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SFA art students experience residency in Iceland

June 20, 2018 - Robbie Goodrich
SFA art students participated in an artist residency in Iceland during the recent Maymester. Pictured are, from left, Wesley Berg, faculty leader and assistant professor of art, Ethan Donart, Gaby Hijar Soto, Sarah Bone, Sarah Jentsch, Jacob Moffett, Victoria Gamble, Austin Cullen, Mason Cullen, Bailey Crow and John Allen.
NACOGDOCHES, Texas - Stephen F. Austin State University art students recently experienced the many opportunities that an artist residency can offer when they participated in a Maymester trip to Iceland.

Defined by its dramatic landscape with volcanoes, geysers, hot springs and lava fields, the Nordic island country also boasts massive glaciers that are protected in its national parks. Ten SFA art students traveled to the Baer Art Center in northern Iceland where they observed and explored the Icelandic landscape and responded by making creative work: drawing, painting, ceramics, photography and installation.

"Artist residencies, which exist all over the world, offer artists a viable way to continue making work beyond a university setting," explained Wesley Berg, assistant professor in the School of Art. "Residencies provide uninterrupted time for creative work across many disciplines. As a working artist, I have looked to residencies as a way to travel the world while continuing to make art."

Berg and Lauren Selden, SFA professor of art, accompanied the students on the trip.

By attending the Baer Art Center, the students now have an internationally renowned artist residency on their Curriculum Vitae. While in residency at the center, students had access to studio space, a workshop and ceramics studio.

The students also presented their work in an exhibition at the Baer Art Center, inviting local townspeople. The center is located on a seaside farm north of the capital of Reykjavík. Its setting on the east coast of Skagafjördur, a large fjord facing the Arctic Circle, provides access to the ocean, a freshwater lake, extensive birdlife, outdoor activities and Icelandic farm life. The summer months at Baer offer the midnight sun and sublime light conditions during the long hours of daylight, according to information at http://www.artistcommunities.org.

According to Berg, traveling abroad helps to "build well-informed, curious and adventurous artists."

"For an artist, exploration can be equally important to the creative process as learning techniques and skills," he said. "Traveling internationally to an artist residency combines that exploration with the time and resources for creating artistic responses.

"The students took it upon themselves to minimize distractions and explore the unique Icelandic landscape," he added. "Several students tried new techniques of art-making, letting themselves open up to possibilities in their new environment. Many of the students noticed important things to consider for future residency opportunities, like what to bring and what to leave at home."

In planning the trip, Berg expressed gratitude for the "help, support and encouragement" he received from Selden and Dr. A.C. "Buddy" Himes, dean of the College of Fine Arts; Christopher Talbot, director of the School of Art; Inés Maxit, SFA Office of International Programs, study abroad coordinator; and the Friends of the Visual Arts.

"As the faculty leader, it was wonderful to observe the students experiencing the residency lifestyle," Berg said. "I was impressed by the professionalism of our SFA students. They were gracious guests at the Baer Art Center, and I am very proud of them."

Participating students included Ethan Donart, Sugar Land sophomore; Gaby Hijar Soto, Chihuahua, Mexico, graduate student; Sarah Bone, Richmond sophomore; Sarah Jentsch, Etoile senior; Jacob Moffett, Hockley senior; Victoria Gamble, Spring senior; Austin Cullen, Cypress senior; Mason Cullen, Cypress sophomore; Bailey Crow, Pinehurst junior; and John Allen, Cypress sophomore.

During the coming fall semester, the exhibition will be re-installed (date to be determined) in the galleries of the Art Building on the SFA campus.