Fall has brought a number of exciting events at Wellesley College this year, and The Wellesley Collective Residency Project has been a highlight for the Art department.
As described on the project’s blog, “The Wellesley Collective Residency Project is a community-based pedagogical experiment that brings together three groups of artists from a mix of different fields and established careers—art students, alumni, faculty, curatorial fellows and regional visiting artists—to generate campus-inspired artworks within a non-hierarchical framework.”
Zsuzsanna Szegedi and Thomas Willis, the curators of the project, envisioned The Wellesley Collective Residency as an annual or biannual event to bring students and faculty together to create and exhibit art around campus. Beginning on Friday, Oct. 16, various students and faculty met in teams to exchange ideas and plan their installation locations. The process took around 3 weeks and culminated this past weekend with a reception and a public tour of the sites.
Last year, Zsuzsanna Szegedi and Thomas Willis were interested in creating “spontaneous art on campus and imagined how could that work within this educational institution.” After considerable time planning, they pitched the idea to the Partnerships for Diversity and Inclusion Grants Program and the Art Department.
Students applied to participate in the project, and various faculty, staff, and regional visiting artists were invited to get involved as well. Participants of the project came from a variety of backgrounds and experiences, and dedicated four days to engage in conversation and collaboration. They divided into three teams and branched off to different locations around campus and installed their works in preparation for Saturday’s public tour. Team 1 created a sound piece on east campus, titled “In Stillness there is a Song”, where viewers engaged with the sounds of the tranquil environment. Team 2 put on a “playful performance” using the “You Are Here” camera installed in the Science Center. Team 3 designated four different locations around campus that engaged their viewers in an interactive performance.
On the day of the reception and tour, visitors gathered in Jewett Art Center to celebrate the Wellesley Collective Residency Project, as well as take a guided tour throughout campus. Around 20 people attended the opening, where snacks and beverages lined a table near a computer screen that showed “You Are Here” on the Wellesley website.
Overall, the experience was rewarding for all participants. Zsuzsanna Szegedi reflects on what her most enjoyable experiences were: “I enjoyed observing the collaborations as they were developing, the ups and downs of finding solutions. Exchange ideas as we sat outside in the middle of the sun-filled Severance Green. At the end, we organized a public tour and, following a map, we viewed each project together – visitors, participants, students, professors, staff – which created a playful collective experience. These three were my personal highlights.”
Zsuzsanna used the word “playful” often in describing the various exhibits; the interactive nature of the project made the collaboration and public tour entertaining.
Thomas Willis also commented on the success of the project: “We are extremely happy with how all the works turned out, especially being created under such spontaneous conditions. We are fascinated and proud with the flexibility and compromise of everyone’s ideas within their collaborations and across their disciplines. It’s amazing how in one week the artists went from not knowing one another to forming collaborative relationships – both professionally and candidly – that spawned unpredictable artworks, ideas, and connections to come!”
Though Thomas Willis and Zsuzsanna Szegedi were the curators and the organizers of the project, the outcome was wholly dependent on the artists themselves; the beauty of The Wellesley Collective Residency Project was the element of surprise.
Looking forward, Zsuzsanna and Thomas are considering making the project an annual event; but in the meantime, the two are busy following up with the project. Photos of the projects and essays will be compiled in a book that will be released in summary of The Wellesley Collective Residency Project. The book will be archived and also available in the Art Library.