Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Residency Report: Popps Packing, Hamtramck, MI

Residency Report is an ongoing series of posts from artists undertaking creative residencies with their families. Find out about programs that support artists with kids, and see how other artist-parents balance the residency experience.

Here artist Kaitlynn Redell writes about her experience at Popps Packing, an artist-run, neighborhood-based nonprofit space focused on creating impactful arts programming and creative exchange between international and local artists in the community of Hamtramck / Detroit, Michigan.

not her(e) (stuffed animal)
Popps Packing is run by parent-artist couple Faina Lerman and Graem Whyte. Their Mom and Popp Residency is funded by the Sustainable Arts Foundation and included both an artist stipend, childcare stipend (I brought my almost two-year-old with me) as well as housing and studio space. My entire residency experience was incredibly easy and I truly believe this—in part—has to do with Faina and Graem’s understanding of the delicate balance between art-making and parenthood.  Even the “before” process of preparing for the residency was flexible; I was offered one month to come and work, and was easily able to choose my own arrival and departure dates. Unfortunately I couldn’t stay the full month due to scheduling conflicts, so instead I worked there for three weeks. My partner was allowed to come and stay as long as he wanted -- in our case, only a long weekend because of work.  We had an entire house to ourselves, and my studio was one door over at Popps Emporium (still within baby monitor range).  I had two different wonderful child caretakers who Faina and Graem use with own young children.

More than anything, I think the best part about the residency was the amount of support and flexibility.  I’ve had so many other residencies - even those with childcare stipends for the child to remain at home - be a lot more rigid.  We all know as parents, rigid is the last thing we need thrown at us; things come up and you have to learn how to go with the flow.

Popps studio, with work in progress
I thought it would be most helpful to other parent-artists, to outline a few logistic tips and notes about the residency:

Popps currently has two different living spaces and studios options.  It is comprised of three buildings, all in very close proximity to each other.  We stayed in the Guest House, I had my studio in Popps Emporium and held a workshop in the original Popps Packing building.  Popps also has an amazing garden (offers a new garden residency), chickens, outdoor play areas, and two very sweet dogs and a cat. 

the nearby Belle Isle Conservatory
During our three-week stay, I was able to create the pieces I originally set out to do, run a workshop, as well as have extra time to make a pretty large wall piece.  My studio time was structured during my daughter's nap time as well as when I had available childcare.  My daughter and I also had ample time to check out the surrounding areas and sights, like DIA, Eastern Market, Dabls African Bead Museum, Belle Isle, What Pipeline, Wasserman Projects and Hamtramck Disneyland just to name a few.

* Very family friendly space.  Faina and Graem’s two kids were very sweet playmates to my daughter.

guest house shower
* Lots of kid stuff provided: toys, stroller, dishes, car seat, high chair, bath tub.

* Laundry on-site.

* Our flight arrived late, but Faina still met us at the car rental with the car seat and even had grabbed us some groceries so I didn’t have to go out again!

(depending on your comfort level):

* Older house - it’s Detroit, so a lot of the houses are.  A bit like camping because of this (no heat, no ac, outdoor shower), but that was fine for us.

* Outdoor shower (which is kind of amazing in the morning), but no actual tub. They provided a small toddler one which also worked fine for us.

workshop with local artist-families
* Double-check the childcare schedule before coming.  It ended up working out, but if you need hard dates/times make sure you confirm before-hand.

* Slightly dusty workspace.  Again, not an issue for me, but other artists might have a problem, depending on your work.  They are in the midst of renovating some of the residency buildings, so some extra dust from that as well.

* Wifi was super weak at the guest house where we were staying, but to be honest, it was nice to have an internet detox.

* Definitely rent or bring a car.  I had never been to Detroit, but rented a car as per Faina’s recommendation.  The area is pretty spread out and having a car with a kid is a must if you intend to go anywhere besides the immediate neighborhood.

I would highly recommend this residency.  It is going to be even more amazing once all the renovations are complete.  I can’t say enough about Popps and how fully invested Faina and Graem are in their local community and creating an artist run exhibition space/residency that supports other artist parents.

not her(e) (table)

Kaitlynn Redell is a visual artist based in Los Angeles, CA. Her practice is invested in the exploration of race and gender in relation to the body and how the body becomes codified within these socially constructed categorizations. More specifically she is interested in inbetweeness and how “unidentifiable” bodies—that do not identify with standard categories—negotiate identity. She has participated in numerous exhibitions nationally and internationally including at El Museo del Barrio (NYC), Rush Arts Gallery (NYC), A.I.R. Gallery (NYC), Western Project (LA), Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery (LA), Charlie James Gallery (LA) and Museo Laboratorio - Ex Manifattura Tabacchi (Italy). Her work is currently on view at the 32nd Biennial of Graphic Arts: Birth As Criterion, in Ljubljana, Slovenia.