Above: Screen shot from video by Monica Ching Chen
“In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, like a lot of people in the diaspora, I started asking myself what I could do to help the people of Puerto Rico,” says assistant professor of art Mari Rodríguez Binnie, who was born and raised in San Juan. “An artist residency seemed like a way to give working artists a break so they could take time to connect back to their creativity.”
That residency—now in its second year—is supported by the fundraising efforts of Binnie and her husband, the artist William Binnie. It is run through Assets for Artists (A4A), a joint project between MASS MoCA, ArtBuilt, and the Midas Collaborative. According to its website, A4A’s goal is to help artists “strengthen their financial and business capacity to sustain a lifetime of creative excellence,” a goal they meet in part through artist residencies on the MASS MoCA campus.
For the last two summers, Binnie and a working committee have selected six artists from the island to come to North Adams for a fully funded month-long residency. Residents, who each get studio space, housing near the museum, a grocery stipend and a travel stipend, work alongside other A4A artists.
“The residency gives them the opportunity to create new work if they want to, or to just pull everything back and think about where to go from here,” says Binnie. “We are thrilled to once again host a wide variety of artists this year, some of whom are well-established in their careers, others who are just starting out.”
The first of this year’s residents arrived in May and June. From mid-August through mid-September, three artists will be in residency at the same time, and each will present their work to the Williams and MASS MoCA communities. They are fiber artist Zaida Adriana Goveo Balmaseda, who describes her work process as “intense, manual, and slow; highlighting the magic of the process, the journey, and the energy invested in transforming humble materials into rich textile topographies;” sculptor, drawer and painter Victor José González Ortiz, whose work has won several awards; and video artist Monica Ching Chen.
While the effects of the 2017 hurricane are diminishing, Binnie says “the residency offers working artists an opportunity to take a short amount of time away and to think creatively. This is an exciting partnership with the artist community in Puerto Rico, and I hope it continues well into the future.”