Step inside and be inspired |

Step inside and be inspired

Art can be the way a piece of charcoal marks up a paper or how letters form the words that snap themselves into tight rhythmic sentences. It may be the colorful splash of acrylic on canvas or revealed through the lucidity of film.

The Spiro Arts Residency program gives artists of these and other disciplines the time and place to explore the pleasures, pain and need to create, finish or sharpen new works.

Since June 13, four – charcoal artist Robin Smith, novelist Laura van den Berg, filmmaker Katja Straub and painter Kim Krause – have worked on their respective projects and are ready to share some of their projects with the public.

Spiro Arts will present a free open-studio event at the Spiro Arts central studio, 1825 Three Kings Dr. at Silver Star, on Friday, July 22 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Refreshments will be provided by Silver Star Café.

Robin Smith

Robin Smith, who hails from Denver, Colo., had lots of interests in college. She majored in literature at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. Upon graduation, she decided to "devote some serious time to art" and spent the next year pursuing a post-baccalaureate in fine art at Burren College of Art in Ireland.

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Although she has tried different artistic disciplines, including photography and painting, drawing is her true love.

"There’s something about the mark-making quality and the intimacy and the immediacy and the way you can see every visual decision in evidence on the paper," Smith told The Park Record during an interview session at Spiro Arts. "Touching charcoal on paper makes me so happy. I love seeing the turn of events in my pieces that go beyond my expectations.

"Not only do I like drawing, but I always gravitate to drawings in museums," she said. "My eyes love them and my heart likes to make them."

Smith, whose black and white depictions of nature, needs to share her work with others.

"I feel I have a very specific way of viewing the natural world, even the little sticks that other people will trample on," she said. "I take time to observe and translate them into a piece that hopefully provides people that quiet place to look at the beauty."

Smith has enjoyed the Spiro Arts residency because of its communal feel.

"I love it up here because we are all part of this community, and having a shared studio space makes a difference in terms of your energy and ideas that come into play," she said.

Smith’s new works were inspired by her last residency on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington a few months ago.

"I’ve developed a trend where I will spend a residency reflecting on the last one I did, so I’ll be thinking of Park City during the next one," she said with a laugh.

Laura van den Berg

Laura van den Berg, who calls Baltimore, Md., her home, began writing after a series of fortunate events.

"First off, I realized that I have no aptitude for visual arts," van den Berg said with a laugh. "Secondly when I was in college as a psychology major, two things happened simultaneously. I found I couldn’t do math, which was a problem for any sort of science-based profession, and I took a fiction class on a whim as an elective and I started reading contemporary short fiction."

The reading assignments captivated van den Berg, who was one of those kids who had to be forced to do her summer reading in high school.

"I always thought of literature as being this dusty old thing, but as I read, I found voices that were relevant and spoke to me in a world that I recognized," she said. "I began writing stories to fulfill the class assignments and they quickly grew into one of my primary focal points."

Initially, van den Berg considered writing poetry.

"I found I had no aptitude for that either, but I did find I really loved storytelling and loved working with characters," she said. "I came to understand that as a writer and reader, I had that ability to live all these different lives without leaving my desk."

Van den Berg is working on a novel and she is using the residency to revise her draft.

"It’s finished, but I needed to have time to sort through it to find what I have and see if there is anything else I need," she said. "I have also written a new short story since I’ve been here." Katja Straub

Katja Straub said her desire to make films developed gradually and organically.

"I actually wanted to be a painter and wanted to study painting and learn the techniques so I could do it professionally," said the German-born Straub. "I did an apprenticeship at the German Opera to be a scene painter, which used the old-master style way to paint in layers. Doing that for three years took the painting out of me. I couldn’t approach painting in the way I was supposed to, which is from the heart."

So Straub, who is now based in Connecticut, moved into production design and did some video installations.

"Once I found video, I realized it incorporated all the things I was interested in painting, space and storytelling," she said. "Film was the end-station for me."

Straub makes documentaries, shorts and narratives.

"To me (the styles) are not so different," she said. "I’m always trying to find the subtext and the story that has to do more with the heart than the brain. I’m not so interested in facts as much as I’m interested in the realm between reality and imagination that gives images to that intangible thing that is found in the subjects’ minds. And that also leaves room for viewers to find their own interpretations."

Filmmaking doesn’t come easy for Straub.

"There are people who say you don’t have to struggle to make art, and I want so much for that to be true with me, however, when something is easy, it’s not a very interesting to me," she said. "I feel you have to go through a hard time to get to someplace that is worthwhile.

"Throughout every process, I feel like I’m going to fail," she said. "I hate that feeling and don’t want to glorify it, but it happens all the time, and I’m at that point where I can’t imagine the process without that feeling."

Straub’s residency project is a feature-length film.

"I’ve done a number of shorts and now I want to make a feature," she said. "I had a vague idea of what it could be, and since I’ve been in Park City, I wanted to take the time to flesh out the story and start writing. It’s funny, because now I am reminded how impatient I am. I’m at the first layer, like when I was painting the layers at the German Opera, and it looks like junk."

Kim Krause

Kim Krause originally thought he was going to be an architect.

"When I worked my first co-op job, before computers, I was known as ‘Desk 24,’" said Krause, who calls Cincinnati, Ohio, home. "All of us were facing this beautiful glassed-in office and we were all waiting for the head designer to keel over so we could move up one desk."

That’s when Krause decided he didn’t have time to spend another day in his station.

"I took a year off and went back to art school," he said. "I had always been interested in visual arts, but never really good at. So I was lucky to work with great people as an undergraduate student, and they got me going."

After working as an artist for few years, Krause when through another change.

"I started out wanting to control everything," he said. "I wanted a clear sense of idea and then implement the idea. I would do a series of drawings and then make a big copy of it. The drawings were fun because they started from nothing, but the painting was nothing but a large copy of the drawing, which was unfulfilling."

So, Krause went to graduate school to learn how not to be such a control monger.

"It’s taken me about 30 years to get to a place where I don’t know what I’m doing," he said with a smile. "It sounds odd, but I think that’s what powers my sense of creativity. I love starting projects. I don’t know how it’s going to happen and I can’t make it happen. But it does.

"My method is like golf," he said. "I tee off and the ball goes anywhere it wants, but it always comes down to the last stroke where the ball goes into the cup."

Initially, Krause’s residency project was going to be in black and white.

"I knew when I arrived that it wasn’t going to work because it is so colorful here," he said. "I then picked up some acrylics, which I haven’t picked up on this scale for 30 years, because a residency like this gives you enormous amounts of time to work on something. You meet extraordinary people and you absorb your environment. I found myself wanting to incorporate a lot blues in the works, because Cincinnati doesn’t have blue skies.

"I also got hit by a pickup truck in front of Fresh Market while I was here," he said. "So the yellow in the work represents the yellow bumper. We’ll see how it all turns out."

Spiro Arts will present a open-studio event featuring works by Robin Smith, Laura van den Berg, Katja Straub and Kim Krause, at the Spiro Arts central studio, 1825 Three Kings Dr. at Silver Star, on Friday, July 22 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Refreshments will be provided by Silver Star Cafe. Admission is free. For more information, visit