Last month, we had Jane MacKay tell us how it all started in this dusty old part of town. Today, our Medalta International Artists in Residence program is run by Jenn Demke-Lange and Noriko Masuda, two talented ceramic artists who keep this place in its best shape. We were lucky enough to pull Noriko away from her work at the SHAW Centre long enough to get a fantastic blog.
When reading Jane MacKay’s thoughts on the early days of Medalta, it’s amazing to realize how far the residency has come and yet at the same time, how little has changed.
Our studios have certainly changed. No longer do we have to deal with leaking roofs and broken windows, or sit on toilet moulds in lieu of chairs. Instead, artists can focus on their work in a bright, secure, well-equipped studio. We have almost everything an artist would need to create and take risks in a safe environment.
But it’s the people and more intangible things that really make Medalta. That hasn’t changed one bit.
It’s the local support we get from people like Jane MacKay and Marilyn Pacheco, who volunteer their time, donate materials and supplies, sometimes even feed and house artists.
It’s the artists themselves: 228 residents in just 8 years of running year round. Many of those artists have returned to Medalta once, twice, even three times. Some, like Jenn Demke-Lange and myself, came as resident artists and have remained in Medicine Hat. We’ve had artists from every continent (except Antarctica) and from all stages of careers: from students still working on their BFAs (in our annual Student Award Residency) to well established artists such as Glenn Lewis, who received a Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts this year.
We consciously seek to keep the range of artists varied as it enriches the residency experience. Each person comes here bringing with them their own history, experiences, techniques, ideas. I learn something new from each artist who comes here and that keeps working here exciting.
There’s something about the clay community in general that I haven’t really seen in other communities. Is it because ceramics is so closely tied to food and (more importantly) the sharing of food? Or is it the long tradition of ceramics in every culture? I personally think it might be the repeated failures we all go through in our practices that we can commiserate over. Whatever it is, there’s a sense of familiarity and generosity that I feel when I meet ceramists, no matter what kind of work they do. We try to nurture that sense of community here at Medalta.
We joke about the ‘Medalta Family’ – but it really is like that. Once an artist has been here, they’re family. No matter how long you’ve been away, even if things go awry sometimes, we’ll welcome you back.