What’s life after college like for recent MFA graduates, Michael Alexander, Alexandra Del Canto and Carrington Ware? If you asked them, they’d claim pretty exciting, as they’ll be spending the summer virtually networking with young artists, curators and a vast array of other art professionals in the Chautauqua School of Art VACI summer residency program.
Since the institution’s founding in 1874, a select group of young artists have been invited to the VACI campus in southwestern New York each summer for a mix of art lectures, open studios, exhibitions, workshops and more. Students involved in the program get the opportunity to not only showcase their work in exhibitions, but also sell their work, engage in group projects and attend lectures with visiting artists and mentors.
This year, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the VACI residency program will be held virtually to continue its long-standing tradition of connecting young artists to the marketplace.
“I’m really looking forward to challenging my practice through this program,” says Del Canto. “We are all witnessing an unprecedented time in history and I’m interested to see how this will influence our conversations about looking at and producing artwork.”
A powerful draw for many artists thinking of applying to the program is the prospect of networking with various artists and thought leaders in the visual arts – which undoubtedly will prove to be more difficult with the program now being conducted completely online. And while their attendance in the program may not be the way they originally envisioned it, VACI going virtual hasn’t deterred any of the young artists selected from the College of Communication, Architecture + The Arts (CARTA) from taking on this opportunity.
“At first, I felt a bit disappointed not to be able to work with my cohort and mentors personally, but the makers and mentors at VACI are working to make the program accessible and flexible,” says Alexander. “Their energy and enthusiasm for this year’s iteration of the program has left me excited and looking forward for what is to come.”
And Alexander’s not wrong. VACI mentors have come up with ways to keep the momentum alive with a virtual platform that will allow for constant networking, online gallery tours, poetry readings and never before seen lectures and performances.
“I definitely think this program will help me grow as an artist and a person,” says Ware. “I haven’t met an alumnus from VACI that hasn’t perked up when asked to talk about their experience. VACI offers so much to artists to enhance skills, thinking and learning on a professional level.”
The VACI program has served as a great way for young artists to enhance their skills and make powerful connections.
Former Ratcliffe Art + Design Incubator fellow and VACI alumna, Chris Friday, MFA’20, credits VACI for helping her create meaningful connections with others who share her interests.
“The talented artists and faculty that I was lucky enough to be in residence with, was definitely the biggest and best takeaway from the VACI program,” adds Friday. “Being in an environment with 30 or more professional artists and art-world professionals and interacting with them every day over the course of seven weeks, was just so valuable. It was almost impossible to walk away without learning a new skill, or a new way of viewing the world around you.”
Friday recently displayed her work during Miami Art Week in an exhibition for Black History Month, titled #ForTheCulture and in the four-day pop-up exhibit, Who Owns Black Art, with Zeal Press. Her work even went on to receive mention in the Boston Globe.
The VACI 2020 summer residency program will run from June 27th through Aug. 15.
Those interested in learning more about the VACI experience can visit their website.