Prairie Ronde residency makes up for lost time

Hannah Elless’ artwork displayed in downtown Vicksburg shop windows.

By Rob Peterson

The Prairie Ronde Artist Residency will be hosting six artists this fall to make up for sessions that were missed during quarantine.

The residency is a Vicksburg-based program that offers a stipend, housing, and studio space for artists from all over the world to come and make art. The capstone of the residency always includes some sort of public event, whether that be a workshop or an open gallery.

It’s one thing to host an artist who works in isolation; the challenge that the Prairie Ronde organizers face today is hosting the public event.

“We really want people to be able to interact with the art,” said residency organizer John Kern. “We are researching how other organizations are doing this and making use of both outdoor space and our large indoor spaces.”

In September, they used a different technique to allow for social distancing with the two artists who participated.

For Pamela Hadley, whose primary medium is light, the solution was to create displays in some of the vacant storefronts downtown. Benches were set up outside the storefronts so that attendees could view the art that was projected onto the windows from inside.

The other artist was Portage native Hannah Elless, who creates abstract paintings with texture. For her public event, they displayed 20 pieces of her artwork in windows around downtown.

The next two sessions will also include two artists each. They include Conner Green of Indianapolis, who creates sculpture out of a variety of materials that include glass, glycerin, steel, and wood and Jordan Delzell from Kansas City, Kansas, who works primarily with recycled paper and found objects. Her art often takes the form of familiar household objects that are reimagined.

The public event for Green and Delzell will be in mid-November.

The final session of the year will include Justin Tyler Tate, originally from Canada, who creates art that often has very practical uses, such as a Cube Farm he designed and built in Estonia. Also coming in November is Zack Baltich, a musician/percussionist from Minneapolis who makes good use of large, open spaces to create his music. “I’m fascinated to see what he will bring to the large spaces we have available to him at the Mill,” said Kern.

Kern said that arts organizations in general are struggling thanks to two forces: the inability for people to gather in large numbers, and the redirection of funds from the arts to the more basic human needs that need to be met.

“It’s Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs,” said Kern. “It’s harder for funders to pay for the arts when communities are trying to help people with food and shelter.”

The Prairie Ronde Artist Residency organizers see the importance of the arts to Vicksburg and the surrounding community, so they will continue to invest in creating a climate where arts and culture can thrive.

“The attendance at our events so far is evidence that the area is eager to support the arts,” said Kern. “Prairie Ronde is part of a broader place-based effort. There are really cool and interesting things going on here.”

To learn more about the upcoming public events, check out their social media and website.

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