1 November 2014 - 31 October 2015
Kelly Malec-Kosak is an artist in Columbus OH, and is the Chair of Fine Arts at Columbus College of Art & Design. She received her MFA from California College of the Arts in Oakland CA. Her work has been featured nationally and internationally, most recently in "Protective Ornament: Contemporary Armour to Amulet" at the National Metal Museum and "Reflection: 100 Years of Jewellery/Metal Arts at CCA" in Oakland CA. She has received an Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council, and the International Residency in Dresden Germany from the Greater Columbus Arts Council. In 2012, she traveled to Ravenstein, Netherlands to study with Ruudt Peters and a group of international artists. Malec-Kosak's work has been featured in Metalsmith, Humor in Craft by Bridgette Martin, and On Body and Soul: Contemporary Armour to Amulet by Suzanne Ramljak.
On-hiatus Proposal Summary
As higher education continues to evolve and adapt, Kelly finds herself in a unique and frustrating position in her own artistic practice. As the chair of Fine Arts at Columbus College of Art and Design, she has been tasked, along with the faculty, of restructuring the Fine Arts curriculum to better relate and adjust to the changing climate of higher education and art. The tremendous amount of research and collaboration demanded by this, along with her other work and personal obligations, has pre-empted her ability to participate in her art practice in any meaningful way.
During her residency at RFAOH, Kelly has decided to solely focus on this task of restructuring a college art program with a fundamental objective of writing an outstanding and relevant Fine Arts and Crafts curriculum, while also travelling for research purposes to various academic and commercial art sectors. She believes that her on-hiatus endeavour will lead to a new direction in her work and impact her art-making once she returns to it.
I would first like to thank Shinobu and Matt for their incredible support - as I mentioned in my post, this residency period came at a time of personal and professional difficulty. I hadn't anticipated either, and Shinobu and Matt would gently guide me back on track with encouragement and reminders. That said, I am sorry I didn't participate as fully as I would have liked. But I appreciated the other artists in the residency, reading their posts and activities.
I started out with the intention of posting updates on reworking a curriculum, and that evolved into writing a new major for our college. I did wind up reaching my goal: the proposal and courses were submitted to our accreditors in August, and I'm still waiting to hear if it's approved. I'm weirdly OK either way - despite the hours spent, I was able to let it go quite soon afterwards. Now that I've had time to reflect, I can think of several things that probably aren't right and need to be reworked. I think, if nothing else, I should learn from this year I shouldn't sweat the little things.
The biggest thing I learned from this period of reflection: it made it clear that I desperately needed to get back to my work. As I looked back over the last three years, I became horrified that I allowed it to slip away - administrative duties, teaching, family all took priority over my work. While I know life ebbs and flows, it became intolerable to me, particularly in the last two months of the residency, that I haven't made anything of significance recently. No investigations, no research for myself, no experimenting. This really hit me the hardest when I started teaching a studio course this fall - I almost dropped out of the residency just to make something. I couldn't take it.
I'm back in the studio, but my idea of studio has changed. It's not a place - it's where/when/how I can make something. I can't set aside hours to work - not at this point in my life. So, I have to adapt. Right now, my studio is a canvas bag, which holds a capezio body suit, black thread, scissors and needles. I'm altering the suit through repetitive stitches, thinking with my hands. I discovered, to my delight, that TSA lets you take needles on airplanes (?) and recently, my studio and I went to San Francisco, where i enjoyed five hours of uninterrupted time, stitching, thinking, tying knots. I still am not sure why or what I'm doing. But I'm making, and I can't ask for more than that.
I think this residency helped me prioritize what I'm doing. I really had to think about why I've done what I've done - and how to change it. I thank you for the opportunity.
With school back in session in full swing, and things chugging along, I’m finally posting after my lofty weekly goal.
The background of our school: we were a traditional Bauhaus program for decades, and in the past three years have pushed to more contemporary practices. This fall, we launched a new curriculum which involved a series of integrated and intensive studios for the fine arts students – these are six credit studios, in which their art history, writing and professional practices (basically, the liberal arts components) will be embedded in the studio classes (and team taught with studio and liberal arts faculty) for the integrated classes. For the intensive studios, we’ve envisioned directed, intense studio time for our students. It’s a new model for us, and I found myself frustrated when we were asked by the administration to make more changes, before we had even worked through this program – we just got our first freshmen in their first Intro to Fine Arts class this spring.
I don’t know how it will work, how to staff it, how to account for the credit hours or contact time for the faculty. But, instinctually, I feel this is the right thing – a focus on intense studio time, supervised by faculty, to develop the students’ individual artistic practice from the first moment they enter college….it just seems right. But there are places that make me nervous – as a craftsperson and artist, I believe in the technical aspects and training that entails. But does that make me out of date? It feels like a divide: either technical proficiency or concepts in work.
One of the major areas to build is the introduction of a “craft” major at our school – I will be posting the results of the research, writing and the effect on my thoughts on my own practice.
After several failed attempts at writing what I was doing at the start of the residency, I eventually posted just a quick update in December. I started thinking: this is out of my league; these people are so much more smart and interesting; my proposal is too academic and dull; I don’t have time and shouldn’t have taken this on; I am disappointing the directors of the program. Clearly. I need to get out and let the real artist do this.
Then I realized I’ve been here before – back in 2011, I did a residency/workshop in the Netherlands with Ruudt Peters, one of the leading Dutch jewelers. The workshop was called “NOW:BREATH” and the intent was to get artists “out of their heads and into their bellies. The week was a 24/7 experience with 12 international participants – we created work and investigations based on topics, readings and discussions. Ruudt pushed us out of our comfort zones and had us collaborating, creating videos and performance work. For me, it was exhilarating and terrifying – I lived in fear of doing it wrong and of risking looking stupid. This tripped me up constantly in the creating of new work – I was constantly worried about what others would think, if what I was doing was worthwhile. I would sit and think and think and think, and my experimentations would be stifled and, of course, overthought.
At the end of the week, he did a critique of each of our past work and performance during the residency. As I held my breath, he called me out on everything – on my repeating ideas because I had had previous success with it, on my reliance on narrative because I was scared that I would be misunderstood, on the lack of risk in my work. At the end of the critique, he said, “You just need to be brave.”
It was at the start of this new year, I was horrified and thrilled to realized I was repeating the pattern when I was challenged here with this residency – horrified that I’m still not brave, but thrilled that I can be if I commit. So my commitment will be weekly postings: even if they’re boring, stupid or rushed. I will be brave for this.