Kelly Malec-Kosak, United States

Residency Period: 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.

Final Report

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.




recent comments

Under the Wire

On this last day of Februray, I finally make my post – as the email reminder from Shinobu and Matthew says, “Februrary is the cruelest month.”

One of my larger, non-residency goals was met – I met with my deans and our provost, and I was approved to write a craft curriculum to go up for approval in the fall with NASAD. I had a long proposal written to justify the move, and under my dean’s directive, reduced it to bullet points (I had to google, “writing effective bullet points”) so the information was easy to digest in a 10 minute meeting. I was excited but sad at the same time – all that work and research was reduced to:

What is it:

Professional craft study with an imbedded minor in business

Digital integration with hands-on making

Conceptual emphasis for the high-end market

Why should we do it:

Name recognition for the college for unique programming, with potential enrollment growth

Facilities, faculty and much of the curriculum already exist

Columbus is perfect location to launch innovative programming

There’s a practical side to writing all this, and I believe in professionally preparing students, but I had a certain amount of reservations writing “embedded minor in business” and “high-end market.” I question the way we educate crafts majors in the united states – I find myself more in line with, say, the Dutch and how they approach materials and ideas. In the crafts areas where I teach, students are usually in two camps: they create production work they hope to eventually sell, or they use the material conceptually, usually in a more sculptural way. They don’t do well together in critiques, as they view each other as “sell outs” or “art freaks.” One of my goals in writing this major was trying to find a home for both groups, and my fear is that by trying to make everyone happy, no one will. It will be challenging as the months go on, and I work with my colleagues, to maintain integrity and create a unique identiy to this program.

On a more personal note, I really loved what Heather wrote in her last post about “cheating.” It’s been really funny and odd to do this residency – as I stated at the start, I really haven’t made any significant work in years due to the administrative nature of my job, having two young children at home, and just life. But once I declared that I WASN’T going to make anything, I find myself like a recovered smoker or someone who has decided not to eat gluten. I WANT to make things – but I worry that I violate the terms of the residency if I even grab a sketchbook or play with some materials. I felt sneaky when I made paper robot sculptures with my kids on a snow day a couple of weeks ago.

But it felt great too.



Leave a Comment (3)

Kelly wrote on Apr 14:

Enrique - sorry for the delay in response. I will definitely check that book out! I really appreciate the information. I often feel like there is a lot of paper to be pushed...

enrique wrote on Mar 14:

Hi Kelly ! I used to work in an arts faculty at my university, and had some similar problems (I suppose): i.e. the standards that work for most of the university knowledges areas does not work as well in the art academic ambient, but we had to follow many of those standards, so we always had a lot of desk work in order to find a solution, and now that I see it from the distance, I think that there is no easy solution, or maybe none. The historic point of view of some books from Arthur Efland helped me a lot to see (and guess) what will the future may hold for those who, like us, enjoy the work of teaching in a university. It helped me despite the differences of two unequal art histories like the North American and the Latin American cultures, but also connected (more and more every day). Right now, I'm more interested in the recognition of some "autonomous" art activities that emerge without formal education. I guess art activities will always be available out of the art institutions. Best wishes for you !!

shinobu wrote on Feb 28:

Ahh, it's so great to have you all here.. The variety of on-hiatus projects, the motivations behind, circumstances -- all pointing to the prickly questions over "art as a profession". Let's keep it coming (;