Did you hear that? No? EXACTLY! It is friggin' quiet here in Saratoga, WY. I loves it. I've gotten so much sleep it's ridiculous. I arrived at Brush Creek on May 6th and after two days of orienting myself with the area, getting treated to some ice cream, bonding with the other residents, and attempting to catch my breath in high altitudes I have to say I am making progress so far. And am happy to be back in the place I had my first residency.
You know what's funny? A couple people here at Brush Creek, including the interim director Beth, has been at Jentel and loved it. So high five on Wyoming residencies. What else is funny? Practically every resident here was at a residency before this one or is going to another one soon after Brush Creek. We're multiple residency peeps!
So, as per my routine, let me break it down for ya.
We reside in a cabin, a lengthy place that holds eight rooms (each with their own private bathroom!). A few feet away to the left is the artists lounge (where the kitchen is for dining), library (for lounging), and visual artists' studios (for working, obviously). Though one composer is in one of the visual artist studios. To the right of the cabins is the Schoolhouse. A huge studio for composers with a stage and grand piano. Lovely.
Past the artists lounge & artists studios further down near the road leading up towards the mountains, river, and yurts are the writers' studios (Peryam-mine, and Rancher's Daughter-the other writer). Between the lounge/studios and writers' studios is a small shack that the interim director uses as her studio for writing. Behind that along a road that leads to cabins for guests further up the mountain is Armstrong, the second studio for a composer.
The Artists Camp is set apart from Brush Creek Ranch which is a spa and resort. Pricey per day and has nice activities like shooting, horseback riding, biking, yoga, and in the winter months snowboarding and skiing.
So, like Ragdale you get meals made for you for dinner. But you get a bag lunch from the main Brush Creek Ranch staff and have materials available for you to make your own breakfast. There are also leftovers for you to munch on. So far the lunch options have been a bit lax. Egg salad, tuna, and the latest PB&J sandwiches. While the dinners are more diverse with options if you are vegetarian. We've had stir fry, tacos, pasta with meatballs, pasta with veggies and so on. Not as extravagant or filled with love as from the lovely Linda at Ragdale or at MacDowell as I've heard but it's good and filling and the carbs keep you warm.
First day is orientation and the director gives you a tour around these parts which is expansive and gorgeous. Beth took us into town for the second day and we got ice cream! Beth is awesome, we'll miss her terribly when she goes. If you've been to Jentel don't expect a weekly trip per se. Beth was nice to give us one and since Brush Creek Arts doesn't yet have it's own car and must borrow from the larger ranch it may not always be weekly. But this may become something steadier with the new director,Sara, coming in end of May.
For the most part we seem to get together and talk but everyone can be on their own schedule. Dinner is a nice time for us to all sit and talk for a bit and bond, which has been great. And yes, wine has been available every evening.
There are three composers, though one just came from a residency in which he focused on his visual art and he also does videos. There are three visual artists, and two writers. We all get along and the personalities are great. Every is generally interested in each others work and we have a good rapport which I've been extremely lucky to have with residents at each of the residencies I have been to so far as well as at conferences. So in general I have a deep love for artists and for the ones I'm housed with for the next week plus.
We had a jam session in the Armstrong studio on Wednesday and it was so much fun! Way better than karaoke. One of the composers is creating an opera and is friends with another composer. It turns out they applied to work together. So one played the cello, the other rocked the guitar, bongos (which I brought from my studio), and piano. Another used his guitar and another visual artist brought his guitar and we looked up chords for songs along with lyrics and sang everything from Johnny Cash to Adele to Garbage to Oasis to the Beatles and Queen. It was awesome.
Next night one of the visual artists made a fire and we just hung out while smoke blew in our faces and we attained a hickory flavor on our clothes and bodies. We didn't make s'mores though we have the goods for them and instead just talked and tried to evade the smoke from blinding us.
We have a presentation coming up next week on a Tuesday which follows the Jentel model of having the residents present our work to those interested in the community so that should be fun. I plan on reading some short sections from my Collection and we'll see how that goes.
So far it's been hanging with the residents. Whether by the fire or on Friday going hiking with the other writer and just hanging and having her kindly hold my hand while going over a disturbing swing bridge. It's been to do work but also get to know people. One of the other artists said it best: He's essentially here to learn from others and he can and will work at any time of the day but it's important to also form these relationships and get a better sense of you and what others do to inspire your work. Well said, Jim!
However, as for my work, I laid out a plan. As you know the first part of Ragdale was not as productive as I'd hope. I think if I do get into another residency I'll opt for 3 weeks or more if I can swing off the time from work. Two weeks proves to go very fast and so when a few days pass by you already feel behind.
I had had a plan at Ragdale of sorts and at Jentel I just let everything flow on a day-to-day basis. But here I made a 9-point plan. Basically 9 things I wanted to get done while I'm here and not necessarily do everything to perfection but to get it done as something I can revisit so that I at least have content to work with down the line. So my plan is to draft several things and edit several things. And in this way it works because I can work on one thing a day and it may take a few hours out of my day but not the entirety of it per se. And since the first two days were a wash with travel and orientation and my last day will be more travel it means in reality I have 11 days to work and not 14. Having 9 items to focus on leaves me the opening of missing a day or even doubling up. But, the plan has been to only work on one project a day.
Being on day 5 (going into day 6 by the time this posts) I'll have gotten 4 things done of the 9 and at anytime can go back and try to solidify. Even in the drafting phase I am not entirely happy with the product but I am at least not feeling like I got nothing done and have options should I feel blocked on one project and go on to something else.
At Ragdale I just flipped a coin and worked on whatever won the toss. I think this is a better method for me. So hopefully when I return home I'll be able to devote time to what I've done here and can move forward. We'll see. Wish me luck!