Answering Your Questions about the Art Colony’s Artistic Direction

Published September 27, 2019


We understand that it is important for the Art Colony to clearly communicate organizational changes. Due to recent board resolutions, we are publicly sharing our renewed Artistic Direction and commitments as well as providing an explanation of our recently recommended closure of the Glass Studio. We aim to be as helpful and responsive as possible with the answers you see here. If you do not see a particular question that is important to you, please contact us and we will do our best to respond directly.

Rationale and Process

The Grand Marais Art Colony Board of Directors had a strategic planning retreat in January 2019 that was followed by further board discussion in February and March 2019 and a comprehensive evaluation of all programs and services in April 2019. Based on this process, the Board of Directors outlined the following Artistic Direction for the organization where the Art Colony:
• Strives to be a space for artists to work, question, dialogue, and grow artistically.
• Fosters the mutual benefits that occur when artists explore their work in parallel and overlapping spaces.
• Considers the artistic research, inquiry, and production in the outdoor experience of equal import to that done in the built studio.
• Exists in a relevant manner in the nexus between art and the environment.
• Remains genuinely tethered to its community, providing our neighbors opportunities to engage in its programs and supports artists in their arc of learning and professional growth.

What is changing at the Art Colony?

The next phase of growth requires that the Art Colony further focus its service to artists and work toward more mature programs and organizational development. The Art Colony’s goals include the focus on and further development of the following areas:
• Increasing and diversifying residency and mentorship opportunities.
• Building out various class tracks to allow students to advance in their medium from beginner on.
• Building out programmatic themes to correlate with the intersection between art and the environment. In 2020 the Art Colony theme is HABITAT.
• Crafting educational opportunities for youth and adults at all skill levels while building out classes defined by various levels of skill.
• Offering professional practice sessions, workshops, and scheduled appointments, while developing a greater depth of service.
• Offering studio access to member artists.
• Making available work study credit and scholarship opportunities.

What is the Art Colony’s service group?

The Art Colony’s primary service group is artists of all ages and those who may not yet call themselves artists but who identify with a specific medium such as a painter, potter, etc. Our secondary service group is art appreciators whether local or visitor. Our tertiary service group is visitors to Cook County. The Art Colony engages with its secondary and tertiary groups by providing:
Entry Point Activities: artist talks, demonstrations, and mini-classes
Exhibitions
• Residency Open Studios and Community Engagement Projects
• Signature Events such as The Grand Marais Arts Festival, Findings Jewelry Symposium and the North Shore Readers and Writers Festival

What is the Art Colony’s Studio Philosophy?

The success of the Art Colony studios follows a three-pronged model that creates sustained and increasing engagement, facilitates financial stability, and grows the reputation of the Art Colony through investment in and support of classes, residencies, and studio access.

What is happening with the Glass Studio?

The Board of Directors has recommended the closure of the Glass Studio effective June 1, 2020. For 15 years the Art Colony has been honored to host a glass studio. Extensive evaluation, based on more than five years of data, determined that the studio has failed to grow in each of the three Studio Philosophy prongs. Decreased engagement has resulted in class cancellations, only one glass artist residency, limited demand for studio access, and financial instability.

The Art Colony is committed to providing high quality studio space and programming. Best practices for glass studios require substantially larger space, investment in extensive and expensive equipment upgrades, and expanded instructional techniques to include such things as a blown glass and a true casting facility.

How did the Art Colony make these decisions? Did the Art Colony seek community input in their decision-making process?

Our focused Artistic Direction as well as the programmatic evaluation drove these changes. If we want the arts to advance and artists to be afforded studio space we must do everything we can to ensure the programs and services we offer are successful, mature, and have a high degree of engagement. The board tasked the Program Committee with utilizing a non-profit standard Mission/Money Matrix tool to evaluate all programs and invited engaged external advisors into the process.

The Art Colony will continue with a 10-month Strategic Planning period, under the direction of DeVos Institute of Arts Management out of the University of Maryland from October 2019 – August 2020. Public engagement and input are key parts of this process.

The Art Colony has also scheduled three Ideation Sessions in relation to its new space on Highway 61. See our September 23 Public Announcement in our News Section regarding those events.

As a regional as well as a community anchoring organization, we look forward to continued and honest feedback.

Did the Art Colony consider the impact of the Glass Studio closure on the community?

The closure of the Glass Studio was an extremely difficult decision for the Board of Directors and staff. We value the member artists who have worked in the studio and those who have taken classes with us. We reiterate that this shift emerges from a lengthy process reflecting on what is the highest and best use of our finite resources and what programs and studios are meeting the evaluative criteria including demand from the public.

How can I add my voice as the Art Colony makes additional decisions regarding strategies?

The best way to share your voice is by contacting our Executive or Artistic Director. Again, we invite all who are interested to join us for our Ideation Sessions in October.

Questions can be directed to:
Lyla Brown | Executive Director | director@grandmaraisartcolony.org
Ruth Pszwaro | Artistic Director | programs@grandmaraisartcolony.org
Or by calling: 218-387-2737