Thursday, December 03, 2009

Why Holly ♥s Residencies

I am thick into the world around me. By vocation I listen, I go where my curiosities take me, I embed all over the place. Yet so much of the work and life of a writer is solitary—a beautiful aloneness—and one which at its best breeds both a secret life, and words that serve the needs and desires of readers. Just as important to the process is the occasional company of others who are similarly engaged. It is at the intersection of these values—amidst the quiet and the conviviality—that I am most able to recognize what I have to say and how I will say it. For me, it is not an overstatement to insist that an artist residency is a sort of Shangri-La—one which I can get to from here.

During my first residency a few years ago—at California’s Mesa Refuge—I discovered how profound uninterrupted time in a place designed for artists is for people like me. I thrived in my little wooden shed where I wrote all day and late into the night. At mealtime, I was enlarged by the companionship of my fellow residents with whom I shared conversations, works in progress and the sort of big ideas that percolate in places like that. This was a poignant, watershed experience for me; one that dignified my purpose and fortified my resolve at an important stage in my young writing career. I see now how some writers will write whole books over the course of an extended residency.

After much creative isolation, it is heartening to be engaged in the work of creating—side by side with others—especially at a time when our ilk are pushed further and deeper into the cultural and economic margins of society. In so doing we are also more able to contribute to a larger conversation, one that very often aspires to inclusivity and big-heartedness and which amounts to creating a world where art, ideas, and literature continue to be made.

I hope you too see the value in creating communities that support working artists. ISLAND has a long term vision to create precisely this sort of creative space for people like me and perhaps even for someone like you. Please give what you can so that Northern Michigan will have just such a place for its own and other emerging and established artists and writers.

—Holly Wren Spaulding

Holly Wren Spaulding is a writer, educator, community activist and a seasonal farm worker at Meadowlark Farm CSA in Leelanau County. She was a co-founding member of Sweetwater Alliance, a direct action organization formed to challeng the mining of Michigan groundwater by Nestle Corporation. Holly has traveled extensively to learn about and document social movements in Chiapas, Brazil, Argentina, and South Africa. Her writing has appeared in The Ecologist, Clamor, Earth First! Journal, Z Magazine, The New Internationalist, and in the book We Are Everywhere: The Irresistible Rise of Global Anti-Capitalism (Verso Press, 2003). She worked on and also appears in the feature documentary FLOW: For Love of Water (Dir. Irena Salina), which premiered at Sundance Film Festival in January 2008. Her first collection of poems is due out in April from Michigan Cooperative Press. She is currently at work on a book about grassroots movements to defend the global water commons for AK Press. She teaches creative writing at Northwestern Michigan College.


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