This year has been a critical year of growth for me as an artist. My site-specific installation, SUCCESSION: The Exchange Project (STEP), exploring the cohabitation of the art world and the homeless in Seattle’s Pioneer Square, opens in January 2016 at Gallery 4Culture. Along with seven community access events, including two art workshops with The Recovery Café and Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission, I am creating a video which pairs artists and arts professionals with homeless individuals through structured interactive choreographic gestures. The project responds to the voices, neighborhood, building and physical space of Gallery 4Culture, the cultural services agency for King County.
I’ve been a dance and visual artist in Seattle for several decades. In 1998, I received an Artist Trust Grants for Artist Projects (GAP) award, which enabled me to complete and present my choreography as a recent art school graduate. It was truly validating, planting the seeds of future possibility on my path as a professional artist. When I shifted into visual art, Artist Trust’s opportunities listings led to my involvement in local and national exhibitions—a crucial step in building experience showing my work.
This year, I knew it was time to apply for an Artist Trust Fellowship so that I could focus on my evolution as a multidisciplinary community engagement artist. I was awarded the Fellowship with a residency at the Millay Colony for the Arts.
Elated? Yes. Encouraged? Double yes. Grateful? Utterly.
My growth has been exponential. I’ve been able to put aside logistical distractions and further develop my process of partnering with community by integrating specific demographics related to a project concept directly into the creative process. STEP has utilized this model for deeply integrated community engagement. I spent October in residence at Millay working on visual ideas for the installation. November and December will be completely devoted to building those visual elements, including metal sculpture, video, collage, and assemblage.
I have also been preparing for my next project, investigating the devaluation of women and girls, by connecting with community partners, applying for funding and creating workshop curriculums. I certainly wouldn’t be doing all of this now without the generous Artist Trust Fellowship.
The mutual support of the other 2015 Fellowship recipients is also incredibly valuable. We all came together for a satellite exhibition during the inaugural Seattle Art Fair in August. To form this community and show alongside these accomplished artists amid the buzz of a successful international event was an extraordinary experience.
Artist Trust has been instrumental in my development. Without the critical resources of time, funding, and community building, my journey as an artist would look very different today. With your gift, Artist Trust will continue to invest in artists, enabling us to do our essential job of bringing unique, enriching and transforming perspectives to our communities, and our world.
On behalf of Artist Trust, thank you for your gift!
Michelle de la Vega