What is an artist residency?

It is a place for artists to go to, and work on their art with no interruption from their daily life. Often that place is somewhat far away from their home; it could be another town or another state or another country or even another continent.

There are no set rules to an Artist Residency: some specialize in a certain art form (sculpture, or printmaking, or painting, or writing, etc) while others offer access to a variety of techniques; some are designed for several simultaneous artists to come stay, while others can host only one artist at a time; they may be located in urban or rural areas; some are made possible by the generosity of a single wealthy benefactor’s foundation, while others are privately owned; some are run by a large staff and others have no employees.

But no matter what shape each Artist Residency takes, they all have one thing in common: they exist because the people who run them share a passion for artists and their creative process.

A couple of years ago, the Alliance of Artist Communities had their yearly conference in Seattle, and I decided to go for a day. The artist that I am was hiding behind the “Sev Shoon owner” front, and as such, I met all of the people who run the residencies that I would like to apply to, and am a bit intimidated by. It seems to me that the main point of the conference was for artist residencies’ directors to meet and develop personal relationships. To achieve that goal, we alternated between sitting in small groups, and mingling with everybody. I often find it a little difficult to meet people at conferences, but this particular one left me feeling warm and happy! The people who were there were not merely “staff”, they were deeply committed to artists and their process; they all talked about how hard it is to send rejection letters, how they wish they could forego the application fees, and were practically obsessed with wanting to make everything better and easier for the artists they serve. This was not the “administration” I had imagined for years: I suddenly realized that those were “real people” with a passion for people like me (the one wearing the artist hat)!

I have had the good fortune of having done several Artist Residencies and in the weeks to come, I will share my experiences as well as that of some of my friends who have gone to awesome places.
Stay tuned!

Are Dionne and Jay moving to Sequim?

No! We are staying in Seattle and BallardWorks continues to be the place where we have our studios.

What has changed is that I am closing the Sev Shoon Arts Center so there will be no more public access to a printmaking studio; the other major change is that we recently bought property on Diamond Point (11 miles East of Sequim). Our plan is to develop an artist residency for short-term stays (one week to a month). Artists will be able to rent access to the house and the studio from October through May. Then, from June through September, it is a vacation rental, known as “Diamond Retreat”. An easy way to think about it, is that the property (buildings and garden) is Diamond Retreat, and Sev Shoon Artist Residency is the entity that will run the program: review applications, correspond with artists, give orientations, etc.

We spent most of our time on the property in February and March, and worked to turn the 500sf garage into a studio: we installed high quality lights, heat, water, a new insulated floor, replaced the garage door with french doors, and painted the walls. Though it is still empty of any equipment and furniture, it looks great!

The Beginning!

2-house_7991-300x225Jay and Dionne decided to celebrate the 2011 holidays in a different way than they had ever done: by themselves in a cabin in the middle of the woods outside of Sequim, on the Olympic Peninsula. While relaxing, taking long walks, reading and cooking, they came up with the idea of buying a house, turning the garage into an art studio and making it available to artists for short-term residencies. Within hours, they found a few houses on-line, that seem to fit the profile, and on December 26th, they did a quick drive-by exploration. “One house stood out, and we met a realtor that afternoon. As we set foot on the huge porch that had caught our attention on the computer screen, we both felt like “this is it, we’re home”! The next morning, we made an offer and low and behold — it was accepted. All of a sudden, we look at each other and realized that we had just turned our life upside down!”

Dionne and Jay spent the month of January searching craigslist for furniture and household stuff. On Monday, January 30 — a month and 4 days after their first visit of the house — they were loading a 20-ft rental truck and Irvine (Dionne’s trusty VW van) and driving through the rainy evening to go spend their first night on an air mattress in the otherwise empty house, yet so full of exciting potentials!

And thus started the Sev Shoon Residency Program idea!