Sitting in the studio space on the fifth floor in the Two Merriweather office building in Columbia, Hoesy Corona is in awe.
“It’s huge,” he said, of the open space. “I’m getting glimpses of what I want my future studio to look like.”
For two months, the multidisciplinary artist has, along with two other artists, been able to use the studio space as his own thanks to the inaugural Merriweather District Artist-in-Residence program in Downtown Columbia.
Three artists – Sophia Brous, Eric Dyer and Corona – were selected from over 70 applications from across the United States and Europe to participate in the new program, which was created and funded by The Howard Hughes Corp. in collaboration with the Howard County Arts Council.
“We went into this not really sure how much interest we would be able to create,” said Michele Whelley, MD AIR program manager. “The selection was very difficult. When we selected Hoesy, Eric and Sophia, we thought we had an amazing mix of mediums, experience and talent.”
All three artists are multimedia. Dyer, of Baltimore, works with images from a zoetrope, a 19th –century animation toy, and digital video cameras. Brous is a performance-maker, musician and artistic director is based in New York and Australia.
Each artist was provided studio space from June through July as well as an apartment and a stipend. Open houses were held to allow the public to see the artists at work and on July 25, a formal party was held featuring a discussion about art to bring the program’s first year to a close.
“Artists-in-residence programs are really valuable for the artists and the hosting sites,” said Coleen West, executive directory of Howard County Arts Council. “It introduces new art forms into the community while artists get to be with other artists and learn from each other.”
Corona was attracted to the program because it was new and in Columbia. Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, he moved to Baltimore 13 years ago to attend the Maryland Institute College of Art.
“Even though I was just in Baltimore, I felt it was important to be here and get the feel of the community,” Corona said. “Doing this for two months, the first few weeks you’re setting up. Then, you realize when you are in the community when the local coffee shop knows your name.”
Dyer, a professor at University of Maryland Baltimore County, was able to focus on his art with no worries, he said.
“It’s rare to have the time, space, and funding to focus on a project - the residency provided all this. My work involves so much experimentation before real breakthroughs can happen,” Dyer wrote in an email. –“I deeply value how the funding and space enabled me to take big steps towards both the kinetic portraits and materialization of digital animation projects I’d formerly only been dreaming about.”
The freedom the program offered “was appreciated,” Cornoa said.
“They were open-ended on what the artist would be able to work on,” Corona said. “For a first year program, I think it was pretty amazing.”
All three artists were invited, but not required, to submit works for inclusion in the second annual Opus festival to be held in October.
Featuring music, large-scale art installations and technology, last year’s Opus festival, also hosted by the Howard Houghes Corp., attracted almost 16,000 people to the Merriweather District.
“Howard Hughes has been really generous,” West said. “They are at the forefront of what corporations can do with their willingness to support artists.”
While there were some ups an down, the program was an overall success, Whelley said.
“There were a lot of lessons learned,” Whelley said. “We were so happy to get this program off the ground in a very short time.”
Ideas are already being discussed for next year, from increasing the number of artists to lengthening the allotted time, West said.
“It was a really great experience,” West said. “We hope to expand it and continue it next year.”