We’ve Only Just Begun… by David Simpson

In 2019 we inaugurated our new AOK Wellfleet Artist Retreat Center. By starting our artist retreat center, our vision is to marry the joy our young people experience on our Cape Cod vacations with the resources we provide to our young artists. We invite artists to Wellfleet for a specific period of time, where we provide housing, meals, space and resources so that they can focus on making art. This is an opportunity virtually none of the artists we serve has had access to, until now.

Four young artists came to Wellfleet for residencies, each of them unique and all of them affirming the choice we’ve made to start our residency program. They ranged in length from one week to three months. The artists all worked in different areas: Tatiana is an actor, Bella is a photographer and fiber artist, Tewabech is a painter and Rodney a poet. None of them had done a residency before. And it was a magical experience for all of them, and for us as their hosts. 

By coming here, each of the artists accepted our invitation to take a breath. To see and feel themselves as artists, as people. To take stock, without pressure to ‘produce.’ Each of them created beautiful, meaningful work while they were here. But not from the pressure of deadlines or agreements. They were invited, and accepted the invitation, to take care of themselves, whatever that looked like. For each of them it was different–there was a lot of yoga, walks on the beach, catching up on shows, naps. Healthy and delicious food. And for all of them, accepting that invitation led to creative work. Making art. Expressing themselves on stage, on the page, on canvas, in our garage (in Bella’s case: she created a powerful fiber arts installation…).

And part of the magic of their time here with us was due to the interactions we arranged with other creative people here on the Cape. We hosted critique sessions and celebratory dinners where the artists were able to have in-depth conversations about their work with other artists. They had opportunities to go to events, openings, readings, plays, classes, where they were able to connect with other artists of all ages and backgrounds and stages of career. Instagrams were exchanged, friendships made. And our young artists were able to see themselves, feel themselves as part of a larger community of creative people, beyond that of the places they come from.

For this, I am so grateful to individuals and organizations on the Outer Cape who’ve been incredibly warm and welcoming to our young artists, and to AOK as we establish our new residency center. David Drake and the Provincetown Theater made Tati’s summer into one she’ll never forget. Lydia Hicks and all the Fellows at the Fine Arts Work Center embraced Rodney and Tewabech and made them feel at home. Tessa Bry Taylor at PAAM is a born collaborator. Liz Carney and Pete Hocking and the 411 Gallery were the first to welcome our artists when we brought them here on vacation in the summer three years ago. The many artists who’ve attended our Critiques and dinners–Liz, Pete, Lydia, Bob Henry, Sue Anthony, Sam Siciliano, Vanessa Vartabedian, FAWC fellows Joy Priest and Autumn Wallace and others–made our young artists feel special and I am so grateful for their support and friendship. 

And we’re just getting started. I feel incredibly honored to have the opportunity to welcome young emerging artists and to help them have an unforgettable, transformative experience. And to become a part of the rich fabric of the arts community of the Outer  Cape. We are nailing down residencies for 2020 and I’m so excited to see how our community continues to grow in support of them. If you’re a young emerging artist and you’re interested in coming to Wellfleet to do a residency with us, or you know someone who would benefit from a residency, please write me at david@aokdc.org.