13 Jun FOUNTAINHEAD CONNECTS GLOBAL ARTISTS WITH MIAMI

Editor’s Note: The Fountainhead Residency is a 2018 grant recipient of The Jorge M. Pérez Family Foundation. Fountainhead is using its grant to expand community engagement activities and deepen residency artists’ connection to Greater Miami, local artists and each other. We spoke with Fountainhead co-founder Kathryn Mikesell about how the grant has helped the nonprofit support top talent through artist residencies and fellowships.

For more than a decade, Kathryn Mikesell has made a home for artists in Miami, quite literally. She started a fellowship program called The Fountainhead Residency out of a quaint, three-bedroom house in her neighborhood.

Fountainhead brings national and international artists to Miami and gives them a place to live and work alongside other artists for free. Artists gain access to collectors, museums and a global network, as well as their choice of studio space at The Fountainhead Studios in Little River or the Fountainhead Residency home in Morningside. To-date, more than 370 artists from 43 countries have taken part. The only ask is that artists invest in themselves and their practice and engage with the local community.

I spoke with Kathryn about the value of artist residencies and fellowships in creating a thriving arts community, how a grant from The Jorge M. Pérez Family Foundation has expanded The Fountainhead’s outreach efforts and what she hopes to see for the future of the arts in Miami.

What value does having an artist fellowship like The Fountainhead Residency bring to creatives and to Miami?

For the artist, a key value is the connections they make while in-residence. They meet curators, collectors, art appreciators and gallery owners interested in learning about their work. These introductions and relationships are difficult for artists to forge on their own. Often, the connections they’ve made through their residency have led to exhibition opportunities in Miami and the sale of work.

Being an artist can be a solitary practice, so the fact that artists connect in a conscious and proactive manner here is, in itself, significant. Conversations with art appreciators help artists learn to articulate the context and meaning of their work, and it allows them to see what resonates with different audiences.

For Miami, it’s an opportunity to engage with artists from all around the world. We invite artists with different backgrounds and at different stages of their career. Art professionals and art lovers that frequent The Fountainhead Residency have the chance to meet national and international artists right in their own backyard.

We believe access to art changes the way we view people and the world around us and how we interact with one another. Fountainhead is proud to provide Miamians with unique and intimate experiences that foster these connections.

Can you describe how an artist you’ve brought to The Fountainhead Residency has interacted with Miami? What effect has the experience had on either the artist’s work or the city?

A few artist residents come to mind. In 2012, Ebony G. Patterson was nominated by Claire Breukel, who had curated her work in a group show at The Frost Art Museum. While Ebony was in-residence, Tobias Ostrander, chief curator at the Pérez Art Museum Miami, met with her and, from that point forward, followed her as her work developed. Then, in November last year, Tobias opened a solo show of Ebony’s work that was up until recently.

Another artist is Stephen Arboite, who joined the Residency in 2017. He had lived in Miami for a short while but left because he didn’t see the opportunity to progress in his art career. While in residence, his opinion changed. Within a year, he and his girlfriend relocated back to Miami and he now has a studio at The Fountainhead Studios in Little River.

Then, there’s Nadine Hall, an artist who came to The Fountainhead in collaboration with Diaspora Vibe. She said she had never felt more inspired and appreciated for her talents than she had here. Nadine left determined to return. She recently found out that she was accepted into the University of Miami for a Master of Fine Arts program on scholarship.

So far this year, we have had seven artists who returned for an exhibition here in Miami.

How has the Jorge M. Pérez Family Foundation funding helped bring these artists to Miami?

The foundation’s support has been extraordinary. Our grant enabled us to roll out one of our newest initiatives called “MEET.” Miami’s artist community used to be much smaller, but also much more tight-knit, in my opinion. There was a lot of collaboration and artist-led initiatives. Over the last couple of years, we haven’t seen as much connectivity with that same momentum. I equate that to artists not spending as much time together as they had in the past. Sharing a meal brings people together and encourages conversation. For this reason, we initiated monthly gatherings at a local restaurant where Fountainhead provides the food and artists are invited to talk, nurture relationships and foster collaboration.

The grant also funded two fellowships for artists from the Caribbean and Latin America: Ana Maria Devis from Bogotá, Colombia, and Jairo Alfonso, who is from Cuba and living and working in New Jersey. In addition, the foundation’s support enabled me to hire a grant writer, which for a small organization like Fountainhead is invaluable.

What’s next for you and Fountainhead?

We’re interested in supporting local artists and our community more broadly. One way we’re doing that is through the new initiative, “Artist Open,” a county-wide open studio. The more that we collaborate and the more nonprofits talk and understand each other’s goals and strategies, the better able we can serve our community. If one organization is doing something well, let’s support those endeavors rather than recreate and compete. We’re also working on plans now to expand the fellowships offered to include a residency for social practice artists that would culminate with programs in local communities. Additionally, a curatorial residency is on the horizon. You’ll see more on that soon.

The Fountainhead Residency’s next open house event is on June 26th, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. Everyone’s invited for a casual meet-and-greet with the current artists in residence. Engage with fellow Miamians who share a passion for the arts. See details at FountainheadResidency.com.

Roshan Bransden is a freelance journalist writing about the local arts community.

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