One of the leading artists communities in the world with locations in Amherst, Virginia and Auvillar, France, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (VCCA) has as its mission advancing the arts by providing creative space in which our best national and international writers, visual artists and composers produce their finest creative work.
Goldfarb Family Fund Fellowship Recipient Mako Yoshikawa
This year’s Goldfarb
Family Fund Fellowship recipient was acclaimed novelist and Emerson College creative writing professor Mako Yoshikawa who
has recently expanded her practice beyond
fiction. Established in 2000 through the generosity of writer, literary agent
and former VCCA Board member Ronald
Goldfarb, he fund sponsors a fully funded
two-week fellowship and is given annually to the top creative non-fiction applicant.
This residency is awarded each year during the fall scheduling period.
While at VCCA, Mako
worked on a memoir about her father. Begun shortly after his death in 2010, she
has been working steadily on it ever since. She is now nearing the end,
wrapping up the final chapter and about to begin the editing process.
“It has been a real journey to write such a
personal piece and also to learn a new genre. Writing a memoir is such a
different experience from writing novels. I like being accountable and having
this emotional honesty.” While at VCCA, Mako met another Fellow, also from
Cambridge, MA, at work on her own memoir. It turns out the two memoirs are very
similar. “We’re both delving into family histories and we had many wonderful
discussions. My father and mother were both Japanese—very Japanese. They moved
to the U.S. in their twenties and a lot the memoir deals with race and
nationality; the other Fellow, Dolores Johnson is
also writing about race. That was such an unexpected gift. Our conversations were so productive for my work."
Mako’s father kept his Japanese passport and
nationality all his life. “I think of my parents as accidental immigrants.
Despite a stable and eminent position in the U.S., there was always this idea
they would go back.” They did return when Mako was in second grade, but Mako
and her mother and sisters all hated it and they came back to America after two
A brilliant physicist, Mako’s father was also
bipolar. After a prestigious fellowship at MIT, he went on to teach and work at
Princeton, the “temple of physics.” His field was fusion energy. According to
Mako, it was a dream position. At the time, fusion energy seemed very
plausible. Her father was a major figure in the field, but because of his
mental condition, he alienated a lot of people. Eventually, his career,
marriage to her mother and relationship with Mako and her sisters derailed. “It’s
a really complicated story that I had wanted to write about for a really long
time, but I couldn’t while he was alive.” Adding to the
complication was the fact that after Mako’s parents divorced when Mako was a
teenager, she rarely saw her father. They would occasionally exchange cards and
once every five years or so they would meet. Her mother remarried and Mako became
very close to her stepfather. When Mako got married in 2010 she
wanted him rather than her biological father to walk her down the aisle. So she
didn’t invite her father to the wedding. When he died the day before, she was
filled with guilt.
At his memorial service, his colleagues talked
about how wonderful he was citing his idealism, his generosity. “I felt stirred
and proud and all those things and I also felt guilty about our relationship. I
now believe they were whitewashing him in that way that one does in a eulogy. But
hearing it, I thought I have to learn who my father is.”
Mako has written two novels One Hundred and One Ways (1999) and Once Removed (2003). For the first one, Mako drew on family history.
“A lot of stories about my grandmother and my great-grandmother (whom I turned
into my grandmother) in that novel, and my mother’s life too, are woven into
the story. I’m writing about the same things in the memoir as well except of course without the veneer of 'fiction.' It's been interesting to revisit the same events in this other
Mako’s mother, to whom she is very close, is also a
writer. She’s been very helpful
serving as a sounding board and corroborating facts. “Memory is unreliable and
there is this kind of self-doubt that happens. My mother’s really great; she tells
me all these family stories and she also says she doesn’t have to read the
memoir, which is a relief because it’s hard to write about someone when you
know they’re going to read it. I often send her things to check on so I think
of it as a collaborative work.”
The process of exploring family history has been
challenging. “Some of it’s been so painful. It’s been freeing too, but hard.
And messy. I think I have a grasp on something that happened in the past and
then I think more about it, it transmutes, transforming into something else and I
realize I hadn’t really understood it.”
While working on the memoir Mako has published
five essays. “This has been really helpful because I’ve gotten feedback and the essays have served to break the ice, which is crucial.You feel so vulnerable writing a memoir, recounting something that actually
happened and where the “I” is actually me."
“Residencies are so valuable. It’s wonderful to
be surrounded by people who want to do nothing
more than work. There’s a great quote, I think it's usually attributed
to Noel Coward: ‘Work is more fun than fun.’ Not many people think like that.
Artists feel this way and it’s so inspiring to be surrounded by those sorts of people
in a place that honors that and which makes it possible.”
We are putting out a call for artists! The Steven Petrow LGBTQ Fellowship and the Alonzo Davis Endowment for Fellowships are currently open for applicants. The deadline for both is January 15, 2018. To submit an application, please visit our Apply page.
The Steven Petrow LGBTQ Fellowship (est. 2016) is open to applicants working in all genres (creative writers, visual artists, and composers). The fellowship consists of a fully-funded two-week residency at VCCA. To be eligible, applicants must self-identify as LGBTQ.
VCCA Fellow Steven Petrow is a journalist and book author whose own work about LGBTQ issues found much support at VCCA over the past decade.
The Alonzo Davis Endowment for Fellowships annually supports two fully-funded residencies of two weeks each for highly accomplished American visual artists, creative writers, and composers of African or Latinx descent. For this Fellowship, the application deadline of January 15, 2018 is for residencies to take place between June 1, 2018 …
Funded by the NEA, Collateral
Reparations: Military Veterans and the Redemptive Power of Artists Residencies supports fully-funded VCCA residencies for
military veteran artists. In addition to the residency, each artist selected
will receive a $1,000 honorarium. This program has now been extended! FINAL deadline
for applications is September 15, 2017 for residencies
to take place Between February 1, 2018 - May 31, 2018. The
residencies, which are open to military veteran writers, visual artists and
composers, will be at VCCA’s beautiful Mt. San Angelo facility nestled in the
foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Spanning two to four weeks, the
residencies will allow the artists to spend time focusing on their creative
work. A residency
at VCCA can be transformative, indeed, life-changing for individual artists,
inspiring ideas, instilling confidence, stimulating production. Artists flock
to VCCA from all corners of the earth finding the haven where they can tap into
the rich ve…
While in residence at VCCA, Vincent Pidone built an
automatic drawing machine that he hopes to program to draw using animation
software. Normally, with stop motion animation, you would make drawings and
then photograph those drawings individually putting them together to form an
animation. It’s a
laborious process when you consider that Vincent’s animations are composed of 300-400
individual drawings on file cards to yield about thirty seconds of animation. That’s why Vincent is
attempting to get the animation software to do the drawing for him. Ideally, he
will end up with a short animated film and a stack of physical drawings that
are essentially one-offs. “I’m basically grabbing the tail and wagging the
dog instead of doing it the way it’s typically done,” says Vincent. “What I’m doing is very
challenging. If it were easy, someone else would have done it by now. This is
why I need a few weeks to work on this stuff.” The VCCA residency funded by the
NEA for military veteran artists f…