May 17, 2016
Getting Seaworthy: Offshore Residency
If you’re an artist who has the time and, often, financial wherewithal to afford yourself a residency somewhere, the good news is that there are loads of them out there. The bad news is the same: there are loads of them out there. In other words, there are so many that the best way for you to start looking for one that suits you is to narrow your search dramatically.
You want to do a residency in Southern California or South Carolina, for instance. Or you want to do one in a specific city in Europe. Or you’d like to find one that’s preferential to digital media, or that requires residents to use exclusively environmentally-friendly materials. Or you want to do one in Chile, or on a horse ranch in Argentina. Or maybe on an organic switchgrass farm in Vladivostok. Well, great! Because aside from the latter, I’m pretty sure these are all viable possibilities, and that you’d have more than a few options for each of them.
And yet, if you want to do a residency that will put you and a handful of like-minded, like-willed artists on a sailboat for a given amount of time, then support your creative practice for several months thereafter and help you mount a gallery exhibition, then you won’t have too many options. In fact, you might even have only one: the Brooklyn-founded Offshore Residency. It would seem a perfect fit for your desire to be part Bas Jan Ader, part communal collaborator, part individual creative agent.
Offshore Residency’s founders and core organizers are still working on getting the whole operation funded and underway, so I thought it would be a great time to check in with one of them, Brooklyn artist Cortney Andrews, to find out how the program progressed from idea to entity, what stage of development it’s at now, and what else needs to happen before the boat leaves the dock.
Don’t worry, there are still a few seats left. Read on.
So, you’re from Kansas, which is an island surrounded by the sea, and where the traditions of sailing and regattas go back many generations. Which is to say, what got you into sailing?
Ha! Kansas could definitely be considered an island by some standards. I have always had a deep fascination with the water. Maybe it’s because I grew up in the country, totally landlocked. I didn’t experience the ocean until I was about 20 years old. It was poetic, romantic and dangerous. It represented freedom in some way.
My friend and co-founder of Offshore Residency, Tonian Irving, introduced me to sailing pretty recently. She’s been sailing since she was a little kid. After we took a couple of journeys together, my philosophical fascination with the water really merged with the physical nature of sailing—transience, community, adjustment to motion, intuition to environment, even the dynamics of ease and discomfort. The experience had so many parallels with own creative practice, so it was a pretty profound experience for me.
And that’s how the idea for Offshore Residency came into being?
Yes. I talked with some artists who’ve had similar experiences on the water about how much it inspired and changed them. I started thinking about how this experience could be shared with other creative people who haven’t had an opportunity to live aboard a boat, and I realized that there was no residency program like this. After brainstorming the idea with Tonian, we decided to make it happen. We talked with our friends at the Sailing Collective, a group of experienced sailors who captain sailing journeys around the world, and they were excited about the idea. We’ve partnered with them for our inaugural journey in Maine this summer.
As the residency idea became increasingly real, how did the particular nature of this one get you to think differently about residencies in general? How do you see this actually working out from the beginning of a residency period to the end?
I’ve participated in residencies at Skowhegan and Yaddo, and what makes these institutions so widely respected and desirable is the community that they continue to build from each group of residents. Community is the most important part of this, because it benefits our daily lives after we return. While solitude in the studio is crucial, the best residencies are the ones where you walk away with a wider network of people who support you and what you do—you find commonalities in unexpected ways, and that can be really rewarding. We wanted to make something that is run by artists and for artists—something outside of the market that supports the creative growth of individuals and initiates the development of more collaborative business models like this one. Offshore Residency is about adapting one’s practice to a completely different environment, and using that intensive experience to inform new ways of working.
In terms of how the program operates, each journey will begin with one week at sea and end with a group exhibition at a partner gallery. Outside of that structure, each installment of the residency will have unique characteristics. Our inaugural trip is scheduled to take place off the coast of Maine this summer. Throughout the week at sea, we’ll sail to secluded islands and anchorages where residents will have time for open-ended reflection on their work both individually and collaboratively. We’ll also stop in ports where partnerships with local creative organizations will offer screenings, lectures or exhibition opportunities. Next year, we hope to take the project to international waters.
You have a few galleries involved in your structure and planning. How did you get them behind your idea?
Regina Rex and Harbor (both in the same space on the Lower East Side) are galleries that are also collectively owned and operated by a group of artists who are friends of ours, and they have really supported Offshore Residency from the beginning. In the early stages of planning, we proposed the idea of an exhibition in their space after returning from our first sailing journey. We liked the idea that residents have this incredible experience together at sea, and then have the opportunity to show their work and how the residency impacted them. It is beneficial for everyone. It gives more visibility to the artists, writers, galleries and our program. A percentage of the proceeds from exhibition sales will go toward funding the program moving forward.
And now you’re just in need of a bit more funding, right?
Yes, the deadline for our fundraising campaign through Hatchfund is Friday, May 20th. We used this platform because it is tax-deductible for our donors, and it helps spread the word about our program. After that ends, it’s about building a sustainable model, which includes finding our consistent donor base, applying for grants, and having exhibitions and benefits.
At this point, some of our readers might be keen on applying. How many spots do you have left, and who are the artists already on deck?
We have three artists confirmed for our inaugural journey along the coast of Maine: Kylie Lockwood, Siebren Versteeg, and Lior Shvil. There are three more spots open, and applications are still being accepted. Residents are not required to learn how to sail, and can learn as much as they wish to learn (that’s why we have captains), but it is a communal approach to living and working together. While we know it’s not for everyone, and can be quite physically demanding, we anticipate residents will have a transformative experience. As Leonard Cohen said, “If you don’t become the ocean, you’ll be seasick everyday.”
Will there be a regatta? Like the one in Summer Rental, perhaps?
Ha! Special consideration for any artist who submits a proposal to recreate regattas from 80’s film comedies. I think there’s a regatta in One Crazy Summer too?
That’s a great idea! Or maybe I should just look for the Fans of John Candy Art Residency? It’s probably super competitive though. Anyway, aside from wrapping up the fundraiser for Offshore Residency and getting it in the water, what’s on your creative agenda this summer?
I’m working on a new installation of video performances, photographs and drawings. I often work with performers, choreographing actions to expose physical and psychological thresholds. This new body of work is all based around the idea of falling. It ties in nicely to the sailing.
What’s more, it’s very Bas Jan Ader! Wonderful. Just be sure to come back. For now, tell everyone where to click to apply, donate, follow, et cetera.
General information about Offshore Residency is on our website. Through May 20th, donations are accepted through Hatchfund. You can follow Offshore Residency on Facebook, and on Instagram @offshoreresidency. My website is here, and you can follow me on Instagram @cortneyandrews. You can also find more info about our collaborators, The Sailing Collective, on their website here.
Offshore Residency was founded by Cortney Andrews and Tonian Irving. Images above courtesy Tonian Irving.