Creativity can be found anywhere, and most have experienced that itch to pursue a creative outlet to some degree. For some, this passion to create can outgrow the confines of daily life and require more space. Resident artist programs offer a unique opportunity for artists and are offered by many organizations in Ridgefield, such as Weir Farm National Park, ArtFul Visual Arts Initiative (ArtFul), and the Meeting House.

Even if the home doesn’t have many distractions, there’s still something to be said about working in a space that allows for connections as well as a space to focus one’s energy.

Abby Deubler

“I believe that every artist, whether starting out or established, should involve themselves in a residency program.” 

Abby Deubler is a recipient of a resident artist grant from ArtFul. “For me, this experience is allowing me to strictly focus on my work without any outside distraction. It is helping me to perfect my skill and also gives me the ability to access tools and materials that would be hard for me to obtain otherwise. A residency program takes away the worries of accessibility and financial help to allow you to focus on what is important; creating!”

Deubler entered the resident artist program with the desire to grow as an artist and has benefitted not only from the solitude of the space but also from the proximity to other artists who offer critique and advice as well as an involvement in the vibrant art scene of Main Street in Ridgefield. Deubler considers herself a colorist and uses color to evoke emotions. She won this grant to create a new series.

“For the current series I am creating now, I chose to use these ideas for imaginary plants drawn from inspiration around Connecticut and my parent’s property here in Ridgefield,”
she says.

During the pandemic and the recent stay-at-home orders, many people experienced a
busy-ness in the home like never before. For artists who need prolonged concentration, the search for a quiet place to create became even more crucial.

Meredith Mulhearn

“I used to work out of a studio in my home, but there were simply too many distractions.” 

Meredith Mulhearn, another recipient of the ArtFul resident artist grant says, “The creative process requires way more focus than most people realize. It’s all-consuming, an almost out-of-body experience at times. Knowing that there is laundry waiting to be done in the next room just isn’t conducive to artistic productivity.”

Mulhearn has become known for her work with nature and the conceptual nature of her work. “I use my art to help others feel this connection with the larger purpose of promoting conservation efforts,” she says. “Each piece or installation is intended to evoke thought and action from the viewer.”

Other artists seek solitude not only to eliminate distractions but to understand and work with their minds during the creating process.

Clarice Shirvell

“Solitude is such an important factor for creativity,”

Clarice Shirvell, who did a residency at The Meetinghouse of Ridgebury Congregational Church (RCC), is known for doing “a lot of journal writing and meditating to get me in the zone of creative flow. The studio should be an oasis, free from daily worries and obligations. It is a space where you can have immediate access to your materials, not to waste time packing and unpacking gear.”

This kind of retreat is appropriate for Shirvell, as she uses her art as a form of meditation. She explained that sketching the everyday helps her see the world better and appreciate the beauty in everything and everyone.  Her latest series of paintings and large drawings embrace her Latino heritage and the idea of meditation in motion. 

We’re all coming through the tail end of challenging times and many of us have experience significant changes in our life; and yes, claustrophobia may have been the result of some of those changes. Even if you don’t consider yourself an artist but have started to feel the creative itch more than ever, residency might be the answer you are looking for. 

For more information on residency grants, go to artful-gives.org, nps.gov/wefa, or call The Meetinghouse at RCC at (203) 748-2806.