Reflections on a Residency: my time at the Bethany Arts Center with CKM&A

This past week (October 7-13), I had the great fortune to spend it with Christopher K. Morgan & Artists: I’ve recently joined the company as they start their newest work, Native Intelligence|Innate Intelligence. Our process launched with a wonderful week spent in residence at the Bethany Arts Center in Ossining, NY. We arrived on a Monday afternoon, a group of eventually 7, joining a community of artists who were already on site and at work- some of them having just arrived, and other rounding out a week or more of focused time in residence.

Bethany Arts Center is a relatively new artists’ residency program, having once been a convent for the Maryknoll Foreign Mission Sisters of St. Dominic. The site includes a 3-story dormitory, cafeteria-style kitchen, a house structure that is now home to administrative offices and apartment-style housing, and a chapel-turned-performance-venue. A walk outside finds you on grounds that are really breathtaking in the fall, and sprinkled throughout the property are several art installations; in the back is a beautiful (some say creepy?) wooded area. I don’t really recommend a walk at night there, though- I tried, and could barely see a thing in front of me.

It’s a massive space, and one that took me the entire week to explore. I’m sure I still missed some areas. What struck me the most about the Bethany Arts Center, though, was not the grounds (though they are lovely)- it was the community of artists that they had brought together. During our week, we shared meals and conversations and S’mores with visual artists, poets, writers, multimedia artists, and other dancers. It was incredible to be able to ‘talk shop’ with these other artists and learn about their processes, hear about their experiences from other artist residencies, and see myself as part of a larger, global artist community. I realized, in these small moments of outside of rehearsal, how important sharing space is when building or cultivating a community. It reminds me of my work with LGBTQ+ folks in DC, and our conversations about disappearing queer spaces in our city.

In all of the years that I have been working as a professional artist, I also realized how few artist residencies I have been on where the stakes were really low. Yes, we needed to show up and do our work and have some moment of opening our process for a public- but that could have looked any way we wanted it to. This flexibility with what we were working on, coupled with time away from other parts of our life, was a wonderful opportunity to focus down. We need more opportunities in our lives to step away and into something more focused- whether for artmaking or lifemaking- and the Bethany Arts Center provided that. Check them out here; follow up on the other incredible artists-in-residence pictured above (such amazing people); and stay tuned for more on Christopher K. Morgan’s Native Intelligence|Innate Intelligence!

The artists-in-residence at the Bethany Arts Center gather for a closing photo. Photo by Thu Kim Vu, featuring (from L to R, T to B): Wytold Lebing, Christopher K. Morgan, Molly Anders, Kyle Marshall, Jamison Curcio, Miriam Gabriel, Deontay Gray, Matthew Cumbie, Thu Kim Vu, Myssi Robinson, Janine Joseph, Bria Bacon, Oluwadamilare Ayorinde, Abby Farina, and Tiffanie Carson

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