Local residency program offers wide range of support to artists

Ken Nurenberg and Misty Alvaro created their artist-residency program with the idea that they would offer space, resources, expertise and all manner of support to their resident artists, perhaps even pushing the cart on a trip to the hardware or art-supply store.

Cart Pushers Studio Residency started last winter with a concept designed to make full use of Nurenberg's space at Millworks Art Studios and to encourage a service component in his practice. As Nurenberg and Alvaro, his fiancee and residency co-host, investigated the concept further, they arrived at the idea of a program in which Nurenberg would share his studio space in an atmosphere of support and mutual inspiration.

“The original idea was that I was going to stop making my own work and serve as full-time studio assistant,” Nurenberg said. “That's not exactly what ended up happening. Since the residencies started, I'm actually busting out with stuff. But I do act as a resource for the residents, serving as an artist assistant whenever I can [and] just being a body, running errands, helping with skills or testing out different materials. [I'm] doing things that would be a time suck for the artists so they can continue to work.”

“Ken had been spending time trying to figure out how to infuse service into his work,” Alvaro said. “Once [Cart Pushers] got rolling, it seems to have freed him up to create without having to worry about how to put that idea of service into everything.”

Nurenberg has been in his Millworks studio space since 2012, sharing it at various times with Austin Stewart, Melissa Vogley Woods and Marshall Shorts. When Shorts moved his studio Downtown into Blockfort, Cart Pushers began inviting artists to share his former space for six-week residencies. Quality of work, dedication to craft and genuine need are the core criteria in selecting residents, as well as serving underrepresented demographics.

Past Cart Pushers resident artists include Cameron Granger, Liz Roberts and Cudelice Brazelton, who recommended current resident Annie Burley, a 2016 graduate of CCAD who works in 2-D and 3-D, as well as animation. Among the resources she has available to her at Cart Pushers is Nurenberg's experience with the digital sculpting and painting program ZBrush, which has proven invaluable to Burley's work.

“You don't often come across an art residency that has this capability or that has someone who knows that aspect, someone who composites 3-D imagery,” Burley said.

In practice, the residency has proven a fertile place in which to consider inspiration and methodology and to accomplish pieces or aspects of work that wouldn't have happened apart from Cart Pushers. Indeed, on a recent trip to New York City, Nurenberg and Alvaro were able to see bodies of work being exhibited by Brazelton and Roberts (with MINT Collective) that were, in part, made while in residency.

“It's definitely been the start of a process. There are some done pieces that I'm going to call ‘done' but most of it is not done at all,” Burley said. “This residency has been about me building the materials to finish this work outside of [the residency].”

“We don't like to impose rules on other people,” Alvaro said. “There are some agreements, some understandings. And we do like them to do something that culminates the experience.”

Burley will present an artist talk on Friday, July 21, in the Cart Pushers space at Millworks. She will be showing some finished and in-progress 2-D and 3-D work primarily created digitally.

Burley is calling her work at Cart Pushers “Ghetto Fractal.” The residency has given her the opportunity to study fractals, both visually and mathematically. She is applying various data to the fractal equation, often dealing with issues of concern to the African-American community. For the piece “Single Mother,” Burley used data describing the number of single-parent households and child poverty among African-Americans.

“As an animator and fine artist, I meditate on the social/political sphere and how it affects me as a human being and as an artist,” Burley said. “I'm researching how media affects the mind [and] how that can be used to justify how we treat other people by making this caricature of not just one person, but of whole groups of people. Our community is affected by some of the characters we see, so as an artist you have a responsibility when you're creating these characters out of thin air.”

Burley said the residency has afforded her the opportunity to delve into data and numbers, but that “sometimes when I'm thinking about all of this … it helps me not get so lost in the research.”

“As a whole, the work is a narrative,” she continued. “I don't see a lot of representation of people who look like me in cartoons. I keep asking myself, ‘Am I helping representation?' But I am talking about it. I've created these characters using language, psychology [and] sociology, but hopefully it's still something a person has a physical and emotional reaction to.”