GHENT — Art Omi’s artists residency program opened its doors to visitors to check out pieces done by the 30 artists from around the world at the Ghent site’s barn, sculpture shed and printshop Sunday.
Some of this year’s artists include Nicole Franchy, of Peru; Terence Musekiwa, of Zimbabwe; and Joanna Borkowska, of Poland. Eighty percent of the artists in residence are from outside the United States, Omi Residency Manager and Communications Associate Cassandra Massa said.
“The focus of Omi is international,” Massa said.
The first four-week artist residency program began in 1992 and the open studio day gives visitors a chance to see pieces the artists have worked on.
“The studios are closed to the public for the whole month, so this is the opportunity for everyone to come in and see what’s happening,” Massa said.
The studios are closed during the residency so the artists can concentrate, Massa said, adding they are visited by curators and art gallery owners during one week of the program.
“If we open them up to the public, there would just be people wandering around distracting them,” she said. “It’s actually a very rigorous month.”
Artists apply online for the residency and submit a portfolio to be reviewed by the program board. Over 1,000 applications were submitted this year, Massa noted.
“This was one of the biggest pools we’ve had in the history of the residency,” she said.
Omi organizes residencies for writers, dancers, musicians, translators and architects between February and November. While the dance and music residencies focus on collaborations, most of the artists work separately.
“We don’t focus on collaboration, but sometimes the artists do collaborate,” Massa said. “The community aspect is huge — everyone lives together, everyone eats together.”
Omi receives grants and private donations to keep its sculpture park and open studios day free, Massa said, adding donations are appreciated.
Activist artist Rosary Solimanto decided to apply for the residency after she visited Omi last year and witnessed artists making art out of barbecue grills, she said.
Solimanto’s work is politically charged and one of her pieces, “But You Don’t Look Sick,” is based off instances when she tells people she has multiple sclerosis and they don’t believe she is in much pain, she said.
“There’s all these implications and assumptions that are made about people and their health conditions,” Solimanto said. “I’m trying to talk about those stigmas and problems in my work.”
Aldona Januszkiewicz, of New York City, appreciated seeing the different points of views the artists were portraying through their works, she said, adding the event gives visitors a chance to view uncompleted pieces.
“They’re works in progress,” she said. “You can see their thinking.”
Dylan Levine, of Scarsdale, often visits Omi with his family and encouraged anyone interested with an open mind to check out the unique art on display.
“It’s eccentric for sure, that’s the best word that comes to mind,” Levine said. “We had to check it out.”
It was the first time in five years Charlene Pulakos, of Pomona, has visited OMI and she said she wasn’t disappointed with the artwork on display. Pulakos’ favorite piece was an image of a dog made up of the words of President Barack Obama’s rejected 2011 jobs bill by Brooklyn-based artist Michael Waugh.
“You get up close and you realize these are words,” Pulakos said of the image. “The whole picture is this bill.”
Pulakos appreciates the different mediums used to create the show and she said she loved how one of the artists improvised by using sticks he found on the Omi complex to create art.
“We just love it,” she said. “It’s always inspiring to be around artists.”