Thursday, August 22, 2013

Watch Out for Falling Coconuts! Sacatar: An Artists' Residency in Paradise

The sun begins to set after a long day in the studio. The colors of the sky and water soften as the panoramic view of the ocean begins to dissolve into night. Once again you hear the primitive drumming that stirs something deep inside you. Visions of the ritual are burned into memory -- the hypnotic dancing of the Candomblé priestesses, deep in trance after invoking the Orixás. As you walk back to your suite in the Casa Grande, monkeys scatter up palm trees and you wonder what magic tonight will bring.

View from one of the studios at Instituto Sacatar. Photo by Mark Steven Greenfield
Sound like the opening of a Hollywood movie? It's not. This is the Instituto Sacatar, an artists' residency on an island off the coast of northeastern Brazil.

Taylor Van Horne and Mitch Loch first dreamed of creating an artists' residency, not in Brazil, but near their solar-powered, straw bale house in Sacatar Canyon, high in the Sierra Nevada. The area was remote and there would be difficulties, such as access to water and transportation.

It didn't take long to decide on a second, more exotic location. Years earlier Taylor had done a year abroad as a foreign exchange student in Brazil, in the state of Rio Grande do Norte on the northeast coast. Even though he left after a year, his heart never did and he returned many times, to see his Brazilian family and eventually to practice architecture in Salvador, Bahia, the former capital of Brazil.

So Brazil was the obvious choice, and in 1999 when Sacatar was first conceived, there were no internationally recognized artists' residencies in South America, let alone in Brazil.

Taylor returned to Bahia once again to begin the search for a location to turn his and Mitch's dream into a reality. Finally, after several dead ends, Mitch learned of a property through an unlikely avenue: a party conversation with the widow of a successful film director whose daughter had gotten pregnant by the nephew of a Brazilian property owner's lover!

The property was not just in Brazil, but on the Island of Itaparica in the Bay of All Saints, across from the city of Salvador were Taylor had worked as an architect. The owner, who had been running a small hotel on the property, wanted to sell.

NO TURDUCKEN IN BLACK ROME (docu-short, 9:00, color, 2013) is a mini-documentary chronicling Matt Sheridan's artist residency at Instituto Sacatar in Itaparica, Bahia, Brazil

The main house on the property was originally built in 1950 as a vacation house and spiritual retreat for the Instituto Feminino, a Catholic girl's school. Located in the center of the 2 1/2 acre property, the large house has a central courtyard, surrounded by a library, several large living rooms, a substantial kitchen and five bedroom suites. Generous verandahs wrap around the house. Monkeys still live in the surrounding trees. A narrow strip of restinga, a native salt water scrub forest, screens the property from 175 meters of secluded white sand beach.

Taylor and Mitch immediately followed up on the conversation and the Instituto Sacatar began to become a reality. They purchased the property in 2000, and the first Fellows arrived in September, 2001 (the week of 9/11).

They managed that first year with somewhat inadequate facilities, but soon after built a support building with a laundry room, pantry, staff kitchen and employee bathrooms. They eventually added five small buildings clustered around the coconut grove facing the ocean, including an administration building, a wood-working shop, two studios with internal gardens and a raised studio with panoramic ocean views. Two more studios -- for dance and music -- were added in 2010. There are plans to add four more studios and to renovate a second, existing house to include four additional artist apartments.

The Casa Grande, home to the Sacatar Fellows. Photo by Taylor Van Horne

Sacatar is an international residency, open to artists of all nationalities and disciplines. There are several avenues to apply, including Sacatar's open selection process, as well as more specific Fellowships in partnership with various organizations.

There's an October 14, 2013 application deadline fast approaching for the Cultural Exchange International Program of the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs. Applicants may work in any creative discipline, but they must live in Los Angeles County. The CEI Fellowships to Sacatar provide airfare, studio, room and board plus logistical support for an eight-week residency session, along with a two thousand dollar stipend for personal expenses. 

If you don’t live in Los Angeles County, check the website for other upcoming opportunities.

Click here for more information about Sacatar and how to apply for a Fellowship.

And watch out for falling coconuts!

Upcoming Events at Offramp Gallery

September 8 - October 13, 2013
Offramp Gallery Fifth Anniversary Group Exhibition
Opening Reception: Sunday September 8, 2-5pm
Lou Beach, Quinton Bemiller, Anita Bunn, Elaine Carhartt, Chuck Feesago, Mark Steven Greenfield, James Griffith, Edith Hillinger, Myron Kaufman, Nicholette Kominos, Susan Sironi, Patssi Valdez

1 comment:

  1. Excellent article you have here. I just love to tinker with images.