Many of the early residencies were Open Call, meaning that they were available to all categories of artists – visual, literary, musical, and performing – and that they were also open to artists at any stage of their careers – emerging artists, well-established artists, art teachers and artists returning to former careers in the arts. These residencies were publicly announced and available to artists from anywhere in the world. These residencies typically lasted one month and were awarded based on the seriousness of purpose, harmony with the mission of A Studio in the Woods, quality of the art, and the creative use of the studio’s time, space, and natural environment. Artists were encouraged to interact with the public, some elected to have an informal community dinner at the end of their residency while others gave readings, held open studios to exhibit work created while in residency, or gave informal talks on their work and the residency experience.
Stephen Dankner, composer, New Orleans, LA, 2004
“My residency at A Studio In The Woods was scheduled for the two weeks from December 19, 2004 through January 2, 2005. I am a composer; my project was to accomplish some or all of the following: to undertake and make progress on the orchestration of a “Serenade” for small orchestra (this is a 17-minute, four movement work for 18 musicians), and if time permitted, to begin the composition of a projected three-movement “Eighth Symphony”. This work was commissioned by the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra for their 2006-’07 season. Both of these projects are very elaborate. I would have anticipated that each would have taken well over two months to complete, under normal working conditions at home.
“I am very happy to report that I completed the orchestration in the first instance, and have completed one and one-half movements of the Symphony as well. I had not anticipated that I would be so prolific in my work while at ASITW. As the following statement will show, this was inevitable, give the unique environment ASITW affords.
“The environment at ASITW is perfect in all respects for solitary work, done in concentrated detail. The atmosphere (woods, scenery, rustic cabin, closeness to nature), combined with the isolation from the city and its distractions was perfect. Upon my arrival at ASITW from the city, I had virtually no difficulties in making the transition to this glorious location. Not only were all the physical necessities properly prepared for my arrival by the owners of the colony, Joe and Lucianne Carmichael, but the impact of arriving at this pristine natural environment immediately set my mood and esthetic in the ideal frame to begin my work. From day one I “hit the ground running”, as the saying goes.
“The care taken by the Carmichaels to ensure my uninterrupted residency at ASITW was extraordinary. I have attended three artist colonies, and can state that no greater concern for the artist and her/his work was made evident than that which I experienced at ASITW.
“In fact, the lively conversations and meaningful relationships that I established with Lucianne and Joe contributed hugely to my sense of well-being, and to the production of work I accomplished at ASITW; they were true and tangible sources of my inspiration.
“It is my hope that future caretakers of the colony realize that something important and very special is going on at ASITW. The Carmichaels have nurtured this place as if it were a living entity, and it shows. I hope that ASITW has a long and glorious lifespan, and that it continues to provide the unique haven from the world that artists need and cherish. My support for this concept and for this particular place is undying. I will always remember the work I did here and the gift that being here was for me. I have dedicated my “Eighth Symphony” to the Carmichaels in gratitude. I hope to see them “front and center” in the first balcony of the Orpheum Theater for the premiere with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra in two years, where they will be the guests of honor, believe me.”
Stephen Dankner: B.A., New York University; M.A., Queens College; D.M.A. The Juilliard School. Since 1985 Dr. Dankner has composed more than 60 works, including seven symphonies, seven string quartets, five concerti (two for piano, one each for violin, cello and alto saxophone); three major song cycles; sonatas for violin, piano, alto saxophone, cello; three piano trios; two orchestral tone poems; background environmental music for the New Orleans Aquarium of the Americas, film scores and much solo piano music. Dankner was commissioned by the Audubon Institute to compose a state-of-the-art computer-controlled electronic music installation to be part of the permanent exhibitry for the Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans. Recent commissions include works for the National Symphony Orchestra and the Louisiana Philharmonic. His last three symphonies have been premiered by the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra. He has been on the faculty of the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts|Riverfront, a pre-professional arts conservatory at the high school level for 18 years- eleven as Chair of the Music Program. Dr. Dankner also teaches part time at the Loyola University College of Music (music composition, computer music notation and orchestration).
COMPOSER-IN-RESIDENCE: Stephen Dankner is Composer-in-Residence with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra. His three year term begins March, 2004. He also serves as outreach coordinator for the LPO, acting as audience liason, building audiences and raising the visibility for classical music in the greater New Orleans region for underserved and potential concert-going populations.
PUBLICATIONS AND RECORDINGS: Seven CD recordings on the Albany, Centaur, Gasparo and Romeo labels. Second Symphony, Sonata for Alto Saxophone and Piano and Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra published by Ries & Erler, Berlin, Germany. The composer’s music is the subject of four doctoral dissertations from the University of Maryland (2), University of Texas and the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
PERFORMANCES/COMMISSIONS: Commissioned works performed by the National Symphony Orchestra, and the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, and several others in the United States and abroad. Many chamber music performances in Europe, Asia and throughout the United States. Visiting composer, Aspen Music Festival, 1994. Composer-in-Residence for “Faith Partners” residency sponsored by a grant from the American Composers Forum, 2001. State of Louisiana Division of the Arts vocal music commission (2002). Composed Toccata- required solo piano work for the New Orleans International Piano Competition. Commission for the Albany Symphony for an orchestral work for the 2004-’05 season. Premiere performances of his Seventh and Eighth Symphonies will be given by the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra within the next several seasons
AWARDS AND FELLOWSHIPS: Dr. Dankner was twice the recipient of a Louisiana Arts Fellowship in music composition (1983 and 1998). State of Louisiana Division of the Arts Mini-Grants (3- 1998-2003). Winner, William Lincer International Composition Award for Piano Quartet (2001). Winner, OARE String Orchestra Prize (2004). Dr. Dankner has been awarded composition residency fellowships to Yaddo (2001), the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (2002 and 2003) and the Millay Colony (2003). He has also received the Margaret Fairbank Jory grant from the American Music Center (2003) for his Symphony No. 5. Recipient of $5000. SURDNA Arts Teachers Fellowship Award for work on his Eighth Symphony (2004).
Krista Franklin, poet, Chicago, IL, 2004
“There is a state that I call ‘dreamspace.’ It is the place (both mental and physical) where emergent creative processes can thrive. A Studio in the Woods provided me with dreamspace. Surrounded by nature and beauty, I was able to begin conceiving and writing the work for my next poetry manuscript, my words being carefully ushered in by the natural rhythms of the woods. I am eternally grateful to have had the opportunity to create here and to begin forging a new community here. ”
Krista Franklin is a poet, visual artist and educator who hails from Dayton, OH, and currently works and resides in Chicago, IL. Her work has appeared in the literary journals and websites, Nexus Literary and Art Journal, milk, Warpland, Obsidian III, nocturnes 2: (re)view of the literary arts, www.milkmag.org and www.ambulant.org. She has also been published in the anthologies The Bust Guide to the New Girl Order and Bum Rush The Page: a def poetry jam. She is a Cave Canem fellow, and was a featured poet in the 2000 New Voices New Worlds Series in St. Louis, MO.
Deedra Ludwig, painter, Port Townsend, WA, 2004
“My time here has been in rhythm with the river. Creativity flowing like the currents. Steady. Sometimes spiraling downward into depths of contemplation and sometimes flowing with great ease of motion, light and free, but always with the movement of never knowing what I will find around the next bend. Constantly changing, constantly flowing to somewhere else.
“My residency here has served my artistic needs well. I feel renewed with a deeper sense of purpose. Each day here has helped validate the importance of my relationship with art and how I am connected with the direct healing of communities.”
As a painter I am deeply influenced by my surroundings. Over the past twenty years I have traveled to many parts of the world with my canvas, paper and paints. I have spent days working on site, letting the work absorb the energies of the land. I collect soil, plants and rock and include these elements into the work. The paintings are records of the environment and record cycles of change both natural and those effected by the presence of human beings. I received a BFA from NYU and an MFA from University of Sussex, Brighton, UK. My work is included in private collections across the US and abroad including Emory U, the Brighton Art Museum, The Tensar Foundation, the National Board of Education, Department of ecology State of CA, the Tokia Foundation, Japan and the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center. I received a Fulbright Fellowship in 1990.
Jane Marshall, painter and printmaker, Birmingham, AL, 2003
“My three-week stay has meaning for me beyond words. It has been a quiet time of awe to behold this environment. My journey as an artist has taken many turns, but this has profoundly affected the art I created here and will continue to affect the vision of my expression. The passion was renewed and my belief reinforced. This journey to A Studio In The Woods will be with me forever.”
Jane Marshall is an artist of great versatility and depth. She is a painter, printmaker, sculptor, fabric and book artist who goes deeply into her subject matter including nature and the great themes and figures of history, mythology and literature. Jane is deeply involved in the natural environment and its preservation and subject matter for all forms of her artwork as she spends hours at a time in one spot quietly observing and drawing the wild and plant life around her before she even begins her artwork.
Sheryl St. Germain, writer, Ames, IA, 2005
“I sat on the swing outside my studio the first day of my residency, amazed and moved by my surroundings. The air was cool and green thanks to the trees, and the water in the pond was thick and dark, inviting reflection. A snake, its head held high, slithered through the water. Iris and angel’s trumpets were in bloom. Two cardinals, red as blood, flew back and forth from one side of the pond to the other, singing. A prothonotory warbler, looking like a bright yellow sun, perched on a branch near me, proclaiming. I could see crawfish chimneys on the ground, beautiful structures that looked to be made of bubbles of mud. A red-tailed hawk rushed overhead, into the forest, then an egret landed delicately on the edge of the pond. From deep in the canopy of the forest, an owl hooted, and something deeper beyond growled, could it be a tiger? I could hear the jazz of the river in the distance as boats moved their broad bodies through the waters. A green anole paced up and down on the railing to the deck, doing pushups and expanding its pink throat sac. A crow cawed, and the owl hooted again.
“Heaven, I thought, for anyone who loves Louisiana as much as I. Or at least the Garden of Eden.
What had I come here to do? What had I said I was going to write? I could no longer remember. The charismatic personality of the Louisiana landscape had got hold of me, and I could feel its world entering me, my skin, my eyes, my mouth. The anole stopped its pacing and turned from green to brown. He eyed me suspiciously. I returned the gaze, and we sat, locked like that, woman and lizard, for what seemed like several minutes. Memories of my past in the Louisiana landscape washed over me. I remembered these lizards from my childhood. I remembered these sounds and sights from my childhood (well, except for the tiger!).
“The first lyric essay I completed at the studio was based on memories the anole gave me. Because of the way the anole had spurred both memory and inspiration, I decided I needed to keep myself open to the environment, to imagine myself as translator of what I was experiencing while in this special place.
“Several other gifts came my way during my time at the studio. A walk in the forest with botanist David Baker taught me how imperiled the forest was, and what needed to be done to restore it. I felt like the forest myself, in need of restoration, and I began to write about the forest, to visit it, sometimes unprotected from bugs and poison ivy and snakes (I do not recommend this!). I wanted to meet the forest on its own terms, to go to it as unprotected and vulnerable as it was. I would walk into the forest and sit down with my journal and a glass of wine, look and listen and write. I wanted to try to hear the forest’s language.
“I did the same with the River, walking up to the levee with my journal, sitting, looking and listening, trying to hear and see anew. I went with no plan, no preconceived notions, with only a desire to listen. One evening on the levee I wrote for an hour without stopping, not knowing what I was writing or where it was coming from, though it felt like there were benevolent spirits all around me, and indeed I am certain I felt the power of the Mississippi, which didn’t care one way or another that I was sitting on its banks.
“A visit with Joe Carmichael to the Endangered Species Research Center to help feed the whooping cranes and sand hill cranes inspired another piece. I learned the growling I had been hearing at night was in fact the growling of lions and tigers housed at the Center. I rode my bike every day on the river road and found amazing treasures in the ditch that lined the road –swamp lilies, iris, cattails, sensitive briar plant, and wild garlic, that inspired other pieces. A visit to Algiers Point revealed intriguing histories and paradoxes that motivated me to design a large project it will take years to complete, though I was able to do much valuable research for this project while in Louisiana. Trips to the French Quarter, a visit to a friend’s garden, the stories Joe and Lucianne shared with me evenings as we sat together and ate, all seemed sacred gifts, many of which will wind up in an essay or poem.
“I was able to complete significant drafts of four lyric essays, rough drafts for another six, and notes for several more. I was able to finish two essays on forgiveness that had been very difficult for me to write, though I had tried, before coming to the studio. The essays dealt with difficult, emotionally raw material, and I’m certain I was only able to complete them because I felt so safe and nurtured in this environment.
“I had come to this place depleted—as this forest has been by Chinese privet—by a demanding job that seemed to take more and more of my imaginative energy, and by a personal tragedy that had also sapped my spirit, heart and mind. I hardly knew who I was when I drove up the gate or how I would find the energy to begin what I had said I was going to begin. When David showed me the young oaks that were trying to grow in the forest, the ones that kept being held back because of the understory of privet, and when he told me that any individual tree can only try so many times to break through to the canopy before it gives up, I understood, because I felt like those young oaks.
“Tragedy followed me even to this place, as I learned, a week into my residency that my garage had burned down and the fire had almost taken my house in Iowa. Because of the beauty and calm and nurturance provided by ASITW and its staff, particularly Joe and Lucianne Carmichael, I was able to continue to work, almost without stopping, during the disturbing phone calls I had to make and receive regarding the fire, and afterwards. This ability to concentrate on creative work despite a tragedy would have been impossible for me in any other kind of environment.
“Not all artists will arrive here as wounded as I, but I can’t imagine that any artist who is open to the language of the environment that surrounds them would not feel restored and their spirit and creativity fed.
“As important as the environment was, I don’t think I would have been as successful or felt so good about being here had Joe and Lucianne not been so generous in sharing their stories with me, and food, and listening to mine. Their quiet, genuinely supportive and caring presence created a sense of community I have never found at any of the numerous artist’s communities I’ve attended.
“It rained one day during my residency. The rain washed the air and picked up the scent of the trees, the soil, the flowers. It freshened the air, and for hours I sat on the porch listening to the rain and smelling the fragrance of the forest. I like to think of that day of rain when I remember how I felt when I left the studio, with bundles of words and essays and ideas, the poetry with which this place had gifted me. Like the rain-freshened air, I had been washed and blessed with the life of the forest and its denizens.”
New Orleans native Sheryl St. Germain is a widely published author of poetry, essays and creative non-fiction. Winner of prestigious awards such as, two NEA Fellowships, an NEH Fellowship, the Dobie-Paisano Fellowship, and the William Faulkner award for the personal essay, she is Associate Professor of English at Iowa State University, where she teaches both poetry and creative non-fiction writing. Her poetry books include Going Home, The Mask of Medusa, Making Bread at Midnight, How Heavy the Breath of God, and The Journals of Scheherazade. Swamp Songs: The Making Of an Unruly Woman, a collection of lyric essays, was published in 2003 by University of Utah Press.
Alexis Wreden, sculptor and landscape architect, Ruston, LA, 2004
“‘The secret of seeing is to sail on solar wind. Hone and spread your spirit till you yourself are a sail, whetted, translucent, broadside to the merest puff.’”
Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek pp.31-34 from Peter London, Drawing in Nature pp.61.
“Is there a consensus –out there –among artists about the most important conditions (physical, spiritual, emotional) that must be present for art making or creativity? I’m almost certain there must be a chemical change in our bodies which enables us to become open to the process of making and thinking about art or music or literature –completely and without restraint. Whether chemical or “alchemical”, I think I may have discovered the exact conditions for creativity and in my case, art making at “A Studio in the Woods” in Lower Algiers, Louisiana.
“During my residency there I found the time and the space to be open to the experience and meaning of an artist studio (a place solely for writing or making art or music). I found the time and space to be open to the experience of the bottomland hardwood forest (a place to be curious and for aimless wandering). I found the time and space to see and stand next to the Mississippi River (a place to witness the clashing forces of culture and nature.) The restoration of the meaning of place is the gift of this artist residency for me.
“I have also found other precious aspects of life I have never before been privileged to see. I enjoyed the full– three-dimensional experience of A Studio in the Woods without the distractions of ordinary responsibilities through the physicality of a restored world. One without the constant humm of the air-conditioners. My body was comfortably aware of the warmth of the summer as I watched the light change moment by moment as it moved across the sky from east to west. The exciting streams of floating particles of light in the morning and glorious golden energy awakening the full glow of the woods from forest floor to the sky at sunset. A daytime chorus kept me company through the myriad concertos of frogs and barred owls and of newly discovered jazz musicians as distant strains of trumpet melodies soaked through the boughs of the huge trees.
“The rhythmic clicking sound of the overhead fan at night comforted me, as I lay on my bed half awake. Aware of the presence of the miraculous balancing act of the old live oak and the young “rooting” armadillo. I listened to the horns of huge industrial ships gliding down the dark waters of the not so distant Mississippi. I bonded with a big black dog.
“This artist life was made possible on a daily basis by the kind people who live there, Lucianne and Joe Carmichael and by the people who work there, Ama Rogan and Dave Baker. The fullness of existence was impressive, as the required presence of people a grant writer, land steward, musician and a pair of loving mentors gathered. I was given three meals a day and absolute refusal of any banal responsibilities I might want to assume in order to guarantee my special time as an artist. In a world of commodities and war this experience was a privilege I would wish for the entire world.”
Alexis Wreden, is an artist and Assistant Professor in the School of Architecture at Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, Louisiana. She holds a Masters of Fine Arts degree in sculpture from Indiana University, Bloomington and a Masters in Landscape Architecture from the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University. Her drawings and environmental art works are inspired by the wetland landscapes of Louisiana.
She proposes site-specific sculpture installations that use landforms as part of the artwork’s vocabulary. These installations combine art, architecture and landscape architecture to create forms that recall primitive dwellings, temporary shelters and abstract art. Ms. Wreden’s work is influenced by her love of the natural world, of drawing, of her commitment to environmental issues, and of her role as a teacher of design and drawing. She lives in Ruston, Louisiana with her dogs Walter and Zona and her husband Robert Fakelmann.
Reggie Young, writer, Lafayette, LA, 2005
“Unlike some of the previous residents, my work has more to do with concrete monstrosities and pollution urban sunsets than the natural world, but that might be why the time I spent at A Studio in the Woods was more constructive than it might have been if I spent it alone in a New York City brownstone. Retreating to the woods to write may seem like an old fashion, romantic notion, especially for someone who writes about anything but the natural world, but my experience at A Studio in the Woods was one of the most productive of my entire career. One of the popular notions about retreats is that through isolation writers find themselves forced to write, but a good retreat places a writer in a situation where she or he is free to write, and that’s the environment I found myself in during my residency. At A Studio in the Woods, I found myself liberated from the concerns of teaching, home life, and the world at large and empowered to engage myself in the process of constructing my own fictive realities. I went there with the idea of doing some revision work an old novel manuscript and to finish a short story. At the end of my three weeks residency, I left with a full draft of a completely novel.”
Reggie Young is a fiction writer and poet from Chicago, and he is currently a professor in the Department of English at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. He, along with Marcia Gaudet, compiled and edited Mozart and Leadbelly: Stories and Essays by Ernest J. Gaines and wrote the introduction to the collection (Knopf, fall 2005). He is the recipient of an ATLAS Fellowship from the Board of Regents of the State of Louisiana, which will support the research for his upcoming critical book—Phantom Limbs Dancing Juba Rites: The Secular Rituals of “Marvelous” Spiritual Realism in Black Art Expressive Texts (Palgrave McMillan, spring 2007). His novel, Crimes in Bluesville, will be available from iUniverse in the fall of 2005.