Living in the library sounds like a dream come true for some of us, and although the artists-in-residence at the Fayetteville Public Library don't actually live there, they are doing their part to enhance the already impressive array of classes and workshops offered at FPL.
"This is the first year that we've offered an artist-in-residence program," explains Willow Fitzgibbon, director of library services. Each resident spends about four months working with the library. During that time, the "artist is offering classes and doing presentations and programs at the library for all ages" in addition to getting time at the library to use as "studio time."
Fitzgibbon imparts that the library is broad in how it defines artists. "It's really an artist or a maker in residence. We are offering two positions each cycle. Typically one of them is an artist who is more hands-on -- with painting and writing. Then, at the same time, we're also featuring an artist who is using our Center for Innovation." In the current cycle, Erin Lorenzen is a fabric artist who has led art-making and collaborative workshops, as well as a yoga class. Matt Magerkurth is a cellist and has led music classes and an improvisational music workshop while using the Center for Innovation to lay down the principal recording for his new album.
"We love working with artists, [and] the community enjoys learning from them," Fitzgibbon shares. "And then we wanted to have a way to connect the artists with the community, but also connect artists with the library in these spaces."
Fitzgibbon says that the program will begin accepting applications again this summer for next year.
"We've been really happy with the program so far. So we're looking forward to doing it again next year. We will post an application in August, and that'll be on our website. We'll also promote that it's open through our newsletters and social media," she shares.
"I think what surprised me the most and is really nice to see is that so many of the artists were really excited to work with the community. And a lot of them, their personal projects, really revolved around their work with students, and then the people taking their classes, which is kind of interesting to see," Fitzgibbon adds.
Slated for the next cycle are poet Allison Blevins and Aaron Szabo of Image Film Company from May to August then Amanda Arafat, cook and baker, from September to December.
During her residency at the Fayetteville Public Library, Erin Lorenzen has led multiple "Create and Collaborate" workshops for both adults and kids. "We're working with craft materials, recycled materials, embroidery," and methods such as "cut and paste collage," she explains, but the experience of working as a group to make art is as important as the finished product.
Lorenzen is a therapist with Ozark Guidance and a yoga teacher with 500 hours of training and certifications in trauma informed yoga training. Her background allows her to see first hand the benefits of collaboration, daily practices and taking time to create art.
"In counseling, as with art-making, my approach is organic and intuitive. I utilize research-based art and yoga interventions and influences along with other therapy modalities and tools as needed for each client," Lorenzen explains. "Art making gives us a material place to examine ourselves, our histories and our cultures. Art making gives us the opportunity to use our imaginations and explore new possibilities. One might say that all innovative ideas and new solutions come from exploration within this creative space."
Lorenzen says that she always had an interest in art and science while growing up. She first pursued degrees in studio art and Spanish, then spent much of her early career working with youths in after-school programs and detention centers around Central Arkansas with the focus of creating art. Then one thing led to another and she went back to college to earn a degree in counseling. While at the University of Arkansas, her internship included teaching trauma informed yoga classes at the Northwest Arkansas Community Correction Center. "During that time, I did yoga, therapy, and collaborative creative work with Magdalene Serenity House," a nonprofit working with women who have experienced trauma, sexual exploitation, addiction, and incarceration, she adds.
"Meeting people where they are to create together in a community environment can help bring to light shared experiences, shared histories, spark connection, encourage empathy and dialogue, as well as cultivate belonging and understanding. Many studies show that it is in the process of sharing that healing takes place.
"There's something really calibrating and grounding about having daily practices. And I think a lot of the benefit in art classes can be just penciling in some time for yourself to recalibrate, and recenter, and it may or may not be that you express a lot," she says. But "there's something in the practice in that is really good for you."
An artist talk with Lorenzen plus a reception and show featuring her pieces and a collaborative art piece created during her classes at the library are planned for 6 p.m. May 26.
Arkansas-based composer and cellist Matt Magerkurth is also a current FPL artist-in-residence. His compositions have been performed by ensembles such as Ensemble Dal Niente, Loadbang, Exit 128 Chamber Orchestra, the American Creators Ensemble, the Milna Ensemble, the University of Tulsa String Quartet and the University of Tulsa Symphony Orchestra, among others. According to his online biography, he "is dedicated to interacting with a sense of place in recorded music and live performance," which is an approach he is bringing to the album that he's creating while in residence at the library.
"The phenomena of recorded music is radically different from that of performed music," he begins. "What the audience hears as a cohesive event is often a sliced, piecemeal version of what exists in the live event.
"In traditional classical music, liveness is crucial to the experience of the music, but in contemporary classical music, composers and recording artists are more experimental in their approaches. In this body of work, I will be playing with different ways of slicing and splicing improvised materials and attempting to wax in and out of the live-performance space," he explains.
"The Center for Innovation is a great resource for the community. They truly have almost anything you'd need to record an album," he enthuses. "My strategy is to record improvisations and core pieces in their live room, overdubs and textural elements in the control room, and I'm not sure exactly how I'm going to implement the use of the rest of the space yet. I might take some field recordings in the parking garage, but I'm not sure yet."
In his classes, Magerkurth seeks to help musicians explore improvisation and to help both musicians and non-musicians expand their appreciation of music.
"My classes are about a few things that have become central to my experience as a musician: recording practices, free improvisation and listening strategies. The recording practices class used the Center for Innovation space and gear to explain a few basic techniques, including choosing a room, microphones and how to capture quality audio. In my free improvisation class, a group of musicians united in the art and movement space to generate a bunch of new sounds using games and graphic scores. The listening strategies class [was] a music appreciation seminar that is intended to enhance the audience's experience of music they haven't interfaced with before."
Magerkurth will perform at 6 p.m. April 28 in the library's Gathering Glade outdoors. "I'll be performing my new work, but I might add in a couple of my older pieces -- we'll see," he says.
Listen to Magerkurth's first album, "Amends," and other work at mattmagerkurth.com.