Keene arts organization launching residency program

·3 min read

Sep. 16—During the month of October, Nova Arts will launch a pilot artist residency aimed at fostering community participation and hopefully paving the way for an ongoing program that would bring a collaborative art medium to Keene.

Craig Stockwell, a Keene artist and director of the residency, said the program has been in development for two years and is part of a continuing effort by Nova Arts to attract a younger demographic to the city by expanding its arts scene.

Nova Arts is a Keene nonprofit based on Emerald Street that partners with emerging artists to organize events, develop projects and display art.

As part of the pilot residency, which will last four weeks starting Oct. 1, the group hired Roz Crews of North Adams, Mass., a social practice artist. Stockwell said Crews will live on Court Street during her residency and will be paid for her work.

"The field of social practice art is more around activity and research, resulting in some sort of exhibition or talk, bringing together people to participate in it," Stockwell said. "What makes this art rather than some community-action project is that it's not bound to an outcome. It's set up to engage the community and bring the community to some sort of reflection process, through exhibition or performance."

Crews said social practice art comes out of a history of art that, in the end, manifests itself in ways beyond an object like a painting or sculpture, but rather as part of a broader message. An example of this, she said is the Dada movement, a series of performance art, poetry and paintings that began in Switzerland as a reaction to World War I.

"It's often context specific," she said. "It's taking into account where I am, who I'm with and the history of that location. It's not made in a studio, it's happening out in the world."

Crews said she has done this kind of art in communities all across the country. A 2019 project, which concluded in an exhibition at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Ore., highlighted the intimacy and nuances of research methods.

She interviewed 14 professors from varying areas of expertise — including mathematics, history, chemistry and anthropology — and gathered information about their processes of conducting research. Crews compiled the content from the interviews into a series of drawings shown in a gallery. That project was called "When research can be a rainbow..."

In another project she collaborated on in Santa Fe, N.M., in 2018, Crews helped interview 30 people under the age of 30 to capture their daily activities in the community.

Lately, Crews has been visiting Keene and gathering research for her next project. She said the details of this project are "under wraps," but she plans to incorporate storytelling and involve a variety of Keene community members.

The Hannah Grimes Center for Entrepreneurship on Roxbury Street will host an introductory presentation to Crews' work in Keene on Oct. 6, and she expects the final presentation of her project to be the last weekend of October.

Stockwell said that after the pilot residency, the Nova Arts committee for the residency hopes to have an ongoing social practice art residency program, starting in the spring, which would last from one to six months.

He added that Nova Arts is currently fundraising for the program and has generated $7,000 out of a $10,000 goal. Donations can be made on the organization's website.

Hunter Oberst can be reached at 355-8585, or