Beneath the Surface: An artist residency in nature


**This is the first of a series of posts all about the Beneath the Surface residency and the artists that participated. Stay tuned for more to come!**

Last June, twenty artists from around New Brunswick gathered at Fundy National Park to live five intense days of nature and creativity, solitude and community, learning and growth. They were a part of Beneath the Surface, an artist residency organized by CraftNB in partnership with Fundy National Park. Artist residencies allow artists to set time aside in a new environment, away from their home and studio, so they can create something new. Beneath the Surface is the first of its kind in New Brunswick, consisting of a five-day stay at Fundy National park, a three-month period to come up with new work with a few meetings for encouragement and feedback, and then a big exhibition in September that will tour the province, starting at UNB Art Centre on Friday. (click here for more details on the show)

According to Alison Murphy, CraftNB’s executive director, the idea came about when they heard how the Craft Council of NFLD&L partners with Gros Morne National Park to offer an artist residency program. So they thought of partnering with Fundy. “We wanted to give our artists the opportunity to get inspired beyond their regular day-to-day work, especially those who are into production work and don’t have much time to create new, one-of-a-kind gallery pieces” says Alison. Many artists don’t have the time or resources to access international-level residencies, and so offering one here in the province seemed like a good idea. CraftNB put out a call for applications, then a jury selected twenty applicants, a difficult task, according to Alison. "We gave them a near-impossible job, to select artists along a spectrum of age, experience, medium, language and geography. They picked a great group." Here are the participants:

Allison Green, Alyson Brown, Deborah Payne, Emily Blair, Izabell Fagan, Jacqueline Bourque, Jamie Brown, Joe Pach, Kate White, Maria Guevara, Matt Watkins, Patty Goodine, Phil Savage, Ralph Simpson, Gesig Isaac, Jeanette Henry, Peter Powning, Shinaid McGillivray, Steve Jones


Group shot! - photo by Matt Watkins


Photo by Joe Pach

The residency itself was a true New Brunswick experience. The participants glamped in tents set up on decks, went on nature walks with park interpreters and listened to talks nearly every day. There was time for quiet reflection as well as group bonfires in the evening to talk, sing and share ideas. Sound like paradise? For these artists, it was. Most of them work alone and participating in something like this was just what they needed to move forward in their creative practice. And they built relationships that will last a lifetime. 

Fabiola Martinez is a visual artist from Quispamsis and this residency was significant milestone in her creative career. "To be outside my studio sharing my thoughts and ideas with 19 more artists and to be able to have a strong feedback was incredible." she says. Fabiola, like many participants, was inspired to reach outside her comfort zone and try a whole new medium, and even added a dimension! Instead of 2D paint on canvas, she created a 3D metal sculpture. "Working with metal, cutting it and using tools that I never used before was a big challenge and at the same time a big step for me. I felt very proud of my process and the risk to create my piece." says Fabiola.


Fabiola Martinez sketching by the water - photo by Matt Watkins


Artists and interpreterer - photo by Andrea Turcotte

One of the fascinating aspects about the location of the residency is that the beginning of the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design (NBCCD) originated as a touring craft school and summer workshop in Alma, NB. The New Brunswick government had seen the rise in popularity of handcrafts and started offering workshops in things like woodworking and fibre arts. The workshops were so popular that they eventually became the precursor for NBCCD. This connection was meaningful to many participants and organizers who studied or taught at NBCCD, a bit like coming back to a home you never knew you had. 


Those who participated in the residency each came up with a piece or series of pieces to be selected for the Beneath the Surface exhibition, many of which decided to venture beyond familiar territory and explore new mediums and techniques. The show will open at UNB Arts Centre on Friday, 5-7 pm and is certainly not one to miss! Although the details have yet to be determined, the show should travel to the NB Museum in Saint John next and possibly to Restigouche later in the fall.

It is ideas and programs like this one that will elevate our artists and the work they produce to participate on the international stage. Good job CraftNB for thinking outside the box and creating space for artists to do the same!

Up next, Deborah Payne and her tapestry weaving!


Beneath the Surface New Brunswick artists

Beneath the Surface New Brunswick artists