Yesterday I took the Amtrak train from Philadelphia, through New York and up the coast to Old Saybrook, CT, to start my month-long artist residency at I-Park. I got picked up and driven 30 minutes to the I-Park campus, inside a pretty densely wooded area where phone reception is spotty.
I was given a tour of the two main buildings of the I-Park complex – these are: 1) the house where six of the artists live (we each get our own room and share a bathroom with one other person). The seventh artist is the only one that lives in the same small building that is his work studio, about a 10 minute walk from the rest of the buildings by the large pond on the property; and 2) a big building with the office, common area (with couch, kitchenette, TV with internet but no actual television), small library and three of the studios (my studio is one of these. If you click here, mine is the North Studio).
Scattered around these two buildings are a big vegetable garden, three other studios that are their own free-standing tiny buildings, a large barn with wood-working equipment, and many, many trails going into the surrounding forest.
Last night I met five of the other 6 artists (one is delayed and arriving on Saturday). Turns out there are only two Americans in the group (if I count myself). The artists are: Judith Stein, an author working on a biography from Philadelphia; Michael Fairfax, a sculptor/sound artist from the UK; Andrew McWilliams, a projection/sound artist also from the UK; Boaz Aharonovitch, a photographer/visual artist from Israel; and Roman Moshensky, an artist with a documentary background from Russia.
We all had dinner cooked by a chef! (Jacob cooks for us four nights a week). I discovered that neither of the two British men had heard of Rachel Maddow, whereupon I took it upon myself to introduce them to her, and showed them a clip of her news program. They sputtered for a few minutes about the state of US politics (“bonkers” was expressed several times) and all agreed that Rachel was a good newscaster.
Today was a busy day filled with an orientation and a two hour trek through the very large park around the central buildings where we saw many of the site-specific installations left by previous residents (pictures of those coming shortly as I get permission). Many mushrooms were also seen, and one big black snake. This is where I must have appropriated my first tick, that I discovered a few hours later. Yes, tick! This is tick country, and some of them carry lyme disease (the one that chose me was not one of these). We have to rigorously spray ourselves with insect repellent when going out and are supposed to shower immediately upon returning, check ourselves in the mirror for ticks, and throw our clothes in the dryer. I will probably venture out into the woods sporadically, but this is more of an issue for Michael, for example, who lives in the Pond studio out by the lake, and treks through the park multiple times a day to eat.
After the trek we all piled into vans for our weekly super-market run, came back for dinner (roast beef, roast potatoes, kale and caramelized peaches for dessert) and then we each gave a 10 minute presentation on our work to the rest of the group. Tomorrow will be the first real day in the studio! And more pictures will be forthcoming after I get set up.