New Chautauqua Visual Arts director Erika b Hess joins Chautauqua Women’s Club to discuss navigating art world

Erika b Hess

This season, the much-beloved Arts Quad on the hill overlooking Chautauqua Lake near the north end of the grounds is back in operation after lying dormant last summer. Twenty-four emerging artists, ages 21 and older, became part of the Chautauqua School of Art residency program, which this summer began on June 21.

Erika b Hess was a student in the School of Art after graduating in 2006 with a Bachelor of Fine Art from Wright State University in Ohio, and before entering Boston University’s Master of Fine Arts program in Massachusetts and earning her MFA in 2009.

“Wright State in Dayton sent me to Chautauqua,” she said. “I had a wonderful time.”

Last September, Chautauqua Institution appointed Hess as its Sydelle Sonkin and Herb Siegel Artistic Director of the Chautauqua Visual Arts. She is Sharon Loudon’s successor.

At 9:15 a.m. Tuesday at the Chautauqua Women’s Club House, as part of the Chautauqua Speaks series, Hess will give a presentation about “Navigating the Arts as a Mother Artist.”

“I’ll mainly show artwork, and talk about myself and my experience,” she said.

A curator and prolific painter whose work has been exhibited nationally, Hess is also the creator and host of the popular and practical art podcast, “I Like Your Work,” which she said is in its seventh year of production. Episodes are released weekly, except in summer.

Historically, the Chautauqua School of Art has been at the heart of Chautauqua Visual Arts. In recent years, CVA has grown to encompass the Fowler-Kellogg and Strohl art centers, the Melvin Johnson Sculpture Garden, the Gallery Store, the CVA Lecture Series, and education and community engagement programs.

This season under Hess’ leadership, a number of things will occur in the Quad that she said have not been done before.

First, there will be two artist residency programs.

The residency program for emerging artists, noted above, is shorter, just six weeks long.

According to CVA’s website, this “residency hybrid is characterized by dedicated faculty whose primary focus is to nurture artistic growth … through classes and studio visits. They contribute their experience to the program, providing immersive instruction and collaboration with residents.”

It continues: “In addition to their own studio space, each resident has access to the facilities at the School of Art. These facilities include a ceramic center, printmaking studio, silkscreen shop, drawing studio, digital media studio, woodshop, outdoor sculpture pad, and plenty of outdoor space to make or perform.”

During Weeks Eight and Nine — Aug. 10-25 —  there will be a new two-week residency program for more established artists that will focus on the studio as well as on exposure to gallerists and curators.

Sally Morgan, of Morgan Lehman Gallery in New York City, will join the residency for three days to lead a workshop and conduct studio visits. Judy Barie, the Susan and John Turben Director of CVA Galleries, will teach a professional practice workshop; Associate Director of Galleries at Chautauqua Institution Erika Diamond will conduct studio visits. Hess will meet with artists daily.

Hess said that in part, “we’ll have Chautauquans that are partaking themselves. They can live on the grounds in their own (residences) or in student residency housing. The two-week program is much more accessible to people with children or who work full-time and have to use their vacation time.”

Participation will be “capped by the number of rooms in dorms.”

A week separates the residency programs, during which Hess said she’ll teach a Special Studies course called “Poetry and the Landscape.”

Other things that have not been done before include repurposing former artistic director Don Kimes’ studio in the Arts Quad as a gallery space.

According to Hess, there will be three art shows this season and in the future, including one specifically for CVA alumni. Thereafter, alumni shows will occur every other year.

During seasons when there will not be an alumni show, including next year, a New York-based artist will be featured.

At the moment, each of these endeavors is a work-in-progress.

Hess also said that through Chautauqua Institution’s Special Studies Program, a young artists program is being offered for children from ages 6-11 and 12-14. Classes are taught each morning from Monday through Friday in the Turner Community Center.

For those 14 and older, there are classes in drawing, painting, printmaking and ceramics.

“There’s space for children needing mentors, and for them seeing adults doing what they’re doing as artists,” Hess said. “There are 14 and 15 year olds going to painting classes. I think back to myself (at that age), and I would have wanted that.”

Further information may well be forthcoming at the CWC House on Tuesday morning during the Q-and-A following her presentation.

Tags : Chautauqua Visual ArtsChautauqua Women’s ClubCVAErika b HessHerb SiegelSydelle Sonkin

The author Deborah Trefts

Deborah Trefts is a policy scientist with extensive United States, Canadian and additional international experience in conservation. She focuses on the resolution of ocean and freshwater-related challenges and the art and science of deciphering and developing public policy at all levels from global to local.

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