The Roswell Artist-in-Residence program
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