Thursday, March 7, 2013

Creative Conversation

Many people act like they expect to live forever, but they won't.

Creatives spend their lives crafting things that might, but they can never tell.

So artists offer their song to the wind and the wind carries the best part of them to an unknown place where echo is the currency of trade and whether or not their offering lasts, they'll not know it either way.

What's true is that art informs us, whether for a moment or forever.

It shows us who our neighbors are, how they see their lives and culture and their neighbors too, so that we might better understand them and better define our own place in the cosmos, having shared.

Creativity is an ongoing conversation as essential to human wellbeing as are earth, air, water and sky. Without its saving graces, we'd be a poor race indeed.

And from the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness of Michigan, a diverse group of dedicated folk devote their best efforts to assure that conversation thrives.

For two weeks last October I reveled in my residency at Dan's Cabin, courtesy of the Artists in Residence Program sponsored by the Friends of the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness

So extraordinary was the personal experience, so gracious the hosts and splendid the accommodations, upon leaving the place I promised myself to promote the work done at the Park by those who stand among its very best friends.

While there I led the ideal artist's life -- near the only time in my life I've been at liberty to do that, for whatever length of time. As direct result I accomplished some my best work ever.

And as is true of most of this Odyssey, where I've gone you can too.

Burdened by cultural noise and myriad sundry demands, tempted too much by handy distractions like T.V., Facebook and blogs, many artists yearn for an opportunity to submerse themselves in their work.

That opportunity is here.

Yeah, it's in the wilderness and maybe that's wholly outside your experience much less comfort level, I get that.

So here's the gig:

Nestled in a splendid grove of hemlock a mere quarter mile from the road, your fellow creatives have built a comfortable, sturdy cabin just for you.

Outside, the real world rules and a creek runs by. Inside there's a comfy bed, a well equipped kitchen, ample working space, a wood burning stove for warmth with everything framed by a wide expanse of windows that let the real world shine in, day and night.

And you're welcome to bring someone along whether for companionship or courage, should that suit you.

What the place lacks is phone, Internet, T.V., radio and all the distractions of contemporary life. I know of resorts that charge big money to rent that sort of liberty for even a single night.

On that table is a journal kept by a succession of residents for the benefit of those to follow. It's quite the thing to read. Artists use their stay at Dan's Cabin for everything from relaxation to adventure, from quiet contemplation to life altering self-discovery.

While there, they also accomplish fundamental work.

Out your door is a well maintained trail system cut more than 87 miles through 60,000 acres of wildness and offering prospects that range from remote waterfalls to accessible vistas. Then there're the pristine beaches of Superior, where folk hunt agates or swim or simply spend a contemplative afternoon beneath a warming sun. After which you might choose to bathe in the wonder of twilight as seen from the edge of the world's greatest inland sea, then marvel as the Milky Way blankets the sky one star at a time, an exquisite filigree undimmed by light pollution.

And being a creative, you will work, as the spirit moves.

Maybe you're thinking it all still seems too daunting. That you're too utterly urban to risk the real world or it's too distant or maybe you're too old to engage it or that your particular creative effort is an unlikely fit for the program.

What's true is that artists grow excuses like an untended garden grows weeds.

The Residency's hosted a rich array of artists whose work runs the gamut. Writers. Photographers. Poets. A filmmaker. Sculptors, painters, composers, graphic artists and musicians. Ceramicists and a glass artist. Printmakers and more.

That includes an octogenarian painter, a ceramicist in from Australia and an installation sculptor who traveled from Tokyo. So there's that.

What these folk share is a commitment to creative effort and the rewards earned when willing to take a leap of faith in oneself.

Did I mention the built in audience?

In return for Residency, your obligation is to donate a piece of work inspired by your stay and to give a public presentation during it -- the audience for which is involved, informed and friendly.

Can a working artist ask for more?

Yeah, the deadline for 2013 entry is April 1st and I've left you little time to prepare. I apologize for that, but the organic workflow of this Odyssey combined with the vicissitudes of life and here we are.

All the same, most working artists have their best work compiled and at hand. So putting together a proper presentation takes at most a bit of contemplation and just a few hours time. I'm here to tell you that a modest if well considered effort expended late last winter paid off for me in spades come autumn...

These last couple years of fieldwork sparked by specific creative purpose then informed across a magnificent landscape populated by a diverse, indomitable people have indelibly informed me.

And with that, whatever light I possess is edged closer to lastingly perfect. A proper source of warmth for blood run thin once my day's grown long.

Of all the miles over all the months across country grand & hard, of the people, places, sights, sounds and smells, of the incredible history freely mixed with triumph and misery and truth and lies and glimpses of a regional future with promise unlimited -- even considering all that and more -- it's likely that my two weeks spent as a guest at Dan's Cabin will be the time I treasure most through the years.

So do yourself a favor -- consider applying for an artist's residency  at the Porcupine Mountains. Do it for your work. Do it for yourself.

Put your very best effort on the line for something uncommon.

Click here, to stop procrastinating and get started.

And by all means please share this link with other creatives of all inclination everywhere, whether via Google or Twitter or Facebook or good old fashioned word of mouth.

Because creative conversation is the name of the game and you never can tell where that'll lead...


  1. This is a fine post and extra extraordinary photos. Thanks, Frank.

    1. It's an extraordinary program in a magnificent setting. In a sense, the work's never been easier than it was while there. Time just expanded with observation, which led to opportunity and I took advantage of things in ways you simply can't, when not otherwise living in a place. That was such a gift.

      I figured the least I could do was share...

  2. Beautiful post. Thanks for the encouraging kick in the pants -- I do have an awful lot of excuse-weeds in my garden :) I'll apply anyway!

  3. Thanks for the kind words. I'm glad to hear you're going to give it a go. The Friends earn the name, the accommodations are warm & comfortable and the audience for the artist's presentation was as welcoming as any I've experienced. All that and you're nestled in one of the finest, most accessible stretches of wildness anywhere around the Basin. The best of luck to you and should it not happen this year, then by all means try, try again. It's a great gig and well worth the effort.

  4. I'm also going to apply, even though I have applied to several AIR programs I have never been selected. I'm not giving up!

  5. Great! "Never give up" should be every creative's words to live by. Provided you submit only your very best work and always follow guidelines to a 'T', there's no call ever to equate a lack of acceptance for failure. Success in the arts is terribly unlikely without we place a high value on perseverance.

    I know some mighty fine artists who've knocked on the door of the Isle Royale A.I.R.P. for a long, long time and they've yet to get in. What's true is that none of us is privy to the specific considerations that go into any given selection process and ours is but to keep right on trying.

    My best wishes to you.

  6. I have really enjoyed your information that you shared here. I was chosen for the AIR for the Porkies for the Sept. 2nd time slot. You have really helped me with information and inspiration about the stay. I'm really looking forward to my time at the cabin and exploring the Porkies. Thank you Claudia

  7. What wonderful news. Congratulations!

    You should feel free to contact me privately with questions (if you have any), but this is my best piece of practical advice: If you intend on reading/writing after dark, bring light. The best decision I made was to buy a battery powered, gooseneck, clip on lamp. It proved so convenient I intended to leave it at the Cabin for future residents but by the time I left the batteries were worn down from steady use.

    Thanks so much for the kind words. September is a fine month to be there & I hope your stay at Dan's Cabin proves to be at least as productive and magical an experience for you as mine was for me.