Launched in 2013 by artists Carolina Porras and Alicia Toldi, Piney Wood Atlas (PWA) is a collaborative research project connecting small, emerging and unconventional artist residencies across the country. Inspired by their initial meeting as artists-in-residence at Elsewhere Studios in Paonia, Colorado, Porras and Toldi sought to create a resource to empower and sustain creative thinkers and their communities.
Questioning the impersonal nature of larger residency databases, they quickly saw a gap PWA could fill.
“An in-between resource was missing for something informational, but also based on the one-on-one experience we had from attending residencies ourselves,” Porras tells us.
Through an ongoing series of regional road trips, Porras and Toldi embed themselves in the culture and community of host residencies by sharing conversations, stories and meals with facilitators and artists. Their findings, including how-to guides and photo essays, are compiled in annual printed guidebooks, online content and workshops. PWA now also offers residency advising sessions, guiding artist residents as well as moderators through funding, application or other challenges.
After clocking over 10,000 miles on the road documenting 30 different residences in the American Northwest and Southwest, Piney Wood Atlas operates through a lens of inclusivity.
“Affordability ties into accessibility, which is big for us. We feature spaces that are open to different mediums, gender identities, age, race, everything,” Toldi explains.
By focusing on alternative and non-standard residencies, the project further dismantles outdated definitions of who or what an artist should be.
“There is a common misconception that if you aren’t a painter, sculptor or traditional artist, these programs aren’t for you. It’s important to tell different types of people there is a space for them to explore whatever they are working on,” Porras added.
Residencies like the Sou’wester Lodge in Seaview, Washington, featured in their Northwest guide, often find scientists and mathematicians sharing walls with authors and musicians.
“We love the idea of putting those types of thinkers right alongside fine artists,” Toldi explains.
Focus, space and time are touchstones of a good experience, however, Porras and Toldi are well aware of the “ripple” effect residency work has in the long term.
“A symbiotic relationship develops between artist and host, where you bring your existing perspective into their town or city and you carry new perspectives you gain out into the world,” Toldi says.
Creatives of the world, let’s help keep this ripple effect moving.
Image courtesy of Piney Wood Atlas.