Portraits and ponderings from the writing desk of Jill Foote-Hutton.

MJ Wood DO GOOD Memorial Residency

As the deadline for the new residency at Red Lodge Clay Center approaches, it seems like the right time to flesh out the origins behind the residency.  Telling the story is an attempt to share the spirit of the residency opportunity for those makers interested in developing a socially engaged project and/or studio practice.

Joy Wood and her Precious Babies
Let the tale begin with a tiny note about a trick for nurturing ideas that I'm trying to capitalize on more in my own problem solving attempts.  Did you know there have been some scientific studies on how taking a shower is one way to let your brain get busy on creative problem solving?  It's true, and the shower is exactly where the idea for this residency program struck.

Last March at the Houston NCECA, I had the good fortune to present the lecture, "Catalyst: Ceramics and Social Practice" with Michael Strand, Chair of the Art Department at North Dakota State University in Fargo.  You may or may not have heard of Michael, so let me just say he is a torrential bearer of joy and good in this world.  The opportunities to work and collaborate with Michael never fail to push me toward realizing a fuller picture.  He doesn't just shove people to their limits either, he grabs your hand and gleefully runs alongside you, helping push any door of fear out of your way until you are ready to push the doors down yourself.  Beyond that, as a maker, he has been given the opportunity to lead a department toward a dedicated vision of social engagement.  In his own practice he models his ambitions with projects like:  Bowls Around Town, Art Stimulus, Misfit Cup Liberation, and Sandbag to name a few.
Michael Strand's Misfit Cup Liberation Project
All of these encourage the art viewing audience to expand their boundaries and become part of the art process.  He provides a platform in traditional and non-traditional spaces to honor the story of those outside of the art world.  He is re-teaching the general public the value of visual language and the object.  In Houston we shared a story through each of our shared and individuated lenses on how ceramics specifically, and craft in general are inherently engaged with the populous.

The talk went over well.

Upon returning home to Red Lodge, the dust from NCECA began to settle.  Unpacking of boxes was underway as our precious objects returned from the Gallery Expo.  Sometimes in these aftermath moments, we wonder what really happened. Just as I was finding my feet again, Michael called me.  His feet were also just touching down, but this one never slows.  He asked me, "So what next?"

Was he serious?

During our lecture, things were a little bit of a blur.  Not unusual for someone who has never presented to an audience of her peers, I suppose.  The one bit I held onto was talking about my family, my grandmother in particular.  Her name was Marguerite Joyce Wood.  Everyone called her Joy, but I called her Grandma and she always had supplies for me and my sister and all the cousins who followed.
Toll painting was just one crafty pastime of Grandma's.
Supplies for making anything we could imagine.  She could also fix anything.  She kept shoeboxes full of mechanical parts and if you had a broken watch, she had the remedy.  Broken lamp?  No problem!  But, what she also always had was room for one more at the table.  I can probably set my instinctual need to overfeed folks at a gallery reception at her door, but that's okay.  She literally left a blank space at the dinner table when she was raising her family, because she knew someone could be coming by who didn't have enough at their home.
Grandma's Old Ceramic Studio in Climax Springs, MO
When Grandma passed away, my Aunt spoke of her kindness to those less fortunate than herself.  She said, "Mama always told us, 'No matter what else you do in the world, DO GOOD!'"  I also have to tell you Grandma had a wicked sense of humor.  She had saved up some money she called her "toast" money.  It was for her cremation.  She also requested each one of us drive our own cars in her funeral procession.  She wanted a massive display.  Finally, she requested we all litter, because those folks in the orange jumpsuits needed something to do to keep them out of trouble.  We obliged the former, but not the latter, unless you count us sprinkling her around her loved ones.  We laughed and remembered how, even as her own health was failing, she would make sure her neighbors were taken care of in her community.  As we prepared to leave my Aunt concluded, "Now, go out and DO GOOD!"

So, what next?

Well, I didn't have any big lightening strikes hitting me at the moment Michael put the question to me.  But the question stayed with me, and while I was in midst of shampoo, rinse, and repeat I also remembered all the folks who had questions at the end of our lecture in Houston.  I remembered all the people who came to our Breakout Session the day before and their amazing projects underway.  Wouldn't it be great to provide an opportunity for them to build on their momentum?  Wouldn't it be great to be able to help people like them who were just needing a little bit of time and space to realize a long brewing notion?

David Hiltner has gone to a great deal of trouble to create a place where ceramic artists can develop their ideas, their career path, and their craft.
Dan Anderson and David Hiltner in the RLCC Studio
He makes every effort to make sure that they can do it at minimal cost too.  The cost is affordable enough, that my family could easily cover a residency fee for one month and maybe, just maybe, that would be enough time for someone to get traction with their own vision to DO GOOD in the world.  We then created an Indiegogo drive to generate funding so we could provide a stipend for the maker while they were in Red Lodge to further minimize the out of pocket costs.  We are grateful for the platform David has established and, as the deadline looms for applications to the MJ WOOD RESIDENCY, we are excited to see the proposals.  Right now the application pool is fairly small and that's okay.  It's how these things begin.
RLCC Studio
We are going to be looking for a maker who is looking outside of themselves.  Someone who wants to reach out beyond the walls of traditional art boundaries and help someone else recapture something of themselves.  The proposals do not have to be realized in the town of Red Lodge.  We are not looking to make Red Lodge a mini-mecca of socially engaged art projects.  We want the projects developed here to grow legs in any community.  The time offered is one month, but it could be shorter if need be.

So?  What's next?

What are you waiting for?  Apply today:  DO GOOD