Why do collaborative residencies work? The artist is given what he most wants– uninterrupted TIME to work. Distractions are put aside for a few weeks. A residency can be a safe place to try something never tried before. Artists learn from each other. They talk and gesticulate and think. There is sharing, connections, dreaming and action. Ideas percolate, gestate, and in many cases are not realized until the artist returns to his home studio. In addition, the art finds new audiences in exhibitions outside one’s home turf. When asked what they most valued about collaborative residencies artists at the 2011 No Boundaries Colony said: “the earnest work that goes on is inspiring, the gift of time to work, being with one’s tribe, the infusion of energy, doing together– cooking, talking, helping each other expand thinking and processes, trying new methods and materials, the gifts– wood for sculpture, a fox skull and a pair of bird wings to draw, revealing hidden gems on the island to paint or photograph…the experiences continue, they are not still moments in time– they propel us forward.”
In May 1998 No Boundaries, Inc. was founded for the purpose of bringing artists from around the world together to enlighten each other and the larger community through sharing art, culture and ideas.
Pam Toll, Gayle Tustin, and Dick Roberts first art residency was in 1996 when they invited Turkish artist, Tomur Atagok to work and exhibit a portion of her mile long collage in Acme Art Studios. She also presented her work in a lecture at the University of NC Wilmington. A Fulbright brought Tomur from Turkey to the US to study at the Women’s Art Museum in Washington, DC. Pam and Tomur met at the International Art Colony St. Joakim, Macedonia in 1994.
In 1997 Baze Kumanovski (a Macedonian icon restorer and painter), Gayle Tustin and Toll met at the 1995 International St, Joakim Colony received a similar one month residency in Wilmington. He lived in a donated rental house on North Fourth Street and worked in Acme Art Studios. Again, his work made during the residency was exhibited in the Acme Art Studios Gallery. These early residencies were small models of what we dreamed of doing on a larger scale.
After incorporating No Boundaries, Inc. in 1998 Tustin, Roberts, and Toll, who by now had attended several Macedonian colonies, sought community support for an international art colony at Bald Head Island. One of the early key patrons of the colony was Bald Head Island Limited managed by Kent Mitchell who generously donated housing, studio space and transportation for the project and in 2004 began to subsidize publishing the catalog.
There was magic in the link between the island and the colony. Upon arrival foreign artists were stunned by the wild and secluded natural setting. Even local artists felt they were dropped into a primordial forest by the sea. Bald Head Island is an essential piece of the whole experience and influences the work made by plein air painters and non-representational artists alike.
Roberts, Toll and Tustin modeled their colony on common experience at the art colony St. Joakim Osogovski in Kriva Palanka, Macedonia. The colony, a monastery nestled in an eastern mountain range near the Bulgarian border, also relied on the beauty and seclusion of a rich natural setting. Once Kent agreed to the joint venture, Roberts, Toll, and Tustin solicited community restaurants and cooks to make meals. Mill Outlet, Wilmington, discounted canvas; in 1998 Utrecht, Washington, DC, discounted paint and thereafter Town House Art Supplies matched the lowest mail order art supply prices. In July 1998 invitations were sent before the budget was met. It was a leap of faith. November 1998, 26 artists, musicians, poets, and a dancer arrived at Bald Head Island to paint, write, dance, exhibit and teach from November 7-21.
This effort involved gathering lumber (one year it was donated), canvas, gesso and volunteers to stretch and prepare around a hundred painting surfaces. It meant buying essential kitchen supplies, paper, and paint; and transporting all the supplies to the island. It meant soliciting food and volunteers to prepare meals. Grants came much later; as a fledgling operation most resources came from friends and community. Toll, Roberts, and Tustin organized, put together a board, secured all levels of support, arranged the daily schedule at the colony; made sure artists had materials to work with, that food for breakfast and lunch was laid in and that artists had places to work. They also organized and facilitated community and educational events and published a catalogue six international years.
Acme Art Studios again offered space for an exhibition, also studio space for artists who extended their stays. The Art and Art History Department at the University of NC at Wilmington supported the colony with stipends for visiting artists who talked about and demonstrated their work. The university library collected No Boundaries’ working papers a few years later and supported an exhibition annually. Every other year a photographer, writers, and layout artist/designers donated their skills to publish a catalog documenting the event.
The Fayetteville Art Museum exhibited the fruits of the colony every other year and many galleries in North Carolina exhibited paintings made at No Boundaries. No Boundaries art and artists have been invited to other colonies and residencies: Sianoja in Noja Spain, Art Point Gumno in Sloestica, Macedonia, Paint a Future symposia in Brazil, France, and South Africa.
In 2006 artists from Wilmington’s sister cities in China, Barbados, England, and Italy were invited. In 2008 No Boundaries worked in conjunction with Paint a Future to help impoverished children in Brazil. In 2010 The Cultural Art Gallery at UNCW hosted the Best of No Boundaries- art work made at International gatherings from 1998 to 2008. Since 1998 over 100 regional artists have painted beside artists from Macedonia, Denmark, Argentina, France, Holland, Bulgaria, Serbia, Switzerland, Turkey, Austria, Italy, Australia, Canada, Germany, Peru, England, Cyprus, Barbados, Scotland, China, Brazil, and Ghana.
Between colonies there is a ferment of activities; publication of a catalogue which resides in museums, libraries, and schools throughout the state and abroad, various educational events including art exhibitions, lectures, demonstrations, and collaborations with DREAMS (a local organization that provides art lessons and events for disadvantaged youth), the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, the Sister City Organization and others.
Energy exchanges are vital to living and making art. The challenges of working with unknown people in new environments within parameters, instead of being obstacles, refine creative thinking and promote a co-operative climate. Asking questions, taking risks, being open disrupts habitual ways of seeing and working for artists and the community they work within.