Laura Mitchell, Post-install, A.I.R. exhibition on Governors Island, NYC 2017.A.I.R. Gallery Residency

words by Laura Mitchell

New York City Artist Residency
June to July 2017
When considering exhibiting with A.I.R. Gallery in NYC, USA back in 2016, I was excited by the prospect of meeting and working with “the oldest women only artist run collective gallery in the USA”. Little did I know that my arrival in the Big Apple, with artworks and exhibition gear in tow, would be during the most intense heatwave in New York for 100 years. In spite of this, the exhibition was a success, and great connections were made with gallery artists, board members and staff. I then started crafting the return project for July/August 2017 with these new colleagues.
As a dual citizen, I was a likely funding candidate with the American Australian Association, and so designed a project to fit their “residency & mentorship” grant program. The A.I.R. Gallery’s manager as well as two of the gallery artist/board members invited me to return to do a residency including gallery operations as well as studio master classes in these artists areas of expertise (installations incorporating painting and stop motion animation). A patron and friend residing in Chelsea generously offered a residency space with lodging in exchange for an art commission. This was critical since most NYC residencies do not offer lodging as well as studio space. Disappointingly the American-Australian Assoc. grant application wasn’t successful. I had almost given up, but then I received confirmation for a Fremantle Arts Centre residency directly following the NY project. I wrote this benefit into the project and then succeeded in winning a Creative Development grant from the Department of Culture and the Arts.

In addition to starting a new body of artwork, I was especially interested in researching not just the current generation of New York visual artists, but also the “new generation” of gallery and arts venues - not just artist collectives but also the current vogue of “shared spaces”.

Among the phenomenal selection of exhibitions in New York City, I was fortunate to visit and bring back materials on an all women exhibition at the New Museum, including Kaari Upson and Carol Rama, and a Revolutionary Women’s exhibition at Brooklyn Museum’s E. Sackler Collection of Feminist Art.
Laura Mitchell with A.I.R. Gallery Staff & Artists in the office on Opening NightMy proposal included that I would research future arts opportunities not just for myself, but to publicly share this NYC “knowledge bank” with other W.A. artists and audiences (my contact details below for anyone who would like more information). With the A.I.R. Gallery, it enabled not only development of new works with two of New York artists, but I also learned their secrets in maintaining the flourishing dynamism of the gallery. A key factor is community engagement, which also serves as member development. My own artist presentation with the gallery was only one of a weekly and often multi-weekly audience participation event that contributes to their success. Others, in addition to the traditional exhibitions, are art theory or book discussions, performance art, debates, and fellowship program for New York emerging artists, and more. They also hand select new members, which appears to create unity in their operations. For instance, I was invited to attend the artist member monthly meeting, where in a mere two hours, artist members, board and staff miraculously resolved a loaded agenda which could easily have taken two full workdays. All members bring valuable skills and contacts to contribute to the gallery’s success - from grants, to corporate donors, to possible new members, discount fundraising venues, and so on. Especially in an economy like New York, time is money, and efficiency is king. Amazingly, A.I.R. from what I witnessed manages to combine financial efficacy with a warm community for their success, which has lasted from 1972 to the present.

It was astonishing to see other flourishing alternative arts organisations in light of ongoing economic downtimes in the US.

Among these was Express Newark: a partnership of Rutgers University with the City of Newark. Colleague/artist friend and lecturer Adrienne Wheeler treated me to a tour of the project’s shared exhibition, residency, educational, and community spaces. Another, Pioneerworks, is a collective of innovative creative thinkers and practitioners in a huge warehouse in the formerly destitute area of Redhook, Brooklyn. Pioneerworks houses artist residency studios, an outdoor area with sustainable housing and gardening, (recycled caravans and ships), media tech lab including 3D printer, exhibition and performance spaces, a store/cafe, as well as an extensive calendar of community engagement events. Other organisations such as Storefront and No Empty Space utilise abandoned storefronts and offer frameworks for integrated global projects. Their websites cite conceptual “streams” to help artists and collectives develop ideas into global projects. They encourage not just traditional means of exhibition and performance but also globally roaming and digitally shared ones. For instance, an exhibition could occur in Hong Kong, with simultaneous videoconferenced interviews of the artists with an audience in Paris, available as social media/webpage or download via Australian channels, and have a projection component at a South American art fair – just one example! They can be virtual, hard copy, or any combination of the two, simultaneously. The definition of “art event”, “art gallery”, and “art audience” is changing—rapidly.
Upon invitation, I joined A.I.R. gallery as an artist member during this residency, and will return to New York in 2018/19 for a solo exhibition with them. Here in Perth I will continuing developing the work and research generated from New York while in residency at Fremantle Arts Centre through December 2017. The New York residency strengthened my professional contacts and friendships, resulting in two future international collaborations with artists Negin Moss and Jayanthi Moorti. Since then I was also accepted into the visual arts PhD program at Edith Cowan University under the supervision of Dr's Lyndall Adams and Paul Uhlman.

Laura Mitchell, A.I.R. Gallery Opening NightThe artworks and texts I’m exploring in my FAC residency are working towards this practice-led research project currently named The Spectrum of Obsolescence, in which I’ll extend my painting practice to enrich my installation work. Historically, I’m exploring how this notion of obsolescence relates to the original pop art movement in the US and it’s somewhat glamorous and nostalgic depiction of consumerism during economic prosperity, and current pop art/low brow art as it deals with our current economy of “turbo-consumerism” in the current global economic downturn.

Laura Mitchell holds an M.F.A in Design from VCU, USA, a Diploma of Fine Art from Central TAFE and an Advanced Diploma of Music Education from MIA in Western Australia, and a BA in Music/English. In addition to her visual arts career, she has worked as an art director/e-business art consultant and a professional musician. She has exhibited in academic and commercial galleries and been collected internationally, and has taught art and music from university to early childhood levels, in arts centres and educational institutions. Current and recent projects include a DCAWA supported residency with A.I.R. Gallery in NYC, an grant supported exhibition with VCU University’s 1509 Gallery, VA, USA, renewable energy public art commission, filigree laser cut metal artworks, paintings and illuminated artworks for private residence and commercial business. She is experimenting with directions for her next series of artworks, to be developed during her six month artist’s residency at Fremantle Arts Centre in 2017, while working towards her PhD research project with Dr's Paul Ullman and Lyndal Adams at ECU. Her upcoming events include an exhibition with PSArtSpace in Fremantle, and as part of Ventana Festival at Frankston Arts Centre in Melbourne, VIC. 

Contact Laura for more New York City information/residency details:
+61 435 054 122

Artist Residency Studio 6, FAC

Laura Mitchell's New York residency was supported by:

Department of Culture and the ArtsFremantle Arts Centre