VCCA (Virginia Center for the Creative Arts) is one of the largest artists' communities in the nation. Tucked into the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, VCCA has awarded fellowships to thousands of our best national and international writers, composers and visual artists. This blog tells their story—their achievements and the work they are doing in your area and around the world. VCCA news is here, too: events, fellowships, opportunities.
VCCA. Because creative space is a creative edge.
Catherine Peek, the winner of the Harry D. Forsyth
Fellowship for the Visual Arts is reveling in the sunshine on this fine October
day. The Forsyth fellowship was established in 1999 to provide a fully funded
two-week residency at VCCA for a Sweet Briar alumna working in painting,
drawing, sculpture, printmaking or mixed media.
According to the Sweet Briar website: “The fellowship is awarded to
an alumna who has demonstrated exceptional ability and commitment in the area
of the visual arts. The selected Forsyth Fellow need not have been a studio art
major during her time at Sweet Briar, however, she should be seriously pursuing
work in the visual arts. Applicants are judged based on achievement or promise
of achievement as evaluated by review of work samples, references and resume.”
Catherine’s delight in the weather is more than just personal
because, in addition to the fellowship, Catherine also has won the commission, beating out all other competitors, including such notables as Patricia Leighton, to
create a sculpture for the exterior of the Mary Helen Cochran Library. The project is underwritten by the Sweet Briar College
Friends of Art. Catherine’s been forging ahead, despite the heavy rain, working
on the forms in the shelter of Sweet Briar’s stables. But the forms are
completed now and enough’s enough. Concrete needs to be poured.
Catherine’s piece, entitled, Uplift,
incorporates concrete and living plants to create a land art version of Sweet
Briar’s landscape. The workreferences
both the topographical phenomenon of tectonic shifts forming mountains and also
it’s a conceptual piece referring to the African–American women’s uplift
movement of the 1900s where "the women lifted themselves up, educating
themselves so they could educate their children and uplift everyone in their
In Uplift “The ground has been lifted up and sliced to reveal this
brilliant red earth beneath--it’s that action I hope you see when you look at
it. The retaining walls are concrete but they are going to be finished with
this really amazing color matched to the red earth on campus. I gave
them the brightest sample I could find. The finish looks like fresco, but it
chemically bonds to the concrete so it will never go away.”
The concrete has to be fully cured before the finish goes on
otherwise it won’t bond properly and the color won't be right.
It takes 28 days for concrete to cure. If all goes well, the concrete will be
poured on October 21 allowing the finish to be applied on November 19.
Catherine’s four-foot wide concrete ribbons of earth will be planted
with creeping jenny (Lysimachia Aurea), a particularly brilliant
green plant, that also has a softness to it, inviting interaction. Catherine
wanted to create a more intimate relationship with the mountains, which from a
distance look sensual, but “you can never really experience that sensuality.” She
hopes people will experience it through her piece, lounging or sitting on its undulating
To create Uplift, which
measures 80’l x 12’d x 7’h, Catherine, who holds a
Masters degree in architecture from Rice University, drew sections of the
mountain profiles correlated with the view from the top of the library using a
topography map and drafting software. She then printed a full-scale mock-up of
the sculpture that the contractors eventually used to cut forms for the
From Winchester, Virginia, Catherine was also named a winner of the
Washington Memorial Ideas Competition in 2011 for her Field of Stars. She considers herself an urban designer straddling
that line between art and architecture. Her intention is to evoke the
“placeness” of a place, getting a sense of it and then amplifying it in her
work. With Uplift’s rolling green
silhouette and Virginia red clay interior she has certainly evoked Sweet
To all at Annaghmakerrig (a name I can spell—finally—without looking it up!)
The Guthrie Family Robbie Mary Martina Lavina Mary Esther MaryAlice Ingrid Jim and his grounds McGinns' pub Charlie Adams and his taxi The groundskeeper at the Parish Church, who opened especially for me All at Mt. San Angelo — Virginia Center for the Creative Arts Everyone whose name (or deeds) I failed to note, though our paths criss‐crossed Thank you ‐‐ for the wholesome and appetizing food that fueled my novel, padded my belly, and gave me energy to wrestle my plot to the ground and the courage to, in some cases, kill it. ‐‐for the bike that took me to Newbliss and back along the wee roads. ‐‐for the attention to detail, the thorough and regular room cleaning, a luxury that allowed me, a slack housekeeper, to forget chores. ‐‐for the smooth, rolling sea of green and the smell of roses and grass that sailed through my window ‐‐for the lilting language, curiosity, warmth of Irish hosts and guests ‐‐for the kingfisher on the tire at the boathouse, for the herons' call and cows' bellow ‐‐for freezing lake water that baptized me each day. ‐‐for the ghosts ‐‐for the fellow artists who have inhabited, or will inhabit, this world apart. VCCA Fellow BettyJoyce Nash Photos: VCCA Fellow Adam Giannelli VCCA composers are invited to apply for an exchange residency to Tyrone Guthrie Centre. Deadline: December 1, 2014. Application available here.
Kylie Heidenheimer arrived for her fifth residency at VCCA with
work already begun on some of her pieces. “It’s what I like to do, to
arrive with something in progress.” This ensures a relatively smooth segue into
work without the added weight of a blank canvas staring you down from across
the studio. And, as Kylie points out, “You see things differently when you move
Beginning in 2010, Kylie started working with more amplified
color. This initiated a medium change from acrylic to oil, the acrylic colors being too highly-keyed for her taste. It was “an interesting adventure” since she’d been using
the medium for 15 years and had to adjust her working methods to accommodate
the demands of oil.
But the rich colors and translucent glazes characteristic of
oil make it all worth the trouble. Kylie paints on oil paper, canvas on
stretched panels and canvas stapled directly to the wall.
It was interesting seeing Kylie’s recent work after looking
at a catalog from 2008. Not only was the vibrant color a surprise, but the
looseness of her brushwork was markedly different from the more tightly
controlled, all-over effect of those earlier paintings.
With these recent pieces, Kylie is exploring what she refers
to as “a twisted space.” You’ll see in her paintings how one side comes
forward while the other recedes. Kylie does this as a way to acknowledge both
surface and depth. “The painting is both an object and a container for space,”
They’re also beautiful with pairings of color that are
interesting and satisfying, anda
complex lexicon of marks, that range from daubs to jagged lines to washes. Hue
and gesture impart a wonderful drama to her compositions that are, as Kylie
says referring to her constant reworking, a few paintings in one.
Prose will be the featured author at the New York debut of Conversations/Conversazioni:
From the American Academy in Rome on October 15 at 6:00PM. At Patricia
H. Labalme Friends of the Library Lecture at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York.
Francine will read from her highly acclaimed novelLovers at the Chameleon Club: Paris
1932 and discuss her
creative process including her use of historical events in fiction.
Francine’s novel Blue Angel won her National Book Award
finalist status. She is visiting professor of Literature at Bard College, and
is the former president of PEN American Center. Her most recent works of
nonfiction include Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife, and
the New York Times bestseller Reading Like a Writer.