By Darwin Manning
Hidden less than two miles north of 10th Avenue is what appears to be just another typical Iowa farm. However, this property is actually a hidden gem where artists of many different types can nurture their creativity in a tranquil and meditative environment.
The Grinnell Art Residency (GAR) is held on the land of the Joe and Alesia Lacina. Their son, also Joe Lacina, is a visual artist whose family has owned the land for an uncountable number of generations. In its first year, the residency hosted students from the Maryland Institute College of the Arts. For the next two years, the artists came from an art school in Illinois and then from all over Iowa.
On the land there is one long white barn where plays are held when performing artists are in residence, a silo that artists have been known to climb and two houses. There is the old tofu factory, which is where the artists stayed up until this year, when they were converted into their studios.
This year, the artists will be staying in one of the buildings that is more than 150 years old. When one steps inside, they are likely to experience a trip backwards in time and find a few dead bugs that Molly Rideout ’10 said are always accumulating, no matter how much she cleans.
Meanwhile, in the tofu factory, there are countless items scattered across the ground, from dusty baseball mitts to pottery. There is also plenty of art, ranging from green and red dragon masks to a collage Christmas tree that once sat in the Drake Community Library.
GAR can host five artists at a time, and is open to fine arts, creative writing, performance-based and media-driven artists. There are three kilns in the back and a woodworking shop that is open to artists in residence.
The Grinnell Emerging Artists Residency has just started accepting applications for this summer, which will be its fifth and will bring a change in the structure of who is brought in.
“This year, we’re expanding it to two one-month sessions, one for just Iowa and the second for all national colleges,” Rideout said. “The hope is that in the fall, we will be able to open it to adults, and then we will continue this [program] in the spring.”
In addition to the new artists joining the program this summer, Rideout, who is a writer herself, will head the program. Currently, her responsibilities include administrative work and household maintenance. She also worked on deciding the formation of the selection committee. This committee consists of a group of artists from around Iowa, one of whom is Grinnell’s very own Lesley Wright, Faulconer Gallery.
Rideout is very glad to have this opportunity, as she will be able to get inspiration from being around fellow artists, and she will be back in grand ol’ Iowa.
“I will be part administrative, part running a hotel. I’ll be living in the house with the artists so that I can take care of different things,” Rideout said. “I am also a writer, so I will be able to do my own work, while hanging out with hopefully some cool artists.”
Gillian Hemme ’10 was one of the artists at the residency last summer. She was known at Grinnell for her work on many theater productions, and last summer she worked on another, which she then performed in the long white barn.
Last summer, there were three visual artists with three different focuses—Molly Moser, oil paintings of interior spaces; Jonathan Happ, drawing and painting; and Benton Shoenrock, painting, collage and sculpture. There was also Hemme and one writer, Jordan Murphy. The artists collaborated to create a cohesive piece, “Night Vision.”
Hemme took full advantage of the Lacinas’ gorgeous farm property, where she explored and built sets in a couple parts of the barn.
“The residency gave me the opportunity to make art all day, every day. I had a lot of freedom with both our schedules and our workspace,” Hemme said.
The experience proved to be a great chance for discussion on different views of art and personal creative practices, which is what Hemme said happened during trips to Dari Barn or while watching a mesmerizing lightening storm.
Besides the bonding that happened on the farm, each artist was fully committed to their work and allowed each other space for their art. Hemme’s own work came together into a part video, part set installation and live performance, called “Private as Public Practice.”
“I examined the blogging culture of preteen girls and collaged found text with original pieces,” Hemme said.
Grinnell students that are currently juniors and seniors are welcome to apply to the Iowa Program, which Rideout has been encouraging a few to do already. Hemme was very quick to punctuate how unforgettable her experience was and said that she would definitely speak highly of it to fellow Grinnellians.
“I would absolutely recommend GAR to other artists,” she said. “I’m really happy that I was able to have this Grinnell experience outside of the college and that I got to tap into the perspective of several diverse artists.” More information about the Grinnell Artist Residency can be found on the Grinnell Area Arts Council website or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Applications are due by March 25, and all types of artist are welcome.