September at Sitka
Something feels different at Sitka in September. Part of it comes with the first natural signs of the seasons changing. The chlorophyll in the leaves of the courtyard vine maple starts breaking down, revealing first glimpses of fall vermillion through summer’s fading green. Each morning the daytime team arrives to discover fresh evidence of spiders using the campus to teach night-weaving workshops.
The first crisp morning that signals the chipmunks to start running amok triggers a more reflective response in me. Amidst the transitional bustle, my inner barometer senses an oncoming calm, a dip in the pressure, ever-present in this place but not always visible on summer’s surface.
The sensation was enhanced this month by two woodworking workshops. There is a mindful absorption to their work, a tactile listening for something essential that lies beneath. “It’s not like painting,” Lynne, a participant in Monica Setziol-Phillips’ Developing your Wood Muse workshop, shares over lunch in the courtyard. “I’ve taken lots of painting workshops, but this is my first time carving. The wood pushes back. There is an art to listening to the wood and going with the grain, noticing when it changes and paying attention to what it is telling you when it starts to splinter or fracture.”
In Stan Peterson’s Introduction to the Art of Whittling, pelican wings and crocodile grins emerge as the carvers remove what is in the way, chip by chip and curl by curl. I study the playful forms as they appear in relief and the coils of removed wood. All are focused and content. The subtractive process of whittling has the power to remove what weighs down the carvers too, anxieties, fears, impatience – all cast off and collecting in dustpan-ready piles on the studio floor. Together, the carvers and their critters are lighthearted.
Another welcome change came with the recent rains. “In 2021, so far we’ve had 154 days of something other than normal rainfall,” notes Facilities and Ecology Manager Bob Langan, “the last 49 days of which were severe drought. On September 17th and over the next three days we received 3.3 inches of rain. The blessing of water from the sky never felt so good.”
With just a few more workshops still to host before Fall, soon the residency season will begin. In this newsletter you can learn more about the first of over 30 visual and performing artists, writers, natural scientists and interdisciplinary creatives Sitka will host in residence in the months ahead. Wherever you are, we hope you’ll attend the first virtual Resident Talk of the season and help welcome them.
Between now and then, we will take a week to deep clean the studios and apartments, mend what needs mending, repair what needs fixing and tuck the summer supplies away to hibernate for the Winter.
In November Sitka will at long last host our 27th annual Art Invitational, celebrating and selling the work of over 120 regional nature-inspired artists. Rather than hosting a party this year, we will instead create more intimate and physically distanced opportunities for collectors and artists to connect and for those who can to support Sitka artists through art sales. You’ll find more information about the show, our vaccination policy and how to volunteer in this newsletter.
Whether practicing the art of peeling back what obscures the essential in our own lives or providing much needed rain to working artists through this pandemic dry spell, I wish us all relief this Fall.
Peace in transition,