I was hoping to catch up with the director of an artist residency program during my visit to Paonia, but we weren’t able to connect this time around. Elsewhere Studios is a lovely space that expands beyond the walls of its charming building into courtyards, murals, and installations where creativity radiates into the surrounding town. It is a “choose-your-own-adventure style residency, providing residents with the opportunity to connect with the community... or just time to focus on work. Time spans are individually based - 1 to 6 months, accommodating 4 to 6 artists at a time.” It is “open to visual artists, writers, composers, and performing artists at any stage or their career as well as scientists, activists, teachers, students, or any kind of creative thinker interested in exploring and expanding their work”. There is some scholarship funding for BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ artists. Check them out if you’re interested in doing an artist residency. This place is unforgettable. Elsewhere Studios
Art out and about in Paonia
Driving is my thinking time. I listen to podcasts and music, but also spend many hours in silence, observing and contemplating. Even though I haven’t been making art recently, this is an important part of my incubation process. On my drive back to Nebraska from the western slope of Colorado, I went over three mountain passes and down the I-70 corridor. Any time of year, the mountains are breathtaking. Beautifully, monumentally, in-your-face breathtaking. They are just undeniable. I took them for granted when I lived there. I’m experiencing them as an outsider for the first time, and now I see why so many people are drawn to visit.
As the interstate spit me out onto the flat expanse of the Front Range, I’m struck by the stark difference between the mountains and the plains. After getting through Denver and the cities and back out onto the open road, the subtle beauty of the landscape crept back in. This is the kind of place where you have to be mentally present in order to find the quiet splendor. It doesn’t shout from crystal crusted peaks. It breathes of sunshine and crisp wind and seasonal time. The colors are subtle, but even in the winter time, the palette is thick between blanched yellow sunlight and powder blue shadows. Clouds take center stage, with mesmerizing drifts and undulations. It’s a place that invites contemplation.
The landscape in Nebraska has been altered, managed, and forced into straight lines by human plans. Even so, nature pushes through absolutely everywhere. Erosion, weather, volunteering vegetation, persistent wildlife. This is very different than the vast undisturbed mountain ranges where the native plant and animal life is largely left in peace. (But only because the rugged landscape isn’t easily accessible or ‘useful’ in a human sense.) What I love about the plains is that, wherever a patch of earth is left alone, nature immediately begins to take it back. It's this ever-shifting dynamic that inspires me to create here. In my encounters I've found that people don't come here to share their visions and unique perspectives, they come here to make a living. That's made it harder for me to find other creative spirits, but I know you're out there! Let me know what you find creatively inspiring about the Great Plains.
Artist, homesteader, teacher and adventurer. Turning over every literal and figurative rock that I can find, living curiously and creatively outside of the conventions of the common world.
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