Friday, February 21, 2014

The Porcupine Mountains, Part 3

These are incredibly challenging times for artists. The Democratization of all Media has made for a chaotic, undifferentiated cultural marketplace that's devalued intellectual property to the extent that you can now buy a novel for less than an order of fast food fries.

In addition to having to sell themselves cheap, most creatives hold down 'real jobs', while working at their art as best they can. That's not gotten any easier, what with these being the hardest stinkin' times since the Great stinkin' Depression.

So maybe it's high time to do something for yourself and your work.

Opportunities for artistic residencies exist throughout this land and across the great, big world beyond. Some offer contemplative isolation in remote places. Others feature vibrant cross-cultural conversation in big cities. These residency programs come in packages large and small, whether publicly supported, privately funded or a collaborative combination of the two. Taken together, they favor every sort of creative effort.

All exist to serve you, the dreamer. The aspirant. The artist.

Among those things that've pleased me most during this project is that other creatives have applied for artistic residency at the Porcupine Mountains, inspired by my experience at Dan's Cabin.

Because as it turned out, my residency was among the finest, most productive two weeks of my life and that's the sort of thing that simply must be shared.

So do yourself a favor. Give it a shot.

If not to the program at the Porkies, then Google for one that suits you and apply there. Should the first time not bear fruit, try again. If you've been applying for years at one program, switch up and try another.

What's true is that great art came out of the last Depression. Art that helped make the world a better place.

Today the culture at large needs you more than ever, even if the wages don't reflect that. And there are all sorts of fine folk just like in the Porkies, ready and willing to share a personal commitment with you.

As an artist your only choice is to either keep at it or give up, there's no third way.

Never give up.


Creative Conversation (Revised)


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

Others spend their lives creating things that might.

So artists offer their song to the wind and the wind carries the best of them to an unknown place where echo is the only currency of trade and whether or not their offering lasts, they'll never know it either way.

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

It shows us who our we are, how we see our lives and culture and our neighbors too, so that we might better understand what it is to be human and better define our own place in the cosmos, having shared.

Creativity is a 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 during October of 2012, I reveled in a residency at Dan's Cabin, courtesy of the Artists in Residence Program  sponsored by the Friends of the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness

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 regular jobs, cultural noise and myriad sundry demands, tempted 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 reserved 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 and a wood burning stove for warmth, with everything framed by a wide expanse of windows that let the wild woods shine in, day and night.

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

What the place lacks is phone, Internet, T.V., radio and all the distractions of contemporary life. There're resorts charging 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 who follow. It's quite the 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, 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 relaxing 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 and later 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 think it all seems 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. What they have in common is that they took a chance.

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 2014 entry is March 31st and you might think that leaves little time to prepare.

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 judicious consideration and just a few hours time. I'm here to tell you that a modest if well considered effort expended late in the winter of 2012 paid off for me in spades come that autumn...


These last few 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.

Again, 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...




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