Running into creative walls, maintaining financial stability and promoting work to new audiences are challenges to which every artist can relate. Juggling projects with life can be overwhelming and leaves little time for free thinking and creativity. Sometimes the best remedy is to get away from distractions entirely. That’s exactly what artists achieve through No Boundaries International Art Colony every November. No Boundaries gathers artists from the US and abroad at Bald Head Island, NC, for an uninterrupted two weeks of devotion to their craft among serenity of nature and kindred spirits. Artists’ creations from the colony will be available to view and purchase at the Wilma W. Daniels Gallery at CFCC through Dec. 31.
“No Boundaries started in 1998,” No Boundaries president Beth Crookham says. “We are a strictly volunteer-run organization. It started by three artists here in Wilmington: Pam Toll, Gayle Tustin and Dick Roberts.”
After each participated in art colonies in Macedonia in the mid ‘90s, Toll, Tustin and Roberts were inspired to orchestrate a similar experience for their own community. The Mitchell family, who developed much of Bald Head Island, gifted the trio use of three neighboring cottages (called Captain Charlie’s) in exchange for new art.
“We have 12 to 14 artists make up the residency each year,” Crookham tells. “We provide all of their food, and in fact, there are a number of great local chefs who come out and cook for the artists’ evening meal.”
Some of the chefs from Wilmington include Jameson Chavez from Manna, James Doss from Pembroke’s and Billy Quetel from San Juan Café. While artists’ decide how to spend their days working—or enjoying sleep and recreation—they are asked to sit down together each evening for dinner. It encourages engagement and reflection and adds camaraderie and intimacy to the overall experience.
“There are so many positive aspects to participating in No Boundaries, it’s hard to know where to start,” current resident Brandon Guthrie says. “At the end of the day, I’d have to say the relationships made and strengthened among such a diverse group of people has to be my favorite. It solidifies personal and working relationships between people who are already loosely familiar with one another, but those peripheral relationships evolve into something new.”
Guthrie serves as chair of Cape Fear Community College’s Humanities and Fine Arts Department. At the colony, mainly, he has been working with pen and ink and watercolor. “I’m doing a series of drawings I hope are reminiscent of a 19th-century naturalist aesthetic, only with subject matter that is not recognizable,” Guthrie divulges. “I draw inspiration from natural organic forms, as well as mechanical forms. What I end up with is a synthesis of the two. Some look like wood burls or oddly shaped pieces of coral with windows or cockpits.”
Guthrie also uses a unique method in order to name his pieces. “When the drawings are finished, I listen to what people say they look like,” he states. “I pick two of those words and look up their Latin root. I use those root words as titles to further the assumption that these are scientific studies of something.”
The existence of residencies such as No Boundaries provide artists with a crucial experience for broadening their horizons, as Guthrie agrees. “Residencies like this are critical for artists, and as an art educator, the professional benefits are numerous as well,” he explains. “In a short span of time, one gets to interact with diverse people who work in a variety of media and technical approaches. Naturally, artists end up collaborating with one another, which exposes each artist to new methods of making.”
Like Guthrie clay-artist Vicky Smith has also been moved by her experience at No Boundaries. “There is so much to like about this art colony, the setting on Bald Head Island is beautiful,” Smith says, “[especially] being on the ocean-facing south we get incredible sunrises and sunsets, being with a group of artists and sharing evening meals provides engaging conversations.”
Formerly an adjunct professor in ceramics at UNCW, Smith runs a ceramics studio in Greene County, NC. During her time at the colony, Smith worked on ceramic birds. “Observing the colors of the sky at sunset and how the colors reflect on the ocean has been my main interest,” she elaborates. “We think of sea birds as white but reflections off the surf and sky add another dimension. I want to introduce these colors to the birds I make.”
For many artists who attend No Boundaries, their experiences continue to appear in their work long after they’ve returned home. “What’s interesting is seeing something an artist was playing around with at the colony, maybe a different way of going about their normal process that reveals itself down the road,” Crookham says. “I’ll see a piece an alumni of the colony creates a year or two later; I think it is a direct result of their time at the colony. They started the process of breaking out of their comfort zones, and it played itself out later.”
Along with the exhibit at Wilma W. Daniels Gallery, there will also be an artists’ lecture at the gallery on Dec. 8 from 4 p.m. – 5 p.m.
“No Boundaries isn’t just a name, it’s our philosophy,” Crookham says. “There are no boundaries of government, religion or ideology. We’re open to whatever the artists bring to the table.”