Residency programs across the country offer student artists the opportunity to expand their skills outside of the classroom setting. One student took a chance on a summer residency completely outside of her creative wheelhouse.
The Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts accepted Alexa Preston, a Marshall University junior, into their tapestry weaving residency this past July. As an art major, Preston threw herself into this program without any background in weaving.
“I’d never done anything with weaving before, and I decided to throw myself into something that I had no experience with. It was really a decision that I came to because I didn’t want to just keep doing the same stuff that I knew how to do,” Preston said.
The residency program hosted Preston on their campus in Gatlinburg, TN for one week, making the process an accelerated undertaking for her. The short time frame contributed to the draw of the program according to Preston.
“I thought that it was an expedited way for me to get a taste of what it’s like to make my own natural colors and weaving,” Preston said. “How else would I have the opportunity to learn something like that? You have to think about the materials and what it takes to do those things and the number of hours it takes to learn that kind of stuff on your own.”
Students benefit largely from residency programs as they are given the opportunity to break out of the mold that their normal day-to-day classes usually keep them in, according to Jamie Platt, school of art and design gallery director.
“A residency offers students a chance to get out of their normal environment and make art in a place that doesn’t have anything to do with what they’re working on in school,” Platt said. “When you get a chance to go out in the world and see that actually, it’s very broad and that people are learning different things in different places it can really enhance what you think of yourself as an artist and what’s possible for you,” Platt said.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified Alexa Preston’s class and major, Preston is a junior majoring in art, not a senior majoring in art with an emphasis on ceramics.