Time and space (to breathe and create) are the two most important resources an artist can have. Whether one is a composer, painter, dancer, playwright, or creative artist in some other medium, time and space are infinitely precious.
The newly developing Prairie Center of the Arts in Metamora sponsors residencies for artists. The mission of an artists’ retreat or colony is direct—to provide time and space for artists to create their work. Artists can have uninterrupted time to execute their ideas, contemplate their direction, and consider their broader role in society. As the artists focus on their work, their creative processes are nurtured, evolve, and mature.
The ironic thing about the Center is that while it’s unquestionably a stellar addition to the arts scene in central Illinois, it’s a quiet addition. In the public’s eye, it’s not as flashy as having a new band or theatre company set up shop. Nonetheless, it’s just as important for the artistic life of many communities—the place called home by guest artists, where they live and work. While artists-in-residence and the central Illinois community members have opportunities to interact through programming or presentations, the focus of the Center most likely will remain providing time and space for artists.
An aspect of creative growth is interaction—artist-to-artist and artist-to-public. Artists leave residencies rich with ideas and inspiration. Artists are naturally inspired by each others’ work. The public is able to have first-hand access to the creative work of artists. As an artist (composer), I’ve been a resident fellow at two artist colonies: Ragdale Foundation outside Chicago and The Hambidge Center for Creative Arts and Sciences in the scenic northern Georgia mountains. My time in those residencies was rewarded with significant work on projects, inspiration, and connecting with fellow artists who inhabited my creative imagination—even one who became an artistic mentor and friend.
Make no mistake about it: artists have a very important role in our society. And it’s important to our society that we citizens seek a means of supporting the creation of art. This is why the Prairie Center of the Arts is such a valuable addition to central Illinois. Its roots are in the soil of the question of why art exists. “The purpose of Art is to help us be human”—to achieve all we’re capable of, to reach beyond ourselves and connect spiritually, to gain perspective and understanding. In short, to fulfill our high callings. Another way to describe it is, “The purpose of Art is to reconcile us with the universe.” Residencies help equip artists to become the vehicle for this.
As the Prairie Center of the Arts is evolving, it’ll be interesting to see the range of artists who’ll inhabit the space and the work they’ll create. But more important will be the creative legacy and outreach through artists into our own community and communities elsewhere. AA!