An acme lab for artists
April 7, 2009
Having Kirsten Stolle in town makes art an easy sell for gallery owner Julie Nester. Stolle, one of 10 artists invited to live at the Silver Star condos for a month this spring, plans to cap her time in Park City with a public lecture May 1 at Julie Nester Gallery.
In the meantime, she’ll spend hours every day ripping pages from botany books and slapping acrylic and encaustic paint on them. The collection, what she hopes will be a portfolio of plant life 500 years hence, will be on exhibit at Nester’s space on Ironhorse Drive.
Nester and a client milled around Stolle’s assigned studio space at Spiro Monday afternoon, amused at the process and scope of her work. "It’s nice to bring clients up here to meet Kristen, to promote work she has done here," Nester explained. More generally Spiro’s artist-in-residence program, now in its second year, exposes everyday people to the often messy business of creation. For the next two months, writers, sculptors, musicians and performers will teach classes and lectures as part of the program, even as focus remains trained on the process, said Spiro’s program coordinator Justin Parisi-Smith.
"It’s time for an artist to explore new ideas with new people in a new space," he said.
Stolle’s residency started April 2. She had to sublet her apartment in San Francisco to come to Park City, but the chance to leave behind the distractions of home are well worth the hassle, she said. And the change in scenery is sure to show in her work. Running along a trail this weekend, she met her first magpie.
"They’re getting acclimated already," said Kathryn Stedham, Spiro’s executive director. Lectures and classes, to be scheduled in the next couple of weeks, are just some of the perks of having artists as neighbors. Some perks to locals, like branding Park City as an art destination, are hard for people to grasp. But that doesn’t make them any less real, Stedham said. "I don’t see artists-in-residence as separate from the community," she said. "These artists become ambassadors for Park City. After they come here, they want to come back time and time again."
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Even though the artist-in-residents program is young, Stedham can rattle off a list of payoffs. One of last year’s residents will open an exhibit in New York City featuring art made here last year. Another artist from 2008 will return as an instructor at Spiro. "These guys are some of the best in the field," offered Silver Star manager Rory Murphy. "They give Silver Star a soul."
If the public benefits of an artist-in-residence program remain intangible to some, benefits to artists are readily appreciated.
With Spiro’s modest stipend, Stolle said she feels less overwhelmed by the rollercoaster economy. And the camaraderie of working in close proximity with other artists offers rewards, too. "It’s important for artists to talk to each other, just to be in a common space, whether the conversations are political or not," she said. "Most of the time, artists are in studios by themselves. It gets a little stir crazy."
Marin Abell, a sculptor from Virginia, works in the space beside Stolle. Spiro Arts is his first residency program, and the first of a handful he will attend this year. Abell does performance-based studies of sound. For his current project, he and a partner, dressed as orange-and-white striped radio towers, will spread a Zip-line 1,000 feet across ravines and canyons, and then send a portable radio across. A kind of high-concept "Jackass" stunt, Abell plans to film the excursions, focusing on how geography affects sound.
After all, 70 percent of communication is miscommunication, said Abell, a Ohio University graduate. As part of his residency, Abell will teach a class at the Kimball Art Center as well as art classes at Park City High School. Tricksters should take note: Abell once rigged a bike to move backwards when pedaled, and he regularly enters competitive races. "Futility is built into my work," he said.
Spiro Arts is named after an early prospector. Certain silver lay deep within the mountains, he drilled for two miles without hitting anything but hardship. Financially sapped, he sold the property to another company; they drilled 30 feet deeper and struck silver.
The story may seem tragicomic, but it is an apt metaphor for artists, Stedham said. Spiro followed a vision he knew to be true. He gave up only because he didn’t have the resources to continue. "My artists have a vision and they digging so they can strike silver," Stedham said. "We’re all artists. This is a program for artists, by artists."