The Roswell Artist-in-Res­i­dence pro­gram

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IT­can take awhile for ideas to fer­ment and be re­al­ized in a com­pleted body of work. While most artist res­i­den­cies are no more than a few weeks to a cou­ple of months in du­ra­tion, one of the most com­pet­i­tive and highly sought, the Roswell Artist-in-Res­i­dence (RAiR) Pro­gram, of­fers the “gift of time.” That means artists have a full year to work on projects with min­i­mum dis­trac­tion and ac­cess to fa­cil­i­ties of which many artists can only dream.

The pro­gram, which was started by busi­ness­man and artist Don­ald B. An­der­son in 1967, cel­e­brates its 50th an­niver­sary this year. RAiR was cre­ated in part­ner­ship with the Roswell Mu­seum and Art Cen­ter, which also has a sig­nif­i­cant an­niver­sary this year as it cel­e­brates its 80th. The Roswell Mu­seum over­saw the pro­gram un­til 2002, when ad­min­is­tra­tive re­spon­si­bil­ity passed to the Roswell Artist-in-Res­i­dence Foun­da­tion. For most of its his­tory, RAiR’s fa­cil­i­ties al­lowed for up to five artists per year to take ad­van­tage of ac­cess to stu­dio space at the His­toric Stu­dios at Ber­rendo Road, a com­plex listed on the Na­tional Reg­is­ter of His­toric Places. “They are now rented out as af­ford­able hous­ing and stu­dios for artists,” said RAiR pro­gram di­rec­tor Stephen Flem­ing, him­self a two-time Roswell res­i­dency awardee.

New fa­cil­i­ties built near the Ber­rendo Road fa­cil­i­ties in 2007 al­lowed for an in­crease in the num­ber of artists served by RAiR, which now in­vites six per year. Open to con­tem­po­rary artists the world over, RAiR has hosted par­tic­i­pants from Europe, Aus­tralia, Ja­pan, Chile, and the United States, even pro­vid­ing multi-bed­room live-in spa­ces to ac­com­mo­date their fam­i­lies. The in­ten­tion is not just to al­low artists to cre­ate new work but also to give them the time and space to progress, evolve, and break new ground. Nearly 250 artists have re­ceived the res­i­dency since its in­cep­tion, and eight of those are for­mer re­cip­i­ents of the Gover­nor’s Award: Luis Jimenez, Howard Cook, Bar­bara Latham, Elmer Schoo­ley, Frank McCul­loch, Wil­liam Good­man, Ed­die Dominguez, and Ed­ward Vega. But other artists based in New Mex­ico have also been RAiR fel­lows in­clud­ing Frank Et­ten­berg, Heidi Pol­lard, and John­nie Wi­nona Ross, also a two-time res­i­dent artist, who has a cur­rent ex­hibit on view at Char­lotte Jack­son Fine Art through Oct. 1.

The res­i­dency pro­gram doesn’t of­ten get much at­ten­tion de­spite its be­ing among the most cov­eted, at least na­tion­ally, and part of the rea­son is the re­mote lo­ca­tion. But many of the artists who have par­tic­i­pated have ended up be­com­ing per­ma­nent res­i­dents of the state, so its im­pact on New Mex­ico’s cul­tural en­rich­ment can’t be ar­gued, and, hence, the award. “We have been out here in rel­a­tive ob­scu­rity for 50 years, so we’re not re­ally used to that kind of at­ten­tion,” said Flem­ing. “It’s more or less unique. Our founder thought if was go­ing to bring some-body all the way out to New Mex­ico, they’d bet­ter stay for a while. By stay­ing here for a year, it does ce­ment the re­la­tion­ship with the land and the peo­ple. I could be wrong, but I be­lieve it’s the old­est con­tin­u­ously op­er­at­ing res­i­dency of its kind west of the Mis­sis­sippi.” — M.A.

De­bra M. Smith in her Roswell Artist-in-Res­i­dence stu­dio, 2010

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