Special Invitation Residencies are provided when two needs can be met in one residency – the need of a particular artist to have the opportunity for self-restoration and creation of new work, and the wider community’s benefit from that new work. One example was the 2003-2004 residency of Dr. Michael White in which he let go of all his regular obligations in order to rest, study early jazz masters, and to compose new songs. The subsequent performance of his new recordings in a public concert attended by over 1000 people and entitled “Jazz out of the Woods” stands as a significant musical contribution to the wider community and to the roots of this art form.
Ada Bidiuc, Creative Writer – Partnership with Tulane University, New Orleans, LA, 2008
“I came to the Studio in the Woods towards evening, after the last round of exams and papers. I drove until I was out of the New Orleans and down a tangle of highways, until the roads got smaller and the trees got thicker. The only thing that marked the entrance were a pair of iron gates surrounded by lush vegetation; in the fanciful script looping at the top, I made out the word “Studio” and entered, feeling transported.
“The grounds were quiet, glades and glimpses of water and gardens visible at the edge of the forest. Multiple choirs of birds fluttered and sang at intervals in the airy cupolas of the tallest trees. The profuse greenery was spackled with bright yellow wildflowers. Mz. Lucianne Carmichael welcomed me in and took me on a tour of one of the most fascinating houses and studios ever seen in the tradition of woodland cottages. The dim, airy heights of the art rooms, the lofts upstairs, the porcelain sink against a thin flowered curtain, the wide white spaces of the writer’s room – they seemed put together over a long time, as organic as art itself, ideas mushrooming in a cool, orderly, whimsical way. The tile-work in the luxurious bathroom, where I wiggled around like a minnow in the massive tub, happily letting an entire year of stress slip down the drain, the long table where Mz. Lucianne served dinner every evening – everything seemed to designed to breathe life into the participant.
“Wary of my blissful joy after a morning lying out on a porch by the pond, I sat down to do work, and found that for the first time in a long time, I could. I drove past the levee and looked at the solid slab of the sky pressing down on top of it, I drank cool white wine under the whirr of fans in the evening and read, I made friends with the tabby that sat enthroned upon the rocker. The caretakers of the Studio somehow create an aura of care and consideration that permeates every endeavor; the vegetable garden, the comfortable quarters, the pleasant company in the evening were all pieces that fit together to create a beautiful experience. I’ve never been aided like this in the endeavor to snatch my soul back from the jaws of the Dionysian salt-mine that is 20-something life in America.
“I am grateful to the founders and stewards of the Studio in the Woods, and to Tulane University for this gift. I cannot wait to return.”
Peter Cole, Writer and Photographer, England, 2006
Mollie Day, Poet and Environmental Journalist, New Orleans, LA, 2008
“As I was leaving ASITW I crossed paths with Lucianne and Joe, returning from their evening walk. As the autumn sun was setting, cool air filtered through the trees along the path to the road. I was terribly sad that this second day was my last at the studio. I had had a much needed, religious experience in reconnecting with the earth on their property.
“ASITW is an amazing place. It has a very concentrated, positive, natural and spirited energy. This is true in part because of the Carmichaels and the staff are all exceptionally tuned into – and a part of – the natural ecosystem that they are nurturing through its process of reclamation. The other part of the tremendous energy that envelopes ASITW comes from the artists who witness and also love this land. I was just beginning to explore this amazing place when it became time to go.
“The book of poetry that I am presently working on is about how man is destroying the land. I already knew that Lucianne is a very intuitive person. So it isn’t a surprise that on the walkway from the road to the house, at sundown, Lucianne brought up Margaret Mead’s theory on how the world will be a different place when all the children born after 1941 are gone. “Children born after 1941,” after the previously unthinkable atomic destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, “will know that the world can be destroyed,” said Lucianne.
“We talked about how the world might have changed since Mead had made that statement. We talked about how in her teaching days she had brought a group of her so-called “troubled” students onto the property at ASITW and how when they stepped off the bus into the woods they changed. They didn’t fight or pick on each other; they got along the whole time there were there. We talked about hope and opportunity, dreams for dreamers, just two days before the US nominated its first African American president.
“We all know how violent New Orleans is, and how in poor, African American kids in this town are drawn deeply into violence, it’s a huge part of the culture. In 2008, in order to be hip, the black youth of New Orleans have to be violent. (New Orleans had, perhaps still has, the title of “most violent city,” by decree of the fact that we have more violent crimes per capita, committed here than anywhere in the country.) Lucianne and I talked too briefly as dusk settled on the road.
“Then it was time to go, so I crossed back over that vast chasm between natural beauty and urban environment. New Orleans, for all the beauty it has, is practically void of birds, and definitively void of wilderness.
“I feel that the conversation that was begun at ASITW has a long way to go in my work and in our world. I am struggling to find my way toward my next encounter with nature – imagine that this is difficult!!
“My time at ASITW was mystical and wondrous. My meditation in the woods and in the garden meadow were profound; since my meditation techniques are novice, I think what happened to me there speaks very highly of the space and its very powerful, evolving eco-community. The spirits – not the birds, vegetation and light alone, but the invisible matter that holds them together and plays upon them – spoke to me and showed me incredible beauty.
“I hope to get back to ASITW or some place like it, and soon. I feel lost now, somewhat hopeless, as I watch cars pass rather than sunlight feeding ferns, and speckled elderberry branches arching, as my infant son does, to nurse in the morning light.
“I want to thank the Carmichaels, the staff and the artists who made this space what it is and made it available, so that others might know it exists – for we too often forget.
“Lots of people imagined that citizens of the US would NEVER elect an African American president. One could also very easily imagine think that we will never solve the tremendous environmental crisis we are facing today. And we can’t say that nature is the remedy for violent tendencies. As I continue to write poetry about Louisiana’s wilderness and New Orleans’ culture I hope to find some seemingly impossible explanation for what violence against nature is, why we do it and what it does to us.
“Along the way I hope to express as much natural beauty as possible – taking nothing and leaving only my love imprinted on the land.”
James Langlois, Creative Writer – Partnership with Tulane University, New Orleans, LA, 2007
Article from Tulane’s New Wave: Studio Offers Space to Read, Write, Retreat by Carol J. Schlueter
For a Tulane senior with a promising career as a short-story writer or novelist, it was the perfect graduation gift. A week before the May 19 commencement ceremony, soon-to-be Tulane graduate James Langlois went into creative seclusion for seven days in the first residency partnership between the Tulane English department and A Studio in the Woods.
The studio is an artists’ retreat situated on eight acres of bottomland hardwood forest on the West Bank of Orleans Parish. Founded by Joe and Lucianne Carmichael, the studio and its acreage were donated to Tulane University in 2004.
The partnership with the Tulane English department is a new one, and Langlois is the first to be able to take advantage of the creative study time at the studio. He was chosen for the award by the department’s core faculty members in creative writing — Paula Morris, Peter Cooley and Dale Edmonds.
“Professor Cooley and I chose James for the inaugural Studio in the Woods residency because he’s a highly regarded graduating senior,” Morris said. “We knew he would make good use of his time at the residency — he’s a very diligent and disciplined young writer, extremely motivated and committed to developing his own work. We wanted a student who would revel in both the opportunity and the challenge of it, and James was the obvious choice.”
As he was preparing for his May 12-17 residency at the studio, Langlois said he was excited about the opportunity and ready to work on his new short story. “There also is a novel outline I’m making my initial way through,” he added. “And I plan to read a lot of books I don’t have time to read.” The English major has always wanted to be a writer. “I’ve been on that trajectory my entire life,” he said.
Gaurav Desai, chair of the English department, said the residency is sponsored by a Creative Writing Fund that was established earlier this year. The fund has allowed the department to host a number of student-oriented activities in creative writing as well as campus visits from such renowned authors as Toni Morrison. “As we began to look at enhancing the undergraduate student experience in creative writing, the Studio in the Woods stood out as a clear site for a partnership,” Desai said. “It is a wonderfully harmonious environment in which we felt creativity is sure to flourish. A week-long residency for a deserving student seemed like the ideal way to cap off a student’s college experience.”
Langlois’ residency is a pilot program, but if all goes well, Desai hopes to plan on offering similar residencies to students in the future. The artists’ community at A Studio in the Woods regularly offers lodging and studio space in month-long Restoration Residencies to composers, writers, musicians and artists who have lost their homes, studios or work in Hurricane Katrina.
Dr. Michael White, Composer/Musician, New Orleans, LA, 2003-2004
Dr. Michael White, a renowned clarinetist, composer and jazz historian, was A Studio in the Woods first long-term resident musician. From November to February he spent a series of overnights and daylong sessions in the woods Originally Michael set out to compose one piece of new music but during the residency he created the bases for more than two dozen pieces, 14 of which became finished works. Dr. White’s soon to be released album, “Dancing in the Sky” will feature 10 of these newly composed pieces from out of the woods.
“I was able to draw upon the Studio’s rich natural environment; the woods, the pond, peace and quiet, curious animals and the Mississippi River to listen to music, concentrate, practice, meditate, and out of that experience came a newfound musical awareness and my most productive creative period to date.”
Dr. Michael White is the New Orleans musician/composer who has been most instrumental in helping to perpetuate the New Orleans original jazz tradition. Among the most respected jazz musicians in the Crescent City, Dr. White is one of only a few clarinetists to explore and develop an original manifestation of the unique New Orleans clarinet tradition.
Currently, Dr. White holds the Rosa and Charles Keller Endowed Chair in the Humanities/New Orleans Music and Culture at Xavier University, where he has taught for over 20 years. Dr. White frequently lectures, publishes and is a consultant for numerous jazz programs, documentaries and feature films.
Original Jazz Out of the Woods is funded by the Jazz and Heritage Foundation, Senator Francis Heitmeier’s LA. Stadium and Exposition District Funds, and a grant by the La. Division of the Arts, Office of Cultural Development, Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, in cooperation with the La. State Arts Council as administered by the Arts Council of New Orleans
Daniel Winkert, Architect, New Orleans, LA, 2003
“My work with A Studio in the Woods has had a profound impact on the way I approach design and in evaluating my role in the built and natural environment. Having the chance to live intimately in a setting, observing the patterns of light, air, vegetation, water, and wildlife allowed me to have a much greater understanding of our impact on the earth. It also enabled me to focus on a task with much more depth and clarity than had I been working in my office – removed and detached from the environment of my work. The experience has broadened my possibilities in the design profession, expanding from the details of typical architecture to the overall arching principles of planning and design – including its full impact on our society and the environment.”
Daniel Winkert is a New Orleans architect, principal of New ERA Architecture, a firm focusing on environmentally-responsible building and a Senior City Planner for New Orleans City Planning Commission. He received a grant for the first funded project under the EPA’s Sustainable Development Challenge Grant program to start a building materials recycling center for The Green Project, a non-profit recycling organization in New Orleans. In January 2003, Winkert organized a multi-disciplinary symposium to create a physical master plan for A Studio In The Woods. He then spent four weeks as architect-in-residence, producing a master plan document using information gathered during the symposium.
Supported in part by a grant by the La. Division of the Arts, Office of Cultural Development, Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism
Alex Harris, Photographer/Editor, Durham, NC, 2011
“When I was offered a residency at A Studio in the Woods this spring, I didn’t quite appreciate what was being offered.Now I see what that I was being offered the opportunity to enter another world entirely: a unique natural landscape and human environment where my work would be supported and where I could put aside all distractions and truly focus on the writing project I had not been able to tackle at home.
“I think there were several key factors that made this residency work so well for me. The first was the timing.The residency came at just the moment when I had completed my field work for a book with E.O. Wilson about Mobile, Alabama, given a talk with him in Mobile about our collaborative book, and was primed to think about and write about this project.I especially appreciated my interactions with Ama and the staff, their flexibility and efforts to make this residency work for me at just this right moment.
“The second is the absolute privacy I was afforded to live in my space and to do my work in the artist’s studio. It was wonderful to have the artist’s studio and my own quiet and lovely room with its separate entrance to the main house. Joe and Lucianne made it clear to me that no one would disturb me. This proved to be true and that sense of privacy made an enormous difference.I was able to create my own schedule and stick to it.
“The third was natural setting of the residency itself.The forest and lake are at once wild and serene. I felt like I was in a place that was genuinely shared with other creatures.I saw and heard so many animals every day from my studio window and porch – turtles, snakes, raccoons, possums many types and varieties of birds including a painted bunting and barred owl, butterflies, lightening bugs, crickets frogs, and the occasional mosquito. Amazing also to be a stone’s throw from the levee, the Mississippi, and the huge ships there.
“The Fourth factor was the chance to get to know and spend time with Joe and Lucianne Carmichael in the home they have built. From the moment they gave me a tour of the house, studio and surroundings I could tell I had entered a special world that they had created and that they were extraordinary people. I was struck by the beauty of the house and grounds, and the organic way these had developed over the years as an outgrowth of Joe and Lucianne’s life and work. It was such a pleasure to be able to have dinner with them every evening, to partake in Lucianne’s wonderful meals, to talk about my life and work, about the animals I had seen or heard that day, but also to learn about their lives, their work with the New Orleans public schools, and the growth and mission A Studio in The Woods.
“I see now that it was a visionary decision for Tulane to take on the mission ofASITW and to develop a professional staff and board to sustain and carry on that mission. I think a challenge for the organization going forward will be somehow to capture and retain the spirit Joe and Lucianne bring to the place and the organization. For me it is hard to imagine having had a residency at A Studio in The Woods without Joe and Lucianne as a key part of the daily life of the place. Even if the organization is run very efficiently in the future with successful fundraising, etc., something will be missing if you can’t hold on to their sense of personal connection to this place, its history, and mission.I don’t know how to achieve that goal,but it seems an important one. If it hasn’t been done, this would be the time to do an extensive oral history with them for the archives at Tulane, as well as perhaps their video tour of the house and grounds. Every board, fixture and work of art has a personal story connected to it.Those stories are important but I’d also want to capture their dreams for the future of the land and organization. I am not suggesting that these would be a substitute for having them as part of the daily life of the place, but a necessary step in valuing their history and connection for future residents and staff.
“I want to thank Joe and Lucianne, the board and staff of A Studio in the Woods for the opportunity to have a residency there. I couldn’t be more pleased with the experience or the outcome for my work. I’ll look forward to staying touch and perhaps to organizing an event with E.O. Wilson in New Orleans around the publication of my book with Wilson in the fall of 2012.“
Alex Harris (b. 1949) was raised in the South and lives in Durham, North Carolina with his wife, Margaret Sartor, and their two children. Harris has photographed extensively in the American South, New Mexico, Alaska, and Cuba. His work is represented in major collections including The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, The Museum of Modern Art in New York, The Addison Gallery of American Art, The High Museum of Art in Atlanta, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. His awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship in Photography, a Rockefeller Foundation Humanities Fellowship, and a Lyndhurst Prize. His photographs have been exhibited in numerous museums including two solo exhibitions at the International Center of Photography in New York. As a photographer and editor, Harris has published fourteen books including River of Traps (with William deBuys) a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in general non-fiction. His most recent book, The Idea of Cuba, was co-published in September of 2007 by the University of New Mexico Press and the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke. www.alex-harris.com