Watershed and The Color Network (TCN) are partnering for a second year to offer an artist residency focused on mentor-mentee relationship building among artists of color who work in clay. This summer, sixteen artists who are part of TCN’s mentorship program will gather in person for a two-week residency. The session will be funded in part by a $35,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
TCN supports artists of color by providing resources, visibility, and professional development opportunities. A significant facet of their work focuses on building mentorship networks among experienced and emerging ceramists. With TCN’s mentors and mentees scattered across the country, most of their connections take place online. As TCN considered ways to bring mentorship program participants together in person, Watershed’s open-ended residency structure offered a natural fit.
“As a student and an educator, I have often been the only person of color in the room. In these situations, I feel simultaneously invisible and hyper-visible,” shares TCN steering committee member Magdolene Dykstra. “The Color Network provides space for creatives of color to be seen and to see themselves in an uplifting space. The residency at Watershed is a crucial opportunity to be, make, and think alongside each other in person, in contrast to our increasingly virtual interactions.”
Last summer, eleven TCN members gathered at Watershed for the group’s inaugural mentorship residency. While the mentor-mentee pairs had previously established connections with one another online, the majority of the group arrived as strangers. During their three weeks together, artists kept long hours in the studio while making strides in their work. Simultaneously, their conversations and collaborations engendered a comfortable ease that enlivened their practices and connections.
“The residency was life changing,” shares TCN member and 2021 resident artist Corrin Grooms. “I learned more in three weeks than I did in one semester in school. I made lifelong connections and am on a better path with my art career from the guidance I received from not only my mentor but all of the mentors.”
Like many art centers, Watershed’s programs are funded through a mix of donor support, grants, and direct fees paid by participants. The Grants for Arts Projects (GAP) award from the National Endowment for the Arts will cover the cost of every TCN artist’s residency. “The award helps remove financial barriers to participation,” explains Watershed Executive Director Fran Rudoff. “Watershed and TCN agreed that cost should not deter anyone from participating in the session. We are pleased that the NEA recognizes the importance of this experience and has awarded a second year of funding.”
“This is some of the most radical programming I’ve ever been part of,” shares 2021 TCN resident artist Gerald Brown. “So many artists of color struggle with money that they can never be fully immersed in a space. But when you remove that barrier, you tell them they are enough as-is. Imagine what a generation of mentorship residency cohorts would look like and what a massive impact it would have on the ceramics field.”
NEA GAP awards reach communities in all parts of the country, large and small, from diverse cultural and economic backgrounds. In 2022, there are 1,248 organizations recommended to receive grants totalling more than $28 million.
In addition to time spent on studio projects and mentorship work, TCN and Watershed will host a summer exhibition featuring work by the TCN’s mentor-mentee residency cohort from last year. 2022 resident artists may also livestream artist talks, demonstrations, and conversations for their greater community and the public.