Since its founding in 1968, the Fine Arts Work Center has hosted more than a thousand fellows. Twenty-two former fellows returned to Provincetown this summer for an alumni group show, “Everyone We Know Is Here.”
Four of the featured artists — including curator Heidi Hahn — spoke with the Independent about their fellowship experiences. Each of them met a slightly different Provincetown, a slightly different FAWC, a slightly different cohort. But for all, the fellowship provided artistic growth and a deep sense of community.
Sharon Horvath (Visual Art Fellow, 1985-1986)
On the night Horvath arrived in Provincetown, she got lost.
“But you can’t really get lost,” Horvath said, “because, once you get to the end of Commercial Street, it just takes you back around. My first experience of the land was this weird spiral, a circularity. It was really striking.”
In her time at FAWC, Horvath met Paul Bowen, an artist originally from Wales who spent three decades living in Provincetown. Bowen, who constructs found wood sculptures, was an artist-in-residence at the time.
“Every time I hear a foghorn, I remember his sculpture,” Horvath said. “It had that sound to it, the same weather.”
The Outer Cape’s environment — “the sand, the moving dunes, the water” — were inspirational, Horvath remembered.
“I did my first paintings that I felt were really my own,” she said. “I don’t think I’m very unusual in this. I think this is a shared experience. It’s what binds all the former fellows together: we all know the secret magic of Provincetown and Cape Cod.”
Beverly Ress (Visual Art Fellow, 1990-1991)
Ress came into her fellowship looking to continue her artistic practice but also, with the help of Cape Cod’s seascapes and coastlines, to discover her connection to nature. Growing up in the suburbs, she said, she’d always felt estranged from the natural world. Here, she found that connection, and she also found something she didn’t know she was looking for: a change in medium.
“I had done a little drawing before, but I went to a liberal arts college, and the professors were all about, ‘What can you make? How creative can you be?’ ” Ress said. “There wasn’t a formal ‘We’re going to draw the figure.’ ”
In addition to the change in medium, a loss during the fellowship moved her work toward a new subject.
“My father-in-law died while I was there,” Ress said. “That was a big hit. I had a dream that I died. It was like, I was dying, dying, dying, and then it was black. I started thinking, ‘Oh, my God, that’s what connects us to nature, is our mortality, that we’re all temporarily here.’ ”
Heidi Hahn (Visual Art Fellow, 2014-2016)
Hahn, who curated “Everyone We Know Is Here,” was a fellow for two consecutive years after receiving her M.F.A. from Yale.
“Yale was so intense,” she said. “You had so many eyes on you all the time and you were getting feedback from so many different professors. To really hide out in the winter in Provincetown: it was perfect for contending with all the advice and figuring out, ‘OK, well, how do I work for myself?’ ”
For Hahn, painting “in this great little void” and the privacy it afforded allowed for exploration of different directions in her art.
“I think the isolation helps bring out the weirdness in the work,” Hahn said. “There’s a certain amount of courage that you need to make stranger work.”
Although the privacy and creative freedom the fellowship afforded her were powerful, she also felt the deep connections at FAWC.
“ ‘Everyone We Know Is Here’ is about the community,” she said, “It’s about all these people passing through the same program and experiencing the residency in very different ways.”
Jagdeep Raina (Visual Art Fellow, 2016-2017)
“I was the youngest fellow when I was there,” Raina said. “I was among artists and writers, some of whose work I had studied. Then, suddenly, I knew them personally. It was surreal.
“FAWC gave me the courage to start becoming more interdisciplinary with my practice, and that was a really wonderful thing,” he said. “I started doing a lot of writing while I was there and thinking about different mediums I wanted to explore.”
Now, Raina is working on creative writing projects and exploring textiles and animation.
“I’m learning new skills and thinking about the relationship between narrative and reality in my work currently,” Raina said.
Raina said he is still close to members of his cohort. “I definitely came out of there with amazing friendships,” he said, “and also artists who I admire and look up to.”