Sunday, July 25, 2010

Interview with TransCultural Exchange Director, Mary Sherman

Today I am thrilled to interview Mary Sherman, Director of TransCultural Exchange. Mary and I have known each other for years and I was part of the very first TransCult exhibit, way back in 1989 in Chicago. I hope you enjoy our interview! Read on...

Mary Sherman is an artist and the director of the nonprofit TransCultural Exchange (TCE). She is also the Associate Director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) Program in Art, Culture and Technology. In 1989 she founded TCE to create art projects that transcend social, political, geographical and historical barriers. Since then,
TCE has worked directly with hundreds of artists, arts organizations, foundations, museums and cultural centers in more than sixty countries to produce cultural exchanges, critically acclaimed exhibitions and public art works, from Sarajevo to Sao Paulo, Berlin to Boston, Tel Aviv to Taipei, Mongolia to Mumbai.

Mary, thanks so much for joining us today. Would you mind starting out by telling us a little bit about TransCultural Exchange—How it got started, what your organization does, how it has grown since you began and where you see it going in the future?

In 1989, at the invitation of two Viennese architects, a group of Chicago artists put together a wildly ambitious exchange show of over 70 Viennese and Chicago artists’ works. The Chicago literary magazine Another Chicago Magazine turned one of their issues into the show’s catalog (which included an essay by Wim Wenders), Café Tête-à-Tête hosted a reading series and Facet’s Multimedia Centre organized a Viennese and Chicago film festival.

Then, after a brief hiatus, TransCultural Exchange resurfaced in New York City thanks to the Trans Hudson Gallery, who offered their gallery space for an exhibition. From then on, there was no looking back. TCE is currently based in Boston but really, our home is all over the world.

In 2000 we took part in the London Biennale (and did so again last year and will again this April) Your readers are invited to join us when we bring the London Biennale to Boston for a 'curated salon': ( Anyway, in 2002, TransCultural Exchange reached hundreds of artists around the globe to produce its first worldwide project, The Coaster Project. For this project, 100 artists made 100 coaster-sized artworks. They then exhibited one of each participant’s (for a total of 100 works per exhibit) in a public space. These exhibits took place on all seven continents. Afterward, all 10,000+ artworks were given away – to all segments of society - for free.

The Coaster Project, was followed by The Tile Project, which included an artist exchange program, educational component and the creation of public art works to draw attention to the organization’s mission of working with artists from diverse nationalities, to educate the public about these various cultures and to encourage them to consider ways in which artists, and by extension, others might work together for a more peaceful future. For last year’s global project (and catalog), artists were asked to collaborate with an artist(s) or others from another country to make a collaborative artwork. Over 200 artists participated, resulting in over sixty exhibitions, talks and performances in more than as many places.

Starting in 2009, TCE began hosting international conferences for opportunities in the arts. I had such a great time last year! I met people from all over the world and brought back a lot of information on grants and residencies for my Mira's List readers. Would you mind telling us about the upcoming conference next April, 2011 and will there be anything new this time that is different from last year's conference?

I'd be happy to. Like last year, this coming Conference on International Opportunities in the Arts will be held in Boston, Massachusetts and will bring more than seventy representatives from around the world to talk about their residency, grant, exhibition and fellowship programs. And this coming year, there will be even more mentoring sessions and portfolio reviews for artists than before. We will also offer much more to artists, writers and media artists/filmmakers, including public readings by well-known and emerging authors (check back on our website for updated list), a video-screening room to showcase new work, a screening program for artists to show slides, and an extra day of activities, showcasing local cultural attractions and related research at sponsoring institutions.

I'll be there too—doing a reading from my new book as well as talking once again about opportunities in the arts, in particular, for writers. So on to my next question—which is the most frequently asked question I get: What are some of the ways an artist can fund his or her residency? And if you can suggest creative solutions or specific grants or fellowships for both U.S. and international artists, that would be great.

There is a great organization The Lighton International Artists Exchange Program, which works to make the world a smaller place by giving artists of different cultures the opportunity to work together in the hope that lasting friendship and understanding will develop. The program provides support for visual artists and arts professionals to travel to international residencies and artist communities and for foreign visual artists to travel to and work in the United States.

Then, of course both your website and ours
list information about residencies and funding on a regular basis. Also, most residencies abroad cover most of your expenses, except airfare, and for what you save on food and housings—to say nothing of the network you'll create as a result—that is an incredible bargain.

Mary, please tell me about one or two of your best international residency experiences.

That is hard. .. .My first was to Romania. It was/is run by Dorothea Fleiss. That year it was in a villa, where we worked all day, ate these long lasting dinners and talked long into the evening. I made amazing contacts, who I am still in touch with to this day, including Dorothea, a strong artist with an amazing heart.

Most recently I was in Taiwan as a resident at the Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts (it was my third time in Taiwan; I was earlier a resident at the Taipei Artists Village) and also was a Fulbright Senior Specialist (also an amazing program). And, please one more: a residency at MIT, which, like all residencies introduced me to amazing people and led to other opportunities—including TCE's initial support of our first conference and now the addition of Ute Meta Bauer to our advisory board & my now working there. I really wish I could list them all—because each and everyone one of them changed my life in only the best ways possible.

Well, if some of my readers go to the next TCE Conference, maybe they can ask you more about your residency experiences! Anyway, I know that TCE has a bit kickstarter project going right now and you are trying to raise money for it. Please tell my readers about the project and what you hope to happen if you get funding.

Well, here's the link and I hope a good hook, as I'd really like to see this project take off and in the process all the supports get a piece of TransCultural Exchange:

In essence, are trying to raise money to produce a catalog of collaborative works, to celebrate the work made by artists not only working together from different cultures but also engaging those in other disciplines. A true embodiment of the name: TransCultural Exchange.

I really hope you get funding. I'm counting on some of my devoted readers to check out your project at kickstarter and help support it! Well, lastly Mary, what do you see in the future for TCE? Dream big!

To be honest, I never imagined we get this far. . .but.. it'd be great to have TransCultural Exchange all over the world with a net work of artists working with people from other cultures and other disciplines. Wouldn't that be great? Well, we're trying: we are now filing paper work to create TransCultural Exchange as an NGO (a non-governmental organization) as well as keep our nonprofit status, making it easier to move artists and works between the states and the rest of the world. As we often write as a tagline: Stay Tuned: a new World Awaits. ;)

Thanks so much for joining us today, Mary. It's been a pleasure! I can't wait to see what TCE will do in the future.

I'd like to close this post today by quoting Mary Sherman from her opening of the 2009 Conference on International Opportunities in the Arts. I think she expresses my own sentiments and why I do this blog:
“The arts most likely won’t pinpoint the cure for cancer, but that does not negate their power. Marvelous things can come from where you least suspect. Working in tandem, much can be accomplished; and the arts can help. Like the face of a beloved, the arts can stimulate our curiosity. They can give our lives meaning in ways that we may never be able to explain. Even across vast time zones and geographic distances, the arts give us the ability to touch another person and be touched—and with that, many possibilities can arise.”

Welcome to Mira's List

This blog provides information on upcoming grants, fellowships and residencies for artists, writers, composers, and media artists. It is for serious professionals only, from emerging to mid-career to established. I also publish information for graduate students from time to time. However, I do not publish information on exhibition or publishing opportunities, nor do I advertise artist retreats and workshops that charge money. At least that is my current policy. For more info on where to exhibit or publish, please see my links section which I try to periodically update. I sift through hundreds of search engines and websites to find opportunities for YOU dear artist. In return, I ask you to pass the information along to those who need it. Also, since this is a free blog, I don't always have the time to weed carefully through everything. If you find a grant or website or residency that is not up-to-date, is dodgy in some way, or is no longer in existence, please let me know! Also, if you stay somewhere at one of the residencies I suggest and have a good experience, I want that feedback too. Please check my FAQs at the top right side bar if you have questions before starting your search. Best wishes and happy hunting!