Jentel in the News: December 2011
Jentel Celebrates the Big 6-0-Oh!
Two by Two and four by four may bring to mind Noahs’ ark or the necessary feature on a trailer hauling pickup in Wyoming, but for Jentel it represents the monthly grouping of two writers and four visual artists who are invited to spend a month of unfettered time in the open landscape of the foothills of the Bighorns. After two years of only a month long residency pilot program, Jentel has been welcoming residents from all over the country and from numerous international communities year round for almost nine years.
This month Jentel celebrates awarding residencies to six hundred individuals who have come to experience the warm hospitality of the Sheridan County community, the vast expanse of beautiful mountain and ranch land and the opportunity to focus on the creative process of writing and art making.
The majority of residents relish the chance to leave the demands of urban living and seek the many benefits offered with a residency award. “The uninterrupted time to focus only on writing is an amazing gift in and of itself, and to have this time while also being surrounded by the wide open Wyoming landscape is quite a spur to creativity. Something about being in a new place makes the world feel new again, and makes me see new possibilities in my work.” commented Kate Blakinger, a fiction writer from Philadelphia.
“For me, Jentel was the right balance of good conversations with fellow artists, freedom to enjoy the Wyoming environment, and comfortable accommodations. As a writer, it was new for me to spend so much time talking and exchanging ideas with visual artists. This was terrific.” added Mark Barr, a fiction writer from Austin, Texas.
Printmaker, Tom Virgin from Tampa, Florida is already looking forward to a return visit to Wyoming to explore more of what the state has to offer. “Each and every conversation preceding my trip was like a conversation with a friend, anticipating a long stay with an honored guest. When I received maps of the area in advance of my travels I was delighted with the tangible reminder of my impending trip. It came during the end of the school year and it opened up a window in the chaos for me to contemplate my future temporary address. I felt more like I was moving to the neighborhood for a while than just staying for a few weeks in residency.”
“While the residents gather later in the month for a good bye dinner, I am looking forward to the extra round of toasts and cheers as the staff share memories about past residents.” concluded Executive Director, Mary Jane Edwards.
Jentel in the News: June 2011
Jentel Provides Stimulating Environment for Artists, Writers
By Caitlin Addlesperger
At the end of a red dirt road, between Ucross and Banner, lies Jentel, a unique juxtaposition of an artist residency program with a working cattle ranch. Surrounded by hills topped with sage and sweeping views of the Bighorn Mountains, Jentel offers a stimulating yet relaxing environment to four visual artists and two writers each month. Each artist is assigned a studio: the visual artists work in airy rooms with gleaming white walls and high ceilings in a renovated barn, while the writers' studios, located in a small log cabin, are cozy, warm spaces, complete with a welcoming armchair in front of a crackling fireplace. Each morning, the residents commute the 20 yards to their respective studios from their shared home, a large, colorful and eclectically decorated house, a mix of the antique and modern that Mary Jane Edwards, executive director of Jentel, describes a "Neltje-ized."
Neltje, the same local abstract artist known for having rescued the Sheridan Inn in 1967, founded Jentel (an anagram of her name) in 2001 with the aim of creating the ideal artist residency program that she would want to attend. She will occasionally pop by the residents' house, not far from her own home, for a cup of coffee or a Scrabble match.
Neltje remains the sole benefactor of the Jentel Foundation. "It's a very generous gift of time and space," says Edwards, who describes Jentel as "a safe place where you can make [artistic] decisions that are not safe," furthering creative development.
"I for one can't believe I've been given this opportunity," admits Karen McAlister Shimoda of Missoula, Montana, one of the April/May visual artists. She hopes to further her play on the concept of the macro and the micro with media experiments on a larger scale, like with panels. "For the first couple days, I think we all can't help but wonder how we're so lucky, adds Shimoda.
"This has felt like a gift since we walked in the door," agrees fellow visual artist Lisa Buchanan of Seattle. Known as an abstract painter, Buchanan's plans reversely mirror Shimoda's; instead of her typical large-scale work, Buchanan will try creating smaller pieces. In the setting of Jentel, she even is considering a hiatus from her typical abstract work in favor of the realism of landscape, especially after consulting with her fellow residents.
Edwards explains that every generation of residents has a unique culture; this group which arrived April 15 and will leave May 13, "instantly clicked," according to Buchanan. The six women, ranging in age from 30 to 64, had developed a harmonious daily rhythm by the end of the first week: Each rises early, makes her way from her bedroom to her studio, eats lunch on her own, enjoys more studio time, adventures the rugged Jentel ground (Wyoming weather permitting), works in her studio, and finally reconvenes with her fellow residents for dinner, which the artists cook together with groceries purchased on Thursday morning outings to Sheridan with their weekly $100 stipends.
The evenings vary from more studio time to bonding with fellow residents in the common areas, which include a living room furnished with couches, board games, and wine glasses, a television recreation room with dozens of movies on VHS, and a library fully stocked with artsy books.
To note: These artists are not simply "lucky" people who stumbled upon the "gift" of this ideal creative environment. Admission to Jentel is very competitive. The application consists of a proposal of what the artist wants to do at the residency program, a description of how the residency will affect his or her work, and a work sample, 15 to 20 images for visual artists or up to 20 pages for writers.
Edwards and other staff members process the application in a renovated ranch house that now functions as an office and reception area. The application is then sent to a panel of jurors for a "blind jury process," which Edwards describes as an application without the applicant's name, experience, or notoriety. "That way, we have people who are new or experienced and internationally know or unpublished." says Edwards. "It levels the playing field and de-emphasizes any sense of entitlement so that everyone comes to Jentel open to sharing the experience – nobody really has an edge." After the rigorous application process, an artist is not required to further prove herself. Her time in the residency month is left entirely to her discretion.
Days blend together as each artist determines what works best for her, and why. Such realizations will help her art long after she leaves Jentel. "When we first got here, we were all, 'I am never going to have this time again! I need to get stuff done!'" says one of the current writers in residence, Jennifer Baker-Henry of New York City. "But Mary Jane and Lynn [Reeves, the residency program manager] just said, 'You don't have to do anything. This can just be about re-energizing yourself. You can write a book, or you can read a book.'" She continues: "But you know, I'm here. It's so quiet, and I have so much natural light. There's no pressure, and it helps me be productive." Baker-Henry plans to finish her collection of short stories, some of which are published, on which she has been working for three years.
Lorraine Lopez of Nashville, Tenn., is the other current writer in residence. She feels "very confident that I'm going to finish my novel," she says. "A confluence of factors – mostly being away from the telephone and physically away from my life and job [as a creative writing professor at Vanderbilt University], the fast-paced, hectic, and demanding context that I can be used to … is extremely helpful to me,: observes Lopez.
Rachel Meginnes of San Francisco, a visual artist who creates works on a cloth akin to weaving, says the change in pace from city to country helps her feel more open to new artistic experiences. "I don't even really know what day it is," she laughs. "I feel spoiled."
Joyce Ely-Walker measures her timed and progress with small daily paintings that reflect both the weather and her mood, which often coincide. Ely-Walker, a "plain-air" painter, or an artist who primarily paints outdoors, says the drastic shift from the landscape of her native Florida to the rugged terrain of Wyoming is the most obvious and direct way her work has been influenced by the experience. A seasoned 2006 veteran of Jentel, Ely-Walker is among the 5 percent of Jentel artists who reapplied and returned at the conclusion of the program's requisite five-year waiting period. She says she is interested to see how her work will be transformed this session.
"I can tell you that almost every bit of my work has been affected by Jentel," says Beena Kamlani of New York City, a writer who stayed at Jentel in October/November and is already excited to reapply in a few years. "The ambience was perfect, and the landscape was absolutely stunning. I don't know how you couldn't feel it. The star-studded skies were such that you felt if you put your hand out, it would come back encrusted with stars." Kamlani, a book editor at Viking Penguin in fast-paced New York City, was shocked by the amount of writing she completed at the isolated Jentel, work she continues to draw on today.
"I don't know what it was bout that place – maybe it's on top of sacred Indian ground or something – but I still can't believe how much I got done," say Tom Virgin of Miami, a Jentel resident in July/August. "It's just a tremendous environment." Virgin professes nostalgia for Sheridan, where he shopped for art supplies and met with locals. The Sheridan community shares a mutually beneficial relationship with the artist residency program.
Toward the end of the artists' four weeks, the work and experience they have garnered are offered to the public at "Jentel Presents," an event often held at the Sheridan Artists' Guild, Et al.'s space at the Historic Train Depot in Sheridan. The Jentel residents, typically from metropolitan areas, can meet and question honest-to-goodness Wild West inhabitants, and Sheridan residents can meet and question honest-to-goodness metropolitan artists. Accompanied by refreshments, the free event includes an hour and a half of artist presentations on slide shows of the visual artists' new work and readings from the writers' recent inspired creations.
The Jentel Artist Residency Program accepts applications until Sept. 15 for the winter and spring residencies and until Jan. 15 for the summer and fall residencies.
Jentel in the News: January 2011
Artist Opening Home for Local Students
"'Living with Art' is going to give children in Sheridan, Johnson and Campbell counties access to this facility." artist Neltje said at her Banner home Friday. "This facility (her home) will be going to the University of Wyoming when I die. So, my thought was to get kids involved now." In September, Neltje, 76, announced that she will donate her financial and land holdings, except for those going to her children and a few select personal gifts, to UW following her death. On Friday, Neltje invited local school teachers and administrators to tour her home and learn more about what the Living with Art program will entail.
Living with Art allows elementary and junior high classes from surrounding communities to tour Neltje's home, studio and grounds with art curator Sarah Gadd and Neltje's assistant, David Schreiber."It is so important for children (to be exposed to art)," Neltje said. "If they can be exposed to art and art can be part of their home and surroundings, it helps them to develop a sense of wonder and design." Art, in the long run, defines our society." she added, "And it projects what is coming in the future." The facility, which will be called the Neltje Center for the Visual and Literary Arts, is available for tours on the first and third Tuesdays of each month and on the second and fourth Thursdays.
"It will be beneficial for children to see what a living artist does and collects and how her view of the world informs her art." said Vikki Chenette, an art teacher a t Meadowlark Elementary School in Buffalo who toured Neltje's home Friday. Chenette added: "At a young age children need as many experiences as possible. To explore media, look at art and be able to compare pieces develops a child's communication skills. It also gives kids confidence that not everyone does things in the same way." According to Gadd, the Living with Art program is designed to be interactive, age –appropriate and can be constructed to accommodate a variety of curricular areas.
The collection of art Neltje has obtained ranges from South African art to works produced by Wyoming artists. "I'm not a collector," Neltje said, referring to the art in her home, "I'm more of a hunter-gatherer. I have a rather eclectic range of what interests me." Neltje's collection includes artwork from Papua New Guinea, South Africa, Italy and many other places around the world. "You can understand to a certain degree other cultures," Neltje said. "But the art really makes you aware of people living in a different manner than you do. Your scope of the world grows much larger. "It is a wonder," she added. "You can see, associate and understand more of what the world is about. It makes you less insular and less petty about things that go on in your own life."
Neltje stressed the importance of living with and among art. She said the art in her home, which includes some of her own paintings, reminds her of places, people and situations. Some of the art in Neltje's home is as simple as Italian olive jars or Middle Eastern pottery. "It is important for people to understand that you can have something of extraordinary beauty for not that much money," she said. Neltje bought one intricate carving of a man in a boat for just $100 from a woman in Papua New Guinea. "It was under their house, covered with dust and dirt," Neltje said, adding that the woman's husband had carved it. "But it was museum-quality work."
As Neltje gave tours of her home Friday, she encouraged visitors to not only look at the art, but also to touch it, pick it up, sit on it and wear it. "I like to use all of my senses," she said. "So many of us grew up when people would say 'don't touch' or 'be careful,' but" ---she emphasized --- "not here." "You want to touch it, but you go to a museum and you can't. Here you can. "I want kids to remember that they saw a hat from Africa, what it felt like and looked like when somebody put it on. Then maybe they'll want to go to Africa and see it on somebody there."
If one goal of the Living with Art program is to show how somebody in the trade lives surrounded by artwork, Neltje's home will serve as a worthy example. It seems barely a square foot of Neltje's home is without art. Her living space is full of antiques, paintings, sculptures and clothing. Even her yard, pool house and bedroom sport artistic figures, images, furniture and fabrics. "This will be a living museum," Neltje said, gesturing to her home, "The Neltje Center for the Visual and Literary Arts. They are taking everything, perhaps even my underwear for all I know."
Neltje said she decided to make the gift to UW because she wants to give something to the state that has provided her with so much. "Wyoming is a story of development, as is mine," she said. "You gotta have the space to do it, though, and you gotta have the guts. You must be able to take all the crap that comes with that." An abstract expressionist whose works have been featured in collections at the Smithsonian, Neltje was born in New York City and raised in Oyster Bay, Long Island. In 1966, she moved with her children to Wyoming. In 2005, she was recognized as one of Wyoming's pre-eminent artists with a Governor's Arts Award.
Jentel in the News: October 2010
Gift Will Create Powerhouse Arts Center
An artist's ranch in Sheridan County, priceless works of art, and financial holdings comprise an estate gift to the University of Wyoming, The largest in the history of the university. The gift promises to make UW a powerhouse in the world of arts education and transform UW's role in the visual and literary arts, both in Wyoming and in the United States.
"The UW Neltje Center for the Visual and Literary Arts will connect three programs at the university: the MFA Creative Writing Program, the Department of Art, and the Art Museum," Susan Moldenhauer, director and chief curator of the art museum, says.
When this gift is realized the home of the self-taught artist Neltje will become the heart of the UW Neltje Center for the Visual and Literary Arts, a place to honor and showcase the contemporary visual and literary arts and an educational facility for residencies, workshops, symposia, conferences, art exhibitions and literary readings. The Neltje Center will be open for UW activities related to the arts and to the public for special events, conferences and celebrations.
"As the Neltje Center, her home, art collections, studio, surrounding land and buildings, and Jentel, her artist residency program, will provide opportunities for students of all ages, faculty and teachers, scholars, and artists to explore, create, and research contemporary and ethnographic arts in the classroom and as personal creative expression," Moldenhauer says. "Very few universities have such a wide-ranging center to support the visual and literary arts."
Jentel in the News: September 2010
UW Announces Major Gift to the Arts
University of Wyoming officials said today the university has received the largest estate gift in its history, a bequest that will transform the university's role in the arts in Wyoming and across the United States.
The estate gift is from Wyoming artist, Neltje, a prolific abstract expressionist whose works have been described as an "exploration of making the sensed visible." The gift includes all financial and land holdings save for those going to her children and a select few personal donations. Additionally, the gift includes a world-class collection of contemporary, tribal and ethnic arts collected by Neltje over a lifetime of travel across the globe.
"If ever there was tangible evidence of the power of philanthropy, this is it," UW President Tom Buchanan says. "We can't thank Neltje enough for her vision and her commitment to the university and to the arts in Wyoming. It is simply remarkable." The gift will enhance the UW Art Museum and the university's visual and literary arts programs, and it will enable UW to provide talented students with once-in-a-lifetime arts education opportunities unmatched in the United States.
The gift was announced just as the university is breaking ground for its new $33 million Visual Arts Center next to the UW Centennial Complex on the Laramie campus, which is home to the Art Museum and the American Heritage Center. Neltje's gift, combined with the significant investment in the new Visual Arts Center, promises to forever change the landscape for the fine arts at UW.
When this gift is realized, her home will become the heart of the UW Neltje Center for the Visual and Literary Arts, a place to honor and showcase the contemporary visual and literary arts and an educational facility for residencies, workshops, symposia, conferences, art exhibitions and literary readings.
"My heart belongs to Wyoming," says Neltje. "The incredible and vast landscape and the independent people have given me the inspiration to become who I am. My gift to the University of Wyoming is a gesture of my caring for future generations."
The Neltje Center will be open for UW activities related to the arts and also to the public for special events, conferences and celebrations. It will celebrate an expansive, sophisticated awareness of the arts and includes both the literary arts as well as contemporary art.
The gift includes a partnership with Jentel, a private foundation established by Neltje in 2000 that is located adjacent to her home. Jentel provides on a working ranch a residency program for visual artists and writers from across the country. The foundation strives to protect the pristine natural environment of the Piney Creek Valley.
"Neltje's extraordinary gift will transform the arts at the University of Wyoming, creating research and educational opportunities at the future Neltje Center and supporting the creative work of artists internationally through the artist residency program at Jentel," Susan Moldenhauer, director and chief curator at the UW Art Museum, says. "It will advance the Art Museum's mission through new collections, exhibition opportunities and museum-based research and education initiatives."
"Jentel will create a synergy of purpose with the Neltje Center, and the university," adds President Buchanan. "It will cultivate creativity and collaboration among artists in the residency program, students and artists from the university, and the public drawn to the Big Horns and this special place."
Neltje was born in New York City and raised in Oyster Bay, Long Island. In 1980 she took a few classes at the New York Studio School of Drawing and from 1979-80 she took a few classes at the Art Students League in New York, N.Y. She is essentially self-taught.
In 2005, she was recognized as one of Wyoming's preeminent artists with the Governor's Arts Awards. She received an honorary degree from Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Mont., and is the founder and benefactor of the Neltje Blanchan Literary Award in memory of her grandmother. She served on the Board of the Wyoming Arts Council from 1985 to 1988.
Neltje's work has been featured in collections at the Smithsonian, the Yellowstone Art Museum in Billings, Mont., the IBM Corporation in Denver and the Wyoming State Museum in Cheyenne, among others. In addition, her work is in private collections in California, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania and Wyoming.
Jentel in the News: January 2010
Pushcart Prize Jentel Connection
Under a new partnership, The Pushcart Prize and the Jentel Foundation announce plans to award three residencies to writers and poets selected from the highly prized collection of the most distinguished short stories, essays, memoirs and poems selected from small presses nationwide.
The Pushcart Prize - Best of the Small Presses series, published every year since 1976, is the most honored literary project in America. Each volume presents an astonishing diversity of writers, some renowned and many destined for acclamation. Selected from hundreds of little magazines and small book publishers nationwide, the Pushcart Prize continues its tradition of introducing to a wider public the dazzling literary galaxy of the small press by identifying and publishing manuscripts that are rejected by today's bottom line, profit driven commercial presses. The annual Pushcart Prize continues to set the standard of excellence for literary anthologies. And each year it is hailed as a touchstone of literary discovery.
The Pushcart Press has been recognized as among the most influential publishers in American history by Publishers Weekly. Presented with honors from the National Book Critics Circle Lifetime Achievement Award, Publishers Weekly, Poets & Writers/Barnes & Noble Writers Prize, Publishers Weekly's Carey Thomas Prize for publisher of the year and others, and acclaimed by readers and reviewers nationwide, The Pushcart Prize series continues to be a testament to the flourishing of American literature in small presses. As commercial publishers consolidate into a few profit-drive conglomerates, small presses encourage literature that is lasting, important and exciting. Edited with the assistance of over 200 distinguished contributing editors, The Pushcart Prize features fascinating works chosen from hundreds of presses with selections from Snake Nation Review, Ocho, West Branch, Threepenny Review, The Sun, Poetry, The Canary, Noon, New England Review, Smartish Pace, Rattle, Laurel Poetry Collective, A Public Space and dozens more.
Writers who were first noticed in the annual include: Raymond Carver, Tim O'Brien, Jayne Anne Phillips, Charles Baxter, Andre Dubus, Susan Minot, Mona Simpson, John Irving, Rick Moody, and many more. Each year most of the writers and many of the presses are new to the series.
Heidi Hart of Salt Lake City, Utah, Beena Kamlani of New York City and Tom Sleigh of Brooklyn, New York are this year's recipients of residency awards to the Jentel Artist Residency Program.
Mary Jane Edwards, Executive Director of the Jentel Foundation commented, "I appreciate the contribution that the Pushcart Prize is making to writers and poets and look forward to working closely to further support their efforts. The partnership promises the best of both programs to established and also emerging literary voices."
The Pushcart Prize Fellowships, Inc., a 501 (C) (3) is a non-profit corporation, and the endowment for the Pushcart Prize. The Fellowships help to ensure that the legacy of the Pushcart Prize, considered one of the most important publishing projects in American history (Publishers Weekly), will continue. We also give grants to new writers.
Jentel in the News: May 25, 2010
UW Art Museum Presents Gallery Walk, Art Talk for Neltje Exhibition
Popular Wyoming abstract expressionist Neltje is featured in a solo exhibition, "Neltje," on view through Aug. 28, at the University of Wyoming Art Museum.
Neltje's work is rooted in movement and gesture. She combines gestural marks with bold colors. A prolific artist, Neltje features some of her more recent painting, which explore new directions in combining text, objects and torn paper into the compositions.
"Like all of her pieces, Neltje's new works tell stories," says UW Art Museum publicist Shantana Judkins. "Using colorful papers and newspapers from her many travels and objects from friends and colleagues, she creates work that is personal and multi-layered. Her compositions balance the freedom of gesture with formal shapes and lines."
For additional information on exhibitions and programs, call the UW Art Museum at (307)766-6622 or visit the museum's Web page at www.uwyo.edu/artmuseum or blog at www.uwartmusuem.blogspot.com.
"Imagine learning from the masters" is a guiding principle of the UW Art Museum's programs. The museum is located in the Centennial Complex at 2111 Willett Drive in Laramie.
Jentel in the News: January 2008
University of Wyoming Art Department Partners Up with Jentel Foundation
Under a new partnership, the University of Wyoming's Department of Art and the Jentel Foundation will award a residency to visiting artists for participating in the Inky Paper Press Program. Initiated in 1995, Inky Paper Press provides students and members of the community with the opportunity for interaction and exchange with a nationally renowned artist printmaker. An artist is invited to campus to present a series of lectures, workshops and an exhibition of prints created throughout the week. For several days and sometimes long evenings in the printmaking studio, the artist works closely with students acting as assistants and apprentices to create an edition or series of prints. This learning experience is inspiring for all who may closely observe the individual processes and special techniques of printmaking developed by the guest artist.
Professor of Art Mark Ritchie, Director of Inky Paper Press, commented that while the series complements and reinforces the day to day instruction in the studio, it makes the intensity and challenge of the creative process alive and dynamic. Since artist's creative processes are unique and varied, students may directly experience the planning, decision making, intuitive responses and critiquing as they watch the artist at work in developing a print and completing an edition. The artist printmakers have advanced professionally, received awards and honors, hold teaching positions or manage their own studios. They offer contacts and a professional network for graduate studies, residencies, internships and awards. Likewise, the printmakers' career paths serve as models for students.
Mary Jane Edwards, Executive Director of the Jentel Foundation noted that the partnership will further enhance the quality of printmakers who come to Sheridan County and interact with members of the community through Jentel Presents, our monthly outreach program.
A subscription program helps underwrite the expenses of the Inky Paper Press series. Becoming a subscriber to the Inky Paper Print Series is an excellent way to support a great educational program and start an affordable original print collection. Subscribers receive a signed original print as a gift, a student receives an opportunity to meet an artist and see work habits modeled, and the community receives a lecture and exhibit. Each IPP artist also presents an exhibition of work, a lecture and demonstrations open to the public with special interaction times reserved for subscribers.