NEWCASTLE, Maine––Every summer, nearly 100 artists make their way to the coast of Maine to take part in a residency program that prioritizes uninterrupted studio time and the development of creative community. Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts hosts five two-week summer sessions that offer artists an opportunity to retreat from the pressures of their daily lives, connect with other makers, and focus on their work without distraction.
During a residency, artists live together, share meals, and enjoy unlimited time to work in Watershed’s expansive studio. A converted chicken barn, the 16,000 square foot space now serves as an open-concept workspace. Clay objects and sculptures left behind by resident alumni populate the tops of the barn beams and rafters, site-specific work fills the studs between the walls, and quotes from notable minds—including Banksy and the Notre Dame football team—pepper the space with lighthearted wisdom.
A group of four to eight artists anchors each session. They develop a theme for the residency a year in advance and work with Watershed to fine-tune the details. Up to twelve additional artists register to join each session, often drawn by the work of the anchoring artists and/or the session theme. More descriptive than a prescriptive, the themes enable artists to connect via their shared interests.
Watershed’s 2020 Summer Residency lineup will hold appeal to a broad cross section of artists and makers. The natural world serves as inspiration, muse, and collaborator during a session organized by Meaghan Gates. In addition to working in the studio, participating artists can use Watershed’s 54-acre campus for performance and site-specific work. The mid-July session organized by Shalya Marsh and Naomi Clement offers opportunities for surface experimentation and development. The final session in August organized by Trudy Chiddix and Tara Sartorius brings together artists interested in soda firing and color interaction.
Susan Klein and Suzanne Dittenber have organized a session that brings together artists who share an interest in working across media. Originally trained as painters, the pair has expanded their practices to include sculptural work in clay. “We are inspired by the long history of artists who play with the relationship between sculpture and painting,” explains Klein. “We look forward to working closely with other artists at Watershed to trade ideas, collaborate, and experiment with the possibilities of a painterly, open-ended approach to ceramics.”
Not all sessions focus on material and technique. The late July residency anchored by members of Kindred Clay—including Beck Evans, Christina Erives, Margaret Kinkeade, Roberto Lugo, and Brooks Oliver—will bring together artists interested in expanding the boundaries of contemporary ceramic discourse to explore questions of privilege, oppression, and inclusivity. In addition to working in the studio, participating artists will take part in group discussions focused on creating inclusive spaces and practices.
Due to the short nature of the sessions, artists burn the midnight oil in the studio with a focus on process and idea generation more than creating lots of finished work. However, the effects of the residency reverberate through artists’ practices long after they depart Watershed.
“The greatest thing that I got out my session at Watershed was becoming part of a community of artists with whom I share perspective, struggles, and considerations,” shares 2019 resident artist Alida van Almelo. “The desire for each of us to encourage and help each other as we considered how to continue working alongside one another in the future is not something that I have experienced in the art world before. Watershed is a magical place.”
In addition to the summer sessions, Watershed also offers a four-week fall residency for those interested in more time to develop a body of work. Work exchanges and merit scholarships can help artists finance their residencies. General registrations for summer and fall sessions are accepted on a first come, first served basis. Applications for summer assistance are accepted annually until February 15.
For more information, visit Watershed’s website at WatershedCeramics.org or call (207) 882-6075.