Friday, December 20, 2013

Residency Report: Dylan Miner at the Santa Fe Art Institute, New Mexico

work in progress in Dylan Miner's SFAI studio
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.

Because of the relevance of the Santa Fe Art Institute's new Family Residency Initiative, we're pleased to feature a special dual report from Dylan Miner and Helen Knowles, two artists who were among the first to participate in the program. Here the artist, activist, curator and historian Dylan Miner shares his perspective.

This past summer, I spent time at the Santa Fe Art Institute (SFAI) as both an Artist-in-Residency (AiR) and Visiting Artist (VA).  SFAI has an interesting two-tier system that invites a Visiting Artist each month.  The VAs give a public lecture, receive a small stipend, and usually hang a solo exhibition. The AiRs are selected from a pool of invited artists, as well as those who apply for a residency.  Once at SFAI, both residents and visiting artists have the same access and privileges.
Since I was both an AiR during July and a Visiting Artist during August, I was able to string together two residencies with a brief family trip in the middle.  As artists with children know, trying to do a residency can be quite difficult while trying to balance family obligations.  While some residencies will allow families, most specifically ask that artists not bring their families.  Those that are more open are not generally equipped to handle the extra needs of children or artists with children.  I have even experienced, on occasion, situations when artists without children were unkind to those who did bring family.  After all, a residency places various individuals in an immersive residential experience.

I have always been interested in letting my daughters experience the positive and negative

realities of being an artist.  My partner, Prof. Estrella Torrez, and I have always felt that our daughters (Reina, age 15 and Mexica Tiahui, age 11) should be integrated into all aspects of our lives. Reina was born when we were young undergraduate students and Mexica born during graduate school. As parents we have always desired to include our children in our academic and artistic lives.

It is common for me to use the small stipends I receive from exhibitions and lecture to purchase extra plane tickets so that my children and partner can be involved in my life as an artist.  Much of this has to do with my artistic practice, which focuses heavily on social justice and employs cross-generational pedagogy as an artistic mode. While exhibiting in Australia in 2012, the four of us traveled across Queensland working with urban and rural Indigenous communities.  That same year Estrella traveled with me for a solo exhibition in Tromsø, Norway, where I exhibited in a gallery in a building owned by the Sámi Reindeer Herder’s Association.   Unfortunately, Reina and Mexica were unable to attend because of their school schedules (their grandparents stayed with them while Estrella and I were in the Arctic).  On each of these experiences, traveling and working as a family was paramount to the artwork itself.
I share this information because I think it is crucial that residencies like the Santa Fe Art Institute offer space for artists with children.  Chiracahua Apache curator Nancy Mithlo writes about the way that Indigenous arts infrastructures offer collective and mutually-beneficial components that do not exist in the mainstream.  For Mithlo, this Indigenous practice includes ‘work that is long-term, mutually meaningful, reciprocal, and with mentorship—all collective constructs.’[i]  Inherent in these Indigenous constructs are multi-generational practices.  For me, including my children in my practice is part-and-parcel to my identity as an Indigenous person.  For SFAI to create a space where artists can live and work with their families is one of the most powerful decisions that the institution could make.  For this, we must former Residency Director Katie Avery (Iñupiaq) who advocated that SFAI try a residency just for artists and their children.

During our month long family residency there were four residents who brought 1-2 children each.  Two of us also had our partners stay with us for parts of the residencies.  Importantly, SFAI conducts arts education camps during the summer and allowed the residents’ children to attend for free.  This decision was doubly meaningful.  It meant that artists could work for 6-8 hours while their children were also working on arts projects.  This established long-term relationships between the children, who still stay in contact via social media.  The children would hang out in the evenings, using the Institute’s computers or walking to the gym facilities on the university campus where SFAI is located.  All said, this left lots of time in the evening for exploration and family time, as well as time for the children to play together and the residents to develop projects relationships.  Meals were often communal, which felt open and not a requirement.  I have been in residencies where this felt like a burden more than a privilege.  During the family residency, it was definitely time well spent. 

Since I stayed for the family residency as well as returning without my family for a shorter stay as the AiR, I was shocked to recognize the very real group dynamics that existed between the different residences, even in the same institution. I am always surprised at the way that group dynamics develop and during my three residencies at SFAI can say, without a doubt, that the family residency was the most enjoyable.

The rooms are comfortable, while the studios are quite large.  SFAI offers two vehicles for resident usage. Santa Fe and nearby Albuquerque are great places to stay and work on one’s art.  As a printmaker, it would have been nice to have access to a print studio, and access to large-scale digital printers would likewise been beneficial.  That said, the staff at SFAI were great, and their willingness not only to accommodate families but to make us feel welcome was something that SFAI must be commended for.

[i] Nancy Mithlo (2012).  ‘No Word for Art in Our language?: Old Questions, New Paradigms.’ Wicazo Sa Review (Spring), 120.

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Dylan Miner (Métis) is Associate Professor at Michigan State University, where he coordinates a new Indigenous Contemporary Art Initiative. He holds a PhD from the University of New Mexico and has published more than fifty journal articles, book chapters, critical essays and encyclopedia entries. In 2010, he was awarded an Artist Leadership Fellowship from the National Museum of the American Indian (Smithsonian Institution). Since 2010, he has been featured in thirteen solo exhibitions and been artist-in-residence at institutions such as the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, École supérieure des beaux-arts in Nantes and Santa Fe Art Institute. His work has been the subject of articles in publications including ARTnews, Indian Country Today, First American Art Magazine, The Globe and Mail, The Guardian and Chicago Sun-Times. Miner is descended from the Miner-Brissette-L’Hirondelle-Kennedy families with ancestral ties to Indigenous communities in the Great Lakes, Prairies and subarctic regions.

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