolite Arts and a longtime patron at Anderson Ranch, said that’s exactly the point of the “Home and Away” program, which is now in its third year at Anderson Ranch.
“I’ve got painters making ceramics, I’ve got filmmakers pouring bronze. … I think that they’re being brave and experimenting, and that is what this is about,” Scholl said.
It helps, the Oolite artists noted, that the community of resident artists and Ranch staffers alike are so supportive of that experimentation, and that the facilities at the Ranch are so readily available to dabble in different disciplines.
“Encouragement” is a word that comes up a lot in interviews with the resident artists; though they didn’t know each other well when they arrived on Feb. 2, they’re a tight-knit group now and will likely remain so when they head home March 9. The cohorts tend to keep in touch and collaborate with one another after participating in the “Home and Away” program, Scholl said.
The residency also gives artists the space — mental as much as physical — to stretch their bandwidth for introspection.
Travel, room and board are covered, and participants also receive a $2,500 unrestricted stipend. They each have a dedicated studio space at Anderson Ranch and the program is designed to foster free exploration of different disciplines and different ideas.
“This gave me a break from my own life,” said painter Reginald O’Neal, which, in turn, makes more time to mull, marinate and meditate — or as O’Neal describes it, “thinking about my own thoughts.”
“I’m diving more into my own perspective as far as life goes and just, like, things that I’ve found beautiful that are surrounding me,” O’Neal said.
Ravelo has experienced that too, taking the time to “sit with my own thoughts and really kind of unpack why I’m doing some of the things that I’m doing.” Her fellow artists in residence supported her in that process, she said.
“I think, especially as a woman, you’re taught that your feelings — you have to kind of minimize yourself,” Ravelo said. “And so I would do these things on the side as a supplement to my practice, and I think being here around everyone, and everyone being so open and receptive to it has really shown me that like, if this is important to you, just focus on that.”
The artists will head back to South Florida on March 9 — whether or not they’re ready to go. (The consensus, this year as with last, is that five weeks goes by perhaps a little too fast.) Some of their works will remain on display at Anderson Ranch’s Patton-Malott Gallery through March 25.
But the connection, Scholl said, is a lasting one. He splits his time between Miami and Aspen and has been coming here for nearly 28 years; in the “Home and Away” residency, he senses a “synergy” between the communities that he sees becoming a part of this region’s rich cultural history and community.
“I just feel a sense of joy that there’s this wonderful bond that’s been created between Aspen and Miami,” Scholl said.
On a recent trip to Spain, I discovered something that I believe tops the espresso martini. It’s called a barraquito.