Residency invites artists to historic Michigan paper mill
VICKSBURG, Mich. (AP) — While some see the crumbling remains of an old paper mill, others see a canvas riddled with art supplies, an acoustically unique concert hall or an open space to write.
The historic site of the Lee Paper Mill has become a workshop for artists brought from across the world to Vicksburg, Michigan through the Prairie Ronde Artist Residency.
The residency program started earlier this year and was made possible by Paper City Development, who owns the paper mill and plans to redevelop the historic site into a mixed-use facility. Plans for the site include a brewery and beer garden, restaurant, retail center, craft food and beverage production facility, offices, arts community, museum, 42 apartments and events spaces.
The redevelopment will continue a history of innovation in the area while ushering in creative minds, said John Kern, Paper City Development community outreach and Education coordinator.
“This is all part of the process,” Kern said. “The philosophy we have been taking on as we’ve been thinking about redeveloping the mill is, how can we create a place that convenes and celebrates creative people?”
This was the thought that inspired Kern to purse creating the art residency.
When accepted, each art resident gets a $500 travel grant and $2,000 stipend, along with creative reign in an outside studio space and areas of the paper mill for four to seven weeks. Artists have participated in the program with a range of projects in mind including creating art out of collected material from the mill, writing and editing in solitude, painting large murals across the wall and creating unique musical compositions.
“The artists that this has attracted so far have all been really keenly aware of the space in which they use as inspiration,” Kern said. “The really tailored their work to fit the space, and it’s a huge space.”
Though each applicant submits a general outline of what they plan to work on during their time in the program, many artists have changed direction after exposure to the mill and Vicksburg community, Kern said.
“People who find significance in sheets of peeled paint chips are important to have around,” he said.
The newest resident in the program, Sopho Tsiklauri, is a textile artist from the Republic of Georgia. She arrived in the United States at the beginning of August and, when shopping, found herself surrounded by a more affordable, larger variety of materials than she was used to in her home country.
“It’s really different in the U.S.,” Tsiklauri said. “Here you have so many materials you just can’t stop.”
With an abundance of supplies and a 420,000-square-foot building at her disposal, Tsiklauri changed her plan to incorporate larger textile installations, the Kalamazoo Gazette reported.
She also started a drawing on a large banner.
“When I start drawing, it just goes,” she said.
Tsiklauri said she has done residencies before, but this one has given her the most freedom over her work. Coming from the Republic of Georgia, a country about the size of North Carolina, she is used to there being far less money invested in the arts, she said.
“When it’s a little country, it’s a circle within artists,” she said.
Composer and guitarist Sean Harold is using the residency to work on multiple compositions. Looking to eventually hold a concert in the mill, Harold has been reworking one of his older guitar compositions with reverberation from the large space in mind.
“This guitar piece is definitely specifically about the space and trying to lay out what actually sounds good in there and what doesn’t and how-to kind of move between different worlds without it becoming a wash,” Harold said.
Harold said he is thrilled to work in the space because of how unique it is.
“Spaces don’t sound like that — even huge spaces don’t sound like that because they’re built not to sound like that. You build a giant concert hall, and you pay guys tons and tons of money to put in architectural designs and sound dampening systems, so if an orchestra plays it doesn’t sound like a cacophonous mess.”
If the room in the mill was used for orchestral piece, it would be a “disaster,” Harold said. As a composer, however, he can work with the space to write something exciting.
Residents in the program are required to give back to the community at some point during their residency, whether it be through a work shop, public show, open studio days or other activity, Kern said. One of the goals of the program is to have the community take in the resident as well as the program is established.
“Going into town on a Friday afternoon with an artist who’s just arrived to the community and having someone walk up to you and say, ‘Oh, are you our new artist?’” I’m thrilled by that,” Kern said.
Information from: Kalamazoo Gazette, http://www.mlive.com/kalamazoo