Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Residency Report: Frans Masereel Centrum, Belgium

Cultural ReProducers introduces Residency Report: an ongoing series of posts from artists who've undertaken creative residencies with their families. Find out about programs that support artists with kids, and see how other artist-parents balance the residency experience. 

Artist Laura Berman kicks off this series with her report from the Frans Masereel Centrum in Belgium:

In the fall of 2011, my husband and our 19-month-old son accompanied me for a three-week artist residency at Frans Masereel Centrum in Kasterlee, Belgium. We arrived in late August, thankfully missing the summer crowds. FMC was about half-full during our stay, with resident artists traveling from France, Italy, Canada, Brussels and Antwerp.

Frans Masereel was an influential Flemish graphic artist who published woodcut books and illustrations throughout his life, and Frans Masereel Centrum honors the spirit of his work to support contemporary graphic arts. Resident artists at FMC often have printmaking backgrounds and specific projects to execute in print media. Working in a media-specific setting gives the artists uninterrupted studio time and FMC does a great job staggering their artists’ schedules so that only 1-2 artists are using studio areas concurrently and everyone has plenty of room.

FMC has excellent printmaking facilities with multiple and extensive areas for resident artists, technicians available for questions about the studio or equipment, and a gallery on-site. Production and focus came easy to me at FMC, and I was supported, comfortable and creative during my entire time there.

The center is located on the outskirts of  Kasterlee, a picturesque town in the Northeastern corner of Belgium. Each artist receives an A-frame house on the premises of FMC, as well as dedicated use of a bicycle during their stay. There are ten houses for artists and each is simple and straightforward with two bedrooms, two studio/drawing areas, a lounge area, outside porch, full kitchen and bath. Laundry facilities are on-site in the silkscreen studio and there is a large courtyard deck between all of the houses for potluck dinners and other meetings. Because the houses each have two bedrooms (and 4 beds total), artists can bring their family, collaborator, or even a grandparent.

Every day I worked in the studio from 9am-12pm while my husband and son shared adventures in and around FMC. We spent lunch together as a family, and I got our son’s nap underway before returning to studio for the afternoon. At 4pm I relaxed and played with our son for a couple of hours while my husband took a daily bike ride to Kasterlee to grocery shop and have time to himself. We shared evening duties, taking turns cooking, playing, and visiting with other artists. Because FMC is a federal program, the studios close precisely at 8pm each night, with lights and power turning off automatically. We enjoyed this structured schedule because it benefitted our toddler, and also because the residents work and play on similar schedules, so socializing after hours was inevitable and easy.

Much of our time at FMC was spent outdoors. Our son explored every porch, bush, tree, rock and pine needle on the premises. He met and enjoyed everyone who was there, artists and staff alike. Behind our house at FMC was a pasture with a horse, across the street was a cornfield growing high, and behind the screenprinting studio was a path that led to  “Kabouterberg,” a nearby-forested park we visited often – sometimes even twice a day. This park was a world onto itself, containing sand dunes, enormous trees with aerial roots that kids could climb on and into, ice cream trucks at every cross path, open areas for resting and playing, and small statues of gnome-like goblins peppered throughout. Kasterlee is a self-declared “ideal destination for children”, and in my family’s experience this was certainly true.

Our time at Frans Masereel Centrum was simultaneously productive, relaxing and bonding, and inspired us to create a small and private artist’s retreat of our own this year in Matfield Green, Kansas, named Matfield Outpost. We are renovating the 8-acre property this winter, and plan to open for artists/visitors and their families in the spring of 2014. The town of Matfield Green (pop. 46) is nestled in an art-friendly community in the geographically distinctive Flint Hills region of Kansas. In and around the region are countless flowers, grasses, rocks, clouds and stars for people big and small to explore through creativity and connection.

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Laura Berman's color-saturated works investigate the relationships and recombination of forms tied to her nomadic history of endless relocation and travel. She has exhibited her work at numerous galleries and museums around the country and internationally, and is an Associate Professor of Printmaking at the Kansas City Art Institute. To see more of her work, visit www.laurabermanprojects.com

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