Lydia See wears many hats: studio artist, educator, Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation (ZSR) All for NC Fellowship recipient, and Asheville Art Museum education intern. She’s using her ZSR fellowship to launch a collaborative artists’ residency called Engaging Collections. As a Museum intern, she’s helping to prepare our new Connections program. Launching in fall 2019, Connections will focus on bringing art to adults with mild to moderate memory loss and their care partners.
The Connections program is made possible by a Ribbon of Hope grant from the North Carolina GlaxoSmithKline Foundation. It will be offered monthly at the Museum, including lunch, an open house, a guided experience in the galleries, and an interactive activity.
Last week, Lydia talked to us about her internship, fellowship, and artwork:
Asheville Art Museum: How were you drawn to this internship to begin with?
Lydia See: I was drawn to the Connections internship for a variety of personal and professional reasons. Professionally, I am interested in new and unexpected pathways to cultural engagement, and I feel that the Connections program is a fantastic example of programming designed to meet Museum visitors where they are. Personally, I have experienced the effects of memory loss as a family member of individuals with Parkinson’s-induced dementia, and I have worked with elder adults in various capacities. This population is often left out of accessible cultural experiences due to a wide range of barriers, and I have seen the positive results of programming catered to the needs of adults with memory loss on my family’s morale during complex and difficult periods of our lives.
What’s your work been like with the Museum?
Most of my work with Connections has involved being out in the community, connecting with councils on aging, elder services organizations, cultural councils, and helping to facilitate various trainings and practice programs with docents. I’ve also assembled a core group of contracting artists who will facilitate programming for Connections workshops and engaged performances. This internship allowed me to work under the guidance of Kristi McMillan, Adult Programs Manager, and I’ve learned a lot of valuable, practical skills applicable in all areas of my practice, for which I am very grateful.
Congratulations on the ZSR fellowship! I understand you’re using the fellowship funds to launch your “Engaging Collections” residency. Can you tell us about that?
Thank you! I have wanted to create a residency for artists who engage with libraries, archives, and special collections for years—specifically since I was the artist-in-the-community resident in Spartanburg, SC, for a year in partnership with HUB-BUB and the Spartanburg Public Libraries. When I found out that ZSR was “seeking to invest directly in young innovators, change makers, visionaries, entrepreneurs and risk takers with bold ideas for how to make a difference in North Carolina and its communities,” I thought that this residency would be a great fit.
Artists are ideally situated to engage in difficult cultural conversations through social and public practice artworks and programs. By creating conditions for this dynamic exchange, Engaging Collections will facilitate deeper pathways to community engagement. Engaging Collections will provide working artists with equitable funding to connect their communities with local histories and create artworks in collaboration with libraries, archives, and special collections. Libraries, archives, and special collections offer immense resources to their communities, but there are often perceived or actual barriers to accessibility. The untold narratives of historically underrepresented communities in North Carolina will instigate deeper connections between the artist and their community, and between the community and the collection itself. Each artist selected for the residency will create artwork inspired by local history, as well as a free public program related to their work, such as a workshop, performance, reading, etc., which will invite the public into their practice as well as into the library, archive, or special collection host.
Your artwork is very much multidisciplinary. Are there any overarching themes that you follow, regardless of media or discipline?
My practice is very rooted in history and memory, and I am interested in factors which mediate identity, both individual and environmental. I mediate on dichotomies a lot: literal and conceptual, local and global, personal and anonymous, colonized and indigenous, and how these concepts exist on a spectrum. Materially, I primarily work at the intersections of photography with fiber/object/craft/performance, and my practice involves material and conceptual investigation through processes of collection, research, arrangement, stitching, weaving, photographing, re-photographing, and combining. I reinterpret the archive in (mostly found, discarded, or wasted) mundane domestic materials, accumulations, and outdated media to draw connections between memory, transience and technology.
How does the collaborative work of the residency connect to your solo work?
Collaboration has always been a huge part of my studio practice. I have worked in social and public practice projects as well as educational environments from early childhood to end of life. In some ways, I see my studio practice as a collaboration between myself and materials with provenance, discards from libraries, and old family ephemera. I also believe that cultural access has the power to transform lives, and I see this residency as both an extension of my social practice and my studio practice.
The Museum remains grateful for the months of hard work that Lydia has put in helping with the Connections program. We wish her nothing but the best in her future endeavors!