This is the official photo. A musician, Adam Hill of Brackendale, British Columbia, takes part in an artist residency at Grasslands National Park in Saskatchewan. He’s working on his own creative project, the creation of a new musical piece constructed from recordings of conversations, found sounds, acoustic instrument and electronic manipulators that addresses the impact of dark sky. He also offers unexpected musical encounters at trailheads in the park, and on his last weekend gives a concert followed by an open mic in the bar at the local Val Marie Hotel.
This is a less-official photo. It was taken during the open mic after Adam’s concert, when Adam filled in while waiting for a fiddle player to tune. Adam gave a terrific concert. As his website says, “Adam puts himself in a line of traditional music that stretches back to Gus Cannon by way of Woody Guthrie, Townes Van Zandt, and Jeff Tweedy. He’s studied up on Lester Flatt, too; the way he picks his guitar shows it, though it also offers a nod to Freddie Greene and Doug Martsch. And he manages to channel some of that high lonesome sound in his voice that wouldn’t sound out of place on an Appalachian porch swing.” All true. And a fine and engaging performer he is with it, too. You can listen to Adam’s music from the BandCamp link in the right hand sidebar on his website, or go directly to http://misteradamhill.bandcamp.com
This is the photo I love. Though Val Marie, Saskatchewan, where I live at the gateway to Grasslands National Park, is tiny and remote, at this time of year summer staff and researchers add to the population. Visitors arrive. Residents respond to a change in the seasons. All were there in numbers on this night, and some of them joined in to perform.
Sometimes you only need to add musical instruments to opportunity and suddenly people show gifts and skills you never knew about. Sometimes you only need to add a fiddle to a guitar and suddenly there’s dancing. Sometimes you only need to add trust and music to a group of near-strangers and suddenly you belong wherever you are.
Most artists have other jobs. It might be from choice but more likely it’s of necessity. Despite claims you might read on the Internet that “You can make six figures by selling your art online,” most artists need sources of income separate from their art. All those jobs take time away from your studio and mean less of the art that helps give your life meaning.
But sometimes, if you’re fortunate, the jobs you find might match your most basic values. I was lucky enough to land one of those.
In Val Marie there’s a ecomuseum that beats all the odds. Prairie Wind & Silver Sage is that place. In addition to housing a focused and delighting museum exhibition that helps visitors and residents find new ways to understand their experience of the village and this region, art exhibitions related to prairie and Grasslands culture, a book and gift shop focused on the prairie experience, and a city-quality espresso bar, PWSS runs this artist residency program in the summer. It’s a multi-disciplinary residency, and the artists not only work in the community as well as on their own projects, but they get paid to do so, with housing supplied. Over the season, five artists will be in residence this year. One of my jobs is acting as residency coordinator. Working with the artists, organizing their living accommodation and seeing to their artistic needs, coordinating with the staff at the National Park, working with the funder, promoting all events, making sure the artists have the best experience possible.
And sometimes, on a night like this one, sitting in the front row and feeling so proud of everyone that I could burst. Then I remember that it isn’t only my own art that gives my life meaning.
What outside your studio give your life meaning?
* * *
This blog is a series of posts from one artist’s life. To receive updates, just put your email in the box on the right. Your email address will never be shared.