During the month of November 2020, given the circumstances of the pandemic and the consequent changes in the programming of our activities, we decided to generate a series of virtual encounters that would allow us to know the reality of other residency programs for artists with particularities of each context. A recognition of the different ways of making and building common spaces of artists for artists.

We set out to look outside of our context to appreciate other ways of operating and coordinating spaces and programs, focused on practices that promote reflection of their participants with the local context.

The first of these encounters was with FRESH MILK, a residence space from Barbados coordinated by the artist, educator, and independent curator Annalee Davis. She works at the intersection of biography and history, focusing on post-plantation economies by engaging with a particular landscape in Barbados. Her creative practice mines the plantation from the perspective of a white Creole woman. Her studio, located on a working dairy farm, operated historically as a 17thC sugarcane plantation, offering a critical context for her practice by engaging with the residue of the plantation.

In 2011, Annalee founded FRESH MILK, an art platform and micro-residency program. She is the co-founder and co-director of Caribbean Linked, an annual residency in Aruba, bringing together emerging artists, writers and curators from the Caribbean and Latin America, and Tilting Axis, an independent visual arts platform bridging the Caribbean through annual encounters.

The initiative of FRESH MILK program has been to provide an intimate and small-scale space adapted to the artist’s needs, so that each resident can focus on the development of their proposals, seeking in each experience a genuine connection with the members of the organization and those who participate of the local and international artistic community.

With the arrival of the pandemic, thanks to the coordinated support with other institutions such as Kingston Creative, and The American Friends of Jamaica The AFJ, FRESH MILK has developed the CATAPULT program, a series of remotely coordinated activities, such as CATAPULT Stay Home Artist Residency, giving the opportunity to 24 artists from different parts of the French, English, Spanish and Dutch Caribbean, granting them financial support for the production of works from their workshops, for a period of two months, focusing on relevant topics such as culture, human rights, gender, and the LGTBQIA + community.

Also participating in this meeting was the Puerto Rican artist Sofía Gallisá Muriente (1986 Puerto Rico), ex-resident artist of FRESH MILK and participant of the CATAPULT program, from San Juan de Puerto Rico, working mainly with video, film, photography, and text. Through multiple approaches to documentation, her work deepens the subjectivity of historical narratives, examining formal and informal archives, popular imaginaries and visual culture.

From 2014 to 2020 she served as co-director of Beta-Local, dedicated to fostering knowledge exchange and transdisciplinary practices in Puerto Rico.

Sofía told us about her experience and the importance of a space like the CATAPULT program, which has made it possible to connect and recognize the work of different artists in the region, at their different career levels. In her case, the benefit granted allowed her to produce an experimental film.

This is extremely important in the midst of an emergency like the one we are experiencing, for those who dedicate themselves to contemporary artistic practices in the Caribbean, a context where stable support policies tend to be lacking consistency with the reality of the artists and the context. Furthermore, devastating natural phenomena have occurred in recent years, which deepened this gap in institutional support. The CATAPULT program has provided each participant, in addition to the economic support, the possibility of virtual visits of experts in the field of the arts, curators, critics.

One of the most recognizable values of the CATAPULT program is the bond that it has generated among its participants, which, although they have started virtually, intends to be sustained over time, in addition, a whole digital archive, that documents all activities carried out through the program, by integrating the participation of young artists, emerging or mid-career, as well as curators and researchers from all over the Caribbean with their productions.

Then it was the turn to present our residency,  given by Rob ter Haar, visual artist and designer, an active member of the AtelierWG community and the current coordinating team, who was in charge of placing us on the map and the historical context of airWG.

The atelierWG Foundation was established in 1989, following the relocation of the hospital Wilhelmina Gasthuis now the AMC – Academic Medical Center – artists, small business owners and residents have shaped and preserved the unique character and special site of WG in Amsterdam. Today a large number of artists are living and working on the grounds, including those who are part of atelierWG (in Pavilions 18 and 19) the initiator of the airWG residency program.

We were also joined by Anthea Bush, an artist active in the AtelierWG community and a member of the previous coordinating team of airWG. Thanks to their work and that of other artists involved in the creation of the program, today we can sustain ourselves as one of the alternative residency spaces in Amsterdam, independently, coordinated by a new group of volunteer artists; Els van der Graaf, Tatjana Macic, Marieke Zwart, Eva Gongrip, Rob ter Haar and Hugo Palmar.

Anthea presented us with the work done during the initial five years of the airWG program. The different artists that have been part of the program, musicians, writers, performers, visual artists, and the activities that have been developed during their stay, meetings with the public, readings, performances, workshops and open studios.

As an independent residency program, we offer a space whose maintenance and support are partly provided by the AtelierWG foundation, and other expenses are borne by our residents. In this sense, we have set ourselves the challenge together with puntWG, to join forces for the benefit of the participants of our program. We participated in Kunstpodium Start, a grant awarded by Mondriaan Fonds, for small artistic initiatives and groups with a program of presentations and experimental activities.

We propose to stimulate the bond of our residents with the community, in a broad sense; in relation to the spaces and interests that we share, but also with other disciplines or local agents related to their interests, attending to proposals that seek that dialogue or organizing together with the artists, readings, open studios, or show their processes in addition to the possibility of making a final presentation at puntWG.

The pandemic has revealed in a terrible way the instability and precariousness of many structural aspects of our world; social, economic, health, and cultural among others, violently overturning various aspects of our reality to virtual space. 

There are many challenges involved in sustaining a residency program under these conditions. There are essential priorities to attend to. It is the artists who make our residences possible and if something leads us to think about this moment, it is the need to take care not only of our practices of art for art but of life itself as a fleeting power whose care requires another time, another rhythm, another distance to reflect about ourselves and what we do.

We invite you to learn more about this series of meetings in our next airWG Encounters post and to be aware of our activities through this space, built to document and share our activities.

Very soon we will announce new entries and collaborations from the artists that make airWG possible.

The video of this meeting is available on our Facebook page, airWG Encounters, FRESH MILK.