Last June I spent in Beijing, China as artist and scholar in residence at Red Gate Gallery Artist Residency. Over the next few weeks I will host a reunion series to give you a taste of what some of my colleagues have been doing over the last year. I thought it would be fitting so begin the series with the lovely former Red Gate Gallery Artist Residency Director, Crystal Ruth Bell.
Crystal Ruth Bell oozes with creativity and positive energy. I could do an entire blog series on her various endeavors in the creative world–I highly recommend you visit her website. Since finishing her time at Red Gate, Crystal is back in the States but her hands are still deep in the artworld in China. One of her most recent project is organizing the soon to be launched China Artist Residency Network. For this segment of the Reunion Series I ask Crystal a few questions about the network.
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Kate Korroch: What inspired China Artist Residency Network? How long have you been working on it? Who else is working on this project? Is it getting any outside funding?
Crystal Ruth Bell: China Artist Residency Network is a response to unmet needs that came up during my conversations with artists and other program managers in China. The project has been in conversation for some time now and really gathered some momentum last year when the Australian embassy in Beijing granted us funding for the website to be coded and built out. Since then a board of experienced industry professionals has gathered around the project and we are applying for 501c3 status in the USA as a platform for further fundraising and grant applications.
KK: Are there any models you are basing this one on in other countries or regions of the world?
CRB: There are a handful of excellent residency networks like ResArtis and the Alliance of Artists Communities, but this will be the first that will focus soley on the specific challenges that China faces. Unlike some of the other networks ChinaRes will not be member exclusive so that any artist or residency program can participate and be listed without the pressure of financial contribution. Because of social media limitations on the mainland the website will offer networking opportunities for artists interested in connecting with other visiting or expat artists to foster community and collaboration.
KK: What stemmed your interest in China in the first place? Why China?
CRB: I was really interested by some of the contemporary art coming out China and the idea that the country was bridging their creative practice from a rich long history but over the barren period of the Cultural Revolution. I actually moved to Beijing with only a little Chinese, and short stint at a Chinese contemporary art gallery in NYC and no experience in the country and fell in love with the chaos and opportunity that the city fosters. The rest I figured out as a went along.
KK: The website design is fantastic, did you do it? When will it officially launch?
CRB: Thanks for the compliment! Yes, I volunteered the design of the site and it was coded by Drupal master and Beijing native Andy Hu. Its currently in Beta testing as we tweak changes. In the mean time we are looking towards a research trip in autumn to cement partnerships and gather content towards an end-of-year launch.
KK: Is it predominately for foreigners or Chinese?
CRB: The resources are open to anyone but will be most advantageous for visiting artists since they tend to need the most support finding the right program, networking, and sourcing materials. The hope is that these resources will alleviate some of the pressure on the individual local programs, especially the smaller ones, to provide all of this information themselves on a small staff and small budget.
KK: Roughly how many residencies will be in the network? What are the requirements?
CRB: The program is open to whatever programs would like to list on the site. The hope is that even closed network programs would participate so the site can also act as a “mapping” project about the state of the residency practice in China, and will be the only site with a complete listing of all the programs. I am aware of over 50 programs functioning right now in the country.
KK: Switching gears a bit, can you tell me a bit about your art practice and your experience at the residency in Nebraska?
CRB: I had the opportunity to spend October on a farm in Nebraska with a program called Art Farm. The program is run by a soft spoken older gentleman with an alarmingly robust vocabulary named Ed Dadey. Ed has a nack for picking interesting artists to stay as work/create residents on the giant prairie expanse populated by old car parts, wood, sculptures and buildings he’s collected over the years. We spent our work contributions doing anything from roofing to stapling plastic to our $300 Victorian house that was moved there on the back of a semi trailer. [Images of Art Farm.]
I came to the program both as an artist and an arts administrator and used a large chuck of my time developing strategies for ChinaRes but also had the opportunity to collaborate with a video-performance group from Brooklyn. I helped shoot an episode for their web series Other People and collaborated with playwright and actress Delaney Britt Brewer in a Pop-up Dumpling Diner which we ran from a gazebo in the middle of the prairie.
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Until the official launch, the best way to stay up to date on China Artist Residency Network is their Facebook Page. Click here to join!
Crystal, thank you so much for being the inaugural participant of the Reunion Series! Your work is truly inspiring, I look forward to hearing more about ChinaRes and your other fantastic projects!