5Q :: Artists’ co-op hosts collective ‘Arts Smorgasbord’ talent-festAlthough we’ve featured art shows at Washington Studios throughout the years, the annual holiday ones are quite special. They feature the talents of practically every individual living in the adjoining artists’ co-op.
Although we’ve featured art shows at Washington Studios throughout the years, the annual holiday ones are quite special. Why? They feature the talents of practically every individual living in the adjoining artists’ co-op.
To our delight, Brenda Paro — whose “Subtle Cargoes” show we covered back in July (see attached link) — was chosen as one of the media representatives for “Arts Smorgasbord: A Sensory Delight.”
The mixed-media artist was gracious enough to answer a few of our questions about the big show:
Budgeteer: For those unfamiliar with the Washington Studios Artists’ Co-op, could you describe what life is like there and what kinds of artists live there?
Paro: Basically, the point of the co-op is to give artists a place to live and work that’s affordable, and where they can interact with other artists.
The building is the old Washington Junior High, and the classrooms have been converted into apartments, so they’re ridiculously spacious.
I don’t own a lot of furniture, so my place sort of feels like living in a gymnasium. I love it — plenty of room to just haul off and decide to do a strange art project in the middle of the floor.
The fact that it’s a co-op means a lot of things on a taxing and housing level, but for us it pretty much means that we’re a community within the building. You have your own apartment, obviously, and you live your own life. But, at the same time, you know your neighbors. You go to meetings, you vote on things, you help clean the halls. You join committees and help out with events.
Any type of artist can come here. We have painters, photographers, writers, dancers, chefs, filmmakers, musicians … you get the idea.
Oh, and we don’t eat together. I know this is weird to say — it makes me laugh — but about nine times out of 10 when people find out where I live the first thing they ask is if we have a common dining space.
It’s a completely legitimate question, as I know that some co-ops do; I just think it’s funny how many people ask this immediately, like it’s been bothering them for years.
So let me take this opportunity to say: Washington residents have their own dining spaces. We don’t eat together.
My neighbor is a master chef and sometimes he’ll stop by your door with hot food, but even then he just drops it off and leaves you to it.
This all-co-op holiday event seems like quite a big deal. Without exhausting yourself, what all is going into it?
It is a pretty big event; this is the 14th year in a row that Washington has done this for the holidays. We have a similar event for Earth Day every April.
First of all, there’s an all-co-op art exhibit in the gallery, which means any artist who lives here can submit work. I love this because you get to see new things from people who do great work but wouldn’t ordinarily have their own exhibits for whatever reasons.
There are live performances going on all day by all kinds of performers — musicians, poets, dancers, etc. We have local artisans coming in to sell handmade arts and crafts, plus a bake sale, and what we call open studios, where some residents open their apartments to the public, so you can go in and check out what they’re really like inside. Basically, it’s a day of art-oriented things and you can wander around and have a good time.
What will you personally be contributing to the show?
I’m on the performance calendar with a poetry reading in the afternoon (at 12:30 p.m.). I have sort of a mix of poems to read, and it’ll be a pretty casual, eclectic thing — some old stuff, some new.
Some unfinished pieces from my gallery exhibit have been expanded and revised and might make their way in there, too.
Also, I’m not quite sure how this happened, but I have two paintings in the gallery. They wanted some more variety in the exhibit, but all I had to offer that I hadn’t already shown were these paintings. And, I gotta say... I love to paint. I’ve painted for a very long time.
But, at the same time, I don’t “paint.” This isn’t false modesty, honestly. It’s just kind of a leap for me to hang these anywhere but my own apartment walls. I mean, I literally took one of them off my wall and brought it down there. I love my paintings, I adore them, and I don’t mind showing them in the least. It just never crossed my mind to do so before. I guess I’m taking one for the team.
What are you most excited to see or experience at the event?
Live performances at the all-co-ops aren’t a new thing, but I think they’re gonna be really amazing this time, and that’s where I’ll probably be glued most of the day. This year we had a new committee form that’s dedicated solely to putting on live shows and events, and so far they’re pretty much knocking it out of the park.
Everything is organized and well planned, and they’re in the process of redesigning the space where the events are held, and there’s just been so much imagination and effort put into this. Honestly, I’m in awe of what they’ve accomplished. People seem to love it so far.
Finally, once all the Washington madness dies down, what’s next for you?
Once again, a good question. I’m not quite as utterly in the dark as I was the last time you asked it, but I’m still gonna plead semi-ignorance.
You know, I’ve always loved moving around. I’ve been in Duluth for four years, and that’s a long time for me.
But I keep saying lately: The upside to the traveling is that you have friends in so many places, and you get the chance to love so many different cities.
But the downside is that, wherever you are, no matter how much you love it there, you’re always missing someone — and somewhere — else. It’s hard to think about moving again. At the same time, I want to go to grad school and get my MFA. I guess we’ll see what happens.
I mean, I’m slowly making plans, but I know better than to expect everything to go as I imagine it will. Things intervene. It’s good to be flexible.
NEWS TO USE
“Arts Smorgasbord: A Sensory Delight” will be held from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 11, at Washington Studios, 315 N. Lake Ave. The talents of the co-op’s resident artists will be on display. Highlights include individual exhibits, live performances and open studios. For a full schedule of events visit the website www.wsacduluth.info.