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The apexart Fellowship:
An Experiment in Vertical Cultural Integration

Edited by Steven Rand
published by apexart
ISBN: 978-1-933347-94-3
paperback, 140 pages
Release date: December 2016

With contributions by:
Yona Backer
Joanna Ebenstein
Nicky Enright
Julia Knight
T.J. McLachlan
Anna Moschovakis
Stephanie Powell
Robert Punkenhofer
Steven Rand
Casey Smith
Nancy Wender

The apexart Fellowship:
An Experiment in Vertical Cultural Integ

read book intro by Steven Rand

The apexart Fellowship: An Experiment in Vertical Cultural Integration explores the methodology, practice, and effects of apexart's unique Fellowship model.

The apexart Fellowship is an alternative educational program that invites creative individuals to leave their familiar surroundings for a month-long stay in a foreign country. The program provides new sources of inspiration through exposure to new cultures, interests, and experiences. Unlike an artist residency program, the apexart Fellowship provides a rich, 30-day schedule of non-art activities, all while requiring Fellows to refrain from producing creative works. The apexart Fellowship schedule prioritizes educational experiences that are outside of the Fellow’s stated interests. This diversity of activities leaves Fellows with new ideas, approaches, and content to incorporate into their creative practices. In doing new and interesting things, and having time away from their usual responsibilities, apexart Fellows can reflect on what they do with greater perspective. apexart Fellows keep a public journal for the duration of their program, and participate in a recorded exit interview at the end of their Fellowship, which can be found online. By providing a space for contemplation and exposure to new experiences, the apexart Fellowship is designed to be a catalyst for creativity.

This book brings together contributions by past Fellows, art funders, a psychotherapist, as well as reflections on the Fellowship program by apexart Founder and Executive Director Steven Rand. The entries share personal accounts of participating in the Fellowship, as well as thoughts on the merits of apexart's unconventional program where participants do not make artwork, but are rather vertically integrated into a culture by doing what locals do rather than what a traveling artist or tourist would do.

Steven Rand, Founder & Executive Director, apexart “The Fellowship program, the focus of this publication, is the result of observation, contrarianism, frustration, and resolution. Observation and frustration about how art is taught and the role it plays in society, and contrarianism because questioning and challenging is the basis of creativity. ... We vertically integrate Fellows into a culture by doing what locals do rather than what a traveling artist/tourist would do. The Fellows end up seeing and doing many things locals don’t even know about.”
Yona Backer "The radical changes in funding patterns for nonprofits are indicative of a system that is no longer working. As government support continues to decline (for the most part), and as foundations shift away from general operating support, contributions from individuals are being sought to make up the difference. This phenomenon has had a destabilizing effect on the arts sector, hindering the ability of nonprofits to work at the scale that is needed to effectively meet their mission."
Joanna Ebenstein "I returned from Seoul a changed person. The lessons of truth and integrity – and my acknowledged appreciation for imperfect, homey productions over slick, professional art – led to some major life and work changes. I went through the heartbreaking process of breaking up with long-term, live-in boyfriend, which set off a chain of events which led to me getting kicked out of my eleven-year home and forced to move all my possessions in storage. I ended up feeling like a ghost, an exile, with no connection to New York City. This painful progression of events ultimately left me free in a way I never had been in my adult life, and able to accept an opportunity to move to London for six months."
Nicky Enright "To be a stranger is to be strange. To be The Other can be disorienting, lonely, linguistically challenging, and conceivably infantilizing; you may find yourself defenseless and feel illiterate. Everything you have learned can seem useless and literally meaningless to your present needs. In certain areas of the world a stranger is in danger; you could lose your possessions and even your life. But then with any luck, someone intent on helping rather than exploiting your condition may show you kindness because they recognize themselves in you."
Julia Knight "The opportunity to live outside your normal routine while spending so much time alone is rare, and the feedback we get from Fellows is that within these time capsules they think about family, motivations, plans, futures, relationships, and intentions. The apexart Fellowship has broken up relationships, changed career paths, and inspired relocations. There is no exhibition at the end to prepare for, no presentation to funders, no distractions that keep one inside and safe instead of outside and dodging taxis in New York. "
T.J. McLachlan "The cadence of apexart’s programming constantly recontextualized the experiences I had last year during my Fellowship at apexart, leaving me with malleable memories rather than singular occurrences. New York was saturated in encounters that each demand more time to appreciate its nuance. I experienced tension and excitement and inspiration and frustration. While still in the wake of one event, I was aware of and preparing for the next. No one part the programming would be overwhelming unto its own, but the momentum of the day made a cumulative experience that I never expected."
Anna Moschovakis "In 1984 we had finally gotten cable, which meant MTV. That December, I watched members of Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet along with Sting, Bono, and Boy George belt out “Feed the world, let them know it’s Christmastime,” their tender faces intercut with glimpses of laughter on the recording set or of the musicians signing autographs and kissing babies (and, in the extended version, with a bizarre montage of glam head shots, National Geographic–style images of African children and adults in desiccated landscapes, and Bono in situ on a visit to – presumably – Africa, all underscored by the backbeat of Phil Collins’ drums). The single, an instant hit, raised a record-breaking $24 million for famine relief in Ethiopia and Eritrea; it also reified an image of Africa as “a” place “where nothing ever grows,” where “the only water flowing is the bitter sting of tears,” and where “they” (the “other ones”) don’t even know it’s Christmas. (Could they have been referring to the fact that Ethiopians celebrate Christmas according to the Julian calendar, so it falls on January 7?) I’m certain I cried while watching the Live Aid video. Then I sat down to dinner and cleaned my plate."
Stephanie Powell "The misfortune part is that my laptop died shortly after I got the correct Wi-Fi password. I was not able to research any locations for visits or day trips anymore. No Skype. No Facebook. Internet cafes were scarce, usually packed with locals and their own esoteric politics around who’s next. Consequently, it became very difficult to communicate with my family – with my four-year-old son being the most difficult part. This was my first time away from him for any extended length of time, and the guilt weighed on me heavily."
Robert Punkenhofer "A good residency program should invite fellows to engage in the host culture and fuel their creativity. It should offer them fascinating company, inspirational conversations, and engage them in activities they would not have done at home. In my ideal residency, I would like very much to find a range of unconventional free activities at my dispense, like philosophy lessons, mentorship sessions, meditation courses, psychotherapy, and even business consulting lessons with entrepreneurs. One might be inspired by learning how to plant carrots or by being assisted in envisioning one’s future."
Casey Smith "It was a good idea for apexart to change the name of the program from Residency to Fellowship, because they really aren’t “resident” in the conventional sense. They are always moving. Sometimes I describe it as kind of “anti-residency” because the popular conception is so entrenched that an artist residency is an exercise in radical isolation. The artist goes to a place to isolate and insulate. All focus is on “the work” and its development."
Nancy Wender "More than one half of the Fellows found the Fellowship transformational in some way for them personally or in their everyday lives. Perhaps it was a new way of viewing oneself – someone shy who was able to engage more freely with others and enjoy those experiences. Another was considering a changed work/life balance upon arriving home. They saw themselves capable of handling new situations and prided themselves on solving problems they encountered. One commented on his realization that after his apexart experience, he has confidence now that he could live and thrive somewhere other than where he is currently living."
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