Sunday, December 20, 2009


As the year draws to a close it's always a good time for reflection, and especially after a seasonal snow storm ! I am very aware that as we go forward with the project that we are about to begin again . Each time we have an event or an installation there is a new experience gained that helps inform the next event or project . With this very much in mind I thought it useful , especially to new readers, to perhaps explore What is Habitat for Artists or maybe better put what has it

Habitat for Artists started in the Spring of 2008 on a patch of green in a parking lot in Beacon NY. It was to be a project that was allied to an Art Fair planned for early summer , that for reasons too many to recall here , didn't transpire . So HFA become it's own entity and artists used the small studios when they could , dealing with crazy nesting Robins to sunny , hot days where some had to take a break and visit DIA museum for a cool break !? There was always an aspect of asking the artists to examine the way they worked , what materials they worked with and the ability and openness to repurpose and reuse what ever we could in the building and in the art made (if any) there . There was a more or less communal side to it . We occasionally got together for a beer or a discussion , but alot of the artists had , which is typical ,an array of commitments which made being there at the same time difficult. Some artists were more able to come at certain days others struggled to be there and the confines of space were more to do with the confines of the life of an artist juggling two or more jobs !

In 2009 we had an invitation from Brian Wallace at SDMA (The Dorsky Museum) to be a part of the regional show in June and to also place the small studios around the village of New Paltz.
HFA now had to seek approval for the placement of these studios around town from the Village Board. We were now on the radar !We had decided that winter to reduce the time in the studios to a maximum of 3 weeks, in order that artists could sustain a presence in them.We also tried to place a collaborative component and especially a public outreach aspect to these short term residencies. Many artists in their time in the studios came up with wonderful interactive ways to engage with the passers by. They created new dialogue with many folks who wouldn't have passed over the threshold of a museum or gallery .This started to feel like what the project might become and what needed to be fostered and grown.

During this time we were allied with Solar 1 in NYC and were part of a Food and Garden project in Philadelphia (SCEE) , curated by Amy Lipton of ecoartspace. These asscociations started to greatly effect what HFA might become and the relationship with gardening grew when we were asked to place a studio at a CSA near Beacon , farmed by Tim Heuer.

The year ended with a bang by being allied with Urban Go Green , an inner city green education group , that organizes a Green , alternative Expo at the Harlem Armory at 142nd St.. We were fortunate in working with Work Space Harlem , across the street and building the NEW UGG studio at the work space location ! These alliances were along way from that small piece of green in that Beacon parking lot , but a lot of the issues were the same and began taking shape !

HFA is on its way to becoming its own not for profit . We will begin to formulate the process in the new year by which we can take direct contributions. This is not to say we won't partner with other groups and we are fortunate this next year to be sponsored through HHLT, in Garrison.
WE are still working closely with ecoartspaceNY and Amy Lipton. (and this will continue).

At the center of the project and Todd Sargood has been key in reminding me of this, is the exploration of the Role of the Artist . For those who care you can read yesterday 's post which touches on that subject (below). This for me has become the resonant reason for continuing the project and much to many folks chagrin a constant source of conversation. The small studios being placed in unexpected places, puts those artists who take up residency , in similarly not the normal place to come across art ! And to find someone actually engaged in the process of making art,... and who is then open to discussing that activity,.. in a variety of ways.

We are entering a new chapter , and the likes of Daniel Pink seem to agree ! The artist can no longer place themselves at the periphery of their community. The irony as Brian Wallace discusses in his short introduction to the June show at the Dorsky , "was that the artist although immersed in the culture has found themselves at the edge of the community they work in ". The Transition ZONE ! The question that I now pose is that as artists, can we continue this marginal role and be forced out of any meaningful existence OR can we change this paradigm? So that what Habitats for Artists was is changing in to what it needs to become ! (or more pronounced ! ). In short a habitat for artists !! A place in the community that encourages artists to engage with a broader audience and with a broader , a more meaningful subject matter. Subjects that resonate with a community and the artist is capable and able to help the community envision. This is the ability and willingness to see the Bigger Picture !

It is with this intention that HFA aims to continue and grow . To continue working with a series of groups and a variety of organizations where the artist is placed as the catalyst for a new kind of dialogue. The act of engaging with an audience with out prior knowledge of what might be created. Within this aim HFA also seeks to discover what role the artist might become and be sustained by the community the artist works in . A whole new Mind !?

Saturday, December 19, 2009


I've been working on this new HFA project for a good two months . Talking with individuals and getting their input to help guide the outline and structure of the NEW project happening in Philipstown next year. At the heart of it all is this key idea of working to change the Artist's usual ROLE in the community . Over many years the artist has allowed themself to become a peripheral entity , to a point of now seemingly surprised irrelevance ! OUCH ?

Too much ? I don't think so ,.... the bulk of people are NOT impacted by the once called FINE arts. Not to the extent that leads say the GATES project in NYC , by CHRISTO and JEAN CLAUDE ,to become a phenomena in that it attracted a large amount of people to the park during an unseasonal time to experience that ART work . Much of the work now being produced has become a pandering to an entitled few . The artist has allowed themselves to be engaged in widget making on any scale. The next , new idea soon becomes passe and the artist scurries back to the studio to try and invent the new enticing widget and win court favor !

Many artists enjoy this activity and have become defined by it . Damien Hirst having pronounced the Death Of Painting , now paints (badly) to the courtiers and art elect , but the majority of us remain " NOT AMUSED" . And to take this point further most artists subject matter for the most part is unfortunately so personal or bland that most people have little interest in comprehending what its' about . OR really care . WHY ? Because ART has lost, in the majority of cases an IMPACT, or relevance . Whilst the bulk of art occurs there is a sense of Nero fiddling whilst Rome burns ?

I think we are at the height of this state currently. The juxtaposition of the failure of the economy and the inability to effectively grasp that alternatives need to be found ( or we are on the road to the next economic crash ) with articles on whether a gallery will survive the economic drought, illustrate this predicament. When there is rising unemployment and we can't even get our Gov't to conceive of effective Health care ,.....who cares !?

As an artist are we trained to block this out and continue with Business as Usual ? Return to our studios and continue Fiddling ? OR can we become involved in the NEW Vision which it seems many now need to SEE ? Is this all too broad and inconceivable to most of us ? Including alot of artists ? OR is our current role such that we DON'T become involved as its not our business ? Return to the garret and work on the next collectible widget . The artist as the child is requested not to worry themselves with the REAL world . So what are we imagining ?

What if we , as artists RE imagined our role as playing a central role in our culture , our society so we were contributing to it by helping solve and realize some of the solutions to the community we live in rather than observing or making snide remarks ? We could be good at imagining a better world, of seeing potential, of realizing the abstract . What if we engaged in a larger canvas that took us out of our usual context and began engaging in ideas that need now to be helped and conceived ? Started to explore a new role for the artist and the creative practice which enlisted others in a series of new dialogues on many topics that need a new vision ?

There are the beginnings of grass roots groups of artists that are starting to engage in this way in various communities and redefining the assumed artist's role . The likes of the Harrisons are becoming or gaining relevance to our current predicament . Artists in Wisconsin taking the local CSA farmstands and turning them into works of art ....along the roadside. Seemingly a small step but relevant as it changes the context of art occurring only in sanctioned places !BUT this isn't new in any way .... DADA .... nearly a 100 years ago now was actively upsetting the established realm of art .

So ask yourself if you want to begin to be a part of rolling the ball forward or continue in the usual practice which is for most of us highly unsustainable and To Continue the current STATUS QUO ?Many artists claim to ask their audiences QUESTIONS in their work maybe now its time to ASK ourselves what are the types of questions we are asking !

As a friend recently said NO I don't have all the answers but I do want to be part of the change for the future because I believe it to be of value .

BUT is this the place of art , does it make for GOOD art ? I'd say by the current state of things we don't have a lot to lose , cos I sure as heck do not want the likes of Damien being my representative in the Senate of Culture ! Do you ?

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Just got back from Philly !! Wow ,... return journey a little longer than usual but a good day with the studio getting wrapped up . I 've been joking that we had to wrap up the project and thats what we were actually doing. Ensuring that winter won't or at least it's effect lessened by getting some tarps on the roof and over the windows and door so all alittle better protected . Normally not a big deal but this is the one we want to go forward to become the studio on campus at BCC.
Burlington Community College NJ , which I believe is around 45 miles due east of Philadelphia .

We unscrewed around a 100 tiles. Tiles that were painted there and others from New Paltz that we had applied to the studio's exterior . These we hope to use again on the various projects coming up next year . We also took down the cabana structure behind the studio and we'll be reusing these parts in other habitat studios . Fortunately weather wise it was perfect . Brisk but not too cold that made undoing the structure a pleasant activity especially at this time of the year.

We're looking forward to moving the studio to the new site come spring and working again with Jeff , who has been pivotal in getting the project to the new BCC site !

Well that about wraps things up for 2009 .Now the planning and meetings to steer the new project in the Hudson Valley plus some others lurking ,... but that's another day .

Later SD

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

HABITAT FOR ARTISTS at Philipse Brook , Philipston NY

We're making plans to bring the project to Philipstown next year . So far we have had some really important , initial support from individuals and groups in the area , and its continuing .We've come up with what we think is going to be a hybrid project . An amalgamation of some of the initial ideas when it first was at Spire Studios in Beacon , and lessons learnt in New Paltz this past year. We hope we can also sustain some satellite interests .We'll be looking to grow the number of studios at the CSA farm near Beacon , and venture in to new territory around Hudson NY.

Had a great chat with Tim and Devin from the Beacon CSA about ideas that could be used in the context of the farm . Devin will be moving on to help legislation down in DC so who knows HFA might get to go to Washington , Mr Smith ?? Tim and I will be continuing this dialog in the new year.

For next year's selection of artists at the project in Philipstown we now have a terrific panel. Made up of past HFA artists and local curators plus an art writer you may have heard of ,....
They will be formulating guidelines so artists can propose projects for a 3 week residency
or less and encouraging artists to collaborate with various groups in the community . We hope to encourage a variety of work combining topics that deal with land use as well as purely visual devices but all looking to put art in the every day and encourage new dialogue about visual stuff !! AND more !

We'll be teaming up with some usual suspects and some new partners to see how far we can take the dialogue . We hope to be partnering with Chris Kennedy from Artiscycle . Chris was at Solar 1 and developed a great book called The Green Innovator . Dionis Ortiz from Work Space Harlem will be getting involved with the project in a number of ways . WSH will be holding an exhibit of past HFA artists in the Spring and Dionis will be taking up a residency at HFA some time in the Summer. We hope to get the studio back at Poets Walk and be working with Scenic Hudson again . We've a plan to make the studio there exclusively for Writers(working with the
theme of the Park !) . Chris Albert might be back with us as he heads up a proposal with the Beacon Community Center next spring .

A big part of this next project will be OUTREACH . Getting a variety of volunteers to help with a variety of tasks . Getting the community in and helping and participating with all sorts of projects we have planned . From helping build the studios to help in the creation of new work and getting to document the project and blog about the whole thing !

So young and old , and all kinds of experience will be welcomed as we start to build the community with in the community . We'll be coming up with new stuff and recycling some of the old stuff ... so it only gets better ! If you're in the area and want to get involved get in touch
SOON ! As usual stay well , stay healthy and eat heartily but know where the food comes from !! Best SD.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


This one really hit me recently and I am quoting a good friend , Joe P.  in reply to an improved idea I had proposed....his response was .."its the new three 'R's ,  reuse , recycle , restore ." 

As a mantra that might be applied to a lot of what is going on today and obviously , seasonally
as GIFT giving comes around in that frenetic , head spinning ,and  mind numbing way .What are we left with ? So stepping outside the realm of perhaps making some THING out of old other things what if we applied this new R mantra to the season of GIVING .(Though its better than buying new ).

What might be restored ,.. perhaps MEANING ?  We is fast over taken by ME , and it seems we have suffered by accumulated ME s so step one , (1)  what does or could this season mean ??
AND how might it benefit US ? Inherent in cultures that adopt belief systems other than what is in front of me is the idea of the group. AND preserving that group . Taking care in all manner of ways the health and welfare , and being of that group . So what might it mean to GIVE to your group , yeah lets start with your immediate community , your neighbor , a friend ,... now you're thinking about some one else other than yourself .  What might you give to them ?

(2) Recycle ,...   there are some great ideas , and philosophies that might just be re looked at and brought into parlance again . As well as perhaps looking at some of those things you have that you haven't looked at for an age sitting on the shelf , sitting in the basement , waiting to have relevance again .  The idea of using this particular time to bump start our economy so we can have more stuff accumulate ... it's not a good idea . Lets add another R ,  RETHINK . If and it is if we are going to get out of this current pickle in ain't going to be plying others with more stuff ? So it 'd be great to look through and repurpose some THINGs that others might not have and enjoy even USE ?

(3) REUSE ,.....    how much stuff didn't get used first time or hardly used . The paper bag or ooohh the plastic bag ? One use from shop to larder . Then OUT it goes . None of these are new ideas  , I 'm just recycling some old ideas that I recall from some 30 odd years ago . Yep I was brought up unbending nails . What ?  8d , 12 d all kinds of nails so I could fix something broken.
Though there is one thing really over used and that is this OLD make more MODEL that should be thrown out . NOW.  And getting back to the season , how about getting your kids to re box a toy and give it to a younger kid ? And have it come from that older kid , that now has a cool factor added to it ....which makes up for the lack of wrapping !! and MORE . 

Its really hard to walk around seeing creative ways of getting folks to buy stuff we don't really need. I was handed by my son a list of things he thought he wanted . Aside of the large dollar items which I winced at , I asked him to give a set of reasons as to why he needed these things. .How would his life benefit , how could this thing enhance his life aside of its cool ? Were there unseen aspects to having this be a part of your life ? Would others benefit by its use ?? 

Some of his answers did examine these other benefits and he did come up with some real added bonuses to having one or two things added to his life (style). 

I am NOT going to steal or demean the essence of this Holiday . I would however like to RE examine what it MEANS for us as a family , for us as a community and beyond ... the world at hand , and I am NOT saying DON'T enjoy yourself . Perhaps extend a hand to those who won't be spending the holidays with family or friends .  I joked with a garden group I 'm in about having a post holiday group dinner that was "Sustainable" ? Perhaps I wasn't joking ?

Three , now there's an old idea .... perhaps we can look at that again , the NEW three R s 
can be quite useful . Oh and by the way DO NOT buy your tree just yet it won't get to the 25th
inside your house ...  and what are you going to do with it after ? At least find out if its chipped in your municipality . 

So as the parties begin perhaps sharing good cheer and and imbibing good micro beer where possible is a good idea . Where it becomes a quick fix to some thing that needs to be carefully repaired , you may want to re look at the larger picture and envision your part a little more creatively ?   You might also want to walk home too ?? Or use public transport ...mmmmm.

Best and as always , be well !  SD

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