After a few years of sometimes controversial efforts to generate buzz about a local artists’ residency program, it appears the “local” and “buzz” are ready to debut with full force.
Norway’s Queen Sonja will be among those presiding over the four-day opening of Artica Svalbard, with activities that will highlight works by local artists old and young – and give those aspiring to be the latter a “magic” opportunity.
Scheduled events include announcing its first 12 artists in residence, unveiling a workshop at Vei 608-3 open to the public where they can see artists at work and create their own projects, and discussions about what role art can play in local issues such as environmental sustainability and scientific research.
“Artica Svalbard was conceived in order to contribute to the cultural life of Svalbard through dialogue with the local community, its resident researchers and varied professionals, together with the investigations and critical thinking of the participating artists and writers through an artist-in-residency program and a series of public programs,” a statement declares on Artica Svalbard’s Facebook page.
Artist residencies will last three to months, even though the projects themselves may take many years to complete, said Audhild Dahlstrøm, a Lofoten resident selected as the program’s director.
“The residency is not about the finished work,” she said. “It’s more about the dialogue and the thinking around it.”
There are no set requirements for the artists, who can come and go at whatever hours they please, Dahlstrøm said. When the workshop is occupied it will be accessible to the public.
“When people are working here the doors will be open, where you can come in for a coffee and a chat,” she said.
There also be events where visitors will be able to learn and create their own art, Dahlstrøm said.
The showpiece equipment in the workshop is a printing press provided by The Queen Sonja Print Award. The queen has made multiple art-related trips to Svalbard, including one in 2013 to debut her print exhibition “Tre Reiser –Tre Landskap,” created with photos she tookduring previous trips here and another in early 2015 for the opening of Kunsthall Svalbard.
She will return for the official debut ceremony for the residency program itself, scheduled from 5:45 to 7:45 p.m. Thursday at Kulturhuset. Others presiding over the evening’s events will be Norwegian Minster of Culture Linda Hofstad Helleland and Longyearbyen Mayor Arild Olsen. Art and music by local youths will be featured in addition to the naming of the artists.
The artists were selected by three collarboring organizations: the Office of Contemporary Art Norway, Norwegian PEN and Queen Sonja Print Award, according to Dahlstrøm.
Artist residencies are nothing new in Longyearbyen, with Galleri Svalbard offering living space and studios to a few artists at a time since the 1990s. But implementing a more high-profile program has been discussed since Kunsthall Svalbard opened inside Svalbard Museum. That went a step further when Norway’s government announced in June of 2016 it would provide two million kroner annually for a residency program supporting three to five artists per year, although some residents were rankled about it being called the “debut” of such a program locally.
But the inclusion of two Longyearbyen artists during the workshop debut was among the indicators offered by Artica Svalbard it will place an effort on involving the local community.
Among those recommending Dahlstrøm for the director’s position was A.K. Dolven, a fellow Lofoten resident who’s a member of Artica Svalbard’s board and had a featured exhibit at Kunsthall Svalbard last year.
“She’s amazing at getting things organized and getting things done,” Dolven said. “To get something like this up and running in months there’s a lot of skills you need to have.”
Dolven said Longyearbyen is ideally suited to be a unique artistic community, even compared to other modern and remote small Arctic towns.
“I asked myself at the beginning ‘why should we be here?'” she said. “It’s a place for animals and the midnight sun. But now we know there’s a lot of issues in the world that are being raised here and I think art has always been a part of the place.”
6-9 p.m.: Debut of Artica Svalbard workshop at Vei 608-3, with exhibits by Longyearbyen-based artists Sarah Gerats and Stein Henningsen. Also on display will be a printing press provided to the program by the Queen Sonja Print Award.
4 p.m.: Film screening, “Hunters Since the Beginning of Time,” featuring Bering Sea whale hunters trying to preserve their thousands-year-old traditional lifestyle, by Artica Svalbard artist-in-residence Carlos Casas, Kulturhuset.
5:45-7:45 p.m.: Official Opening of Artica Svalbard residency program, presided over by Queen Sonja, Norwegian Minster of Culture Linda Hofstad Helleland and Longyearbyen Mayor Arild Olsen. Presentations will be given by program founders, partners and young local artists. The first artists and writers for the residency program will be announced. Kulturhuset.
8 p.m.: Bus from UNIS to Artica Svalbard workshop.
8:30 a.m: Breakfast Dialogue by artist A.K. Dolven and Polar Permaculture founder discussing Arctic sustainability and how artists can be involved. Artica Svalbard workshop (bus to UNIS available afterward).
10 a.m.: Breakfast Dialogue by Norwegian PEN Director William Nygaard and students at The University Centre in Svalbard discussing if research can be free and to what extent it can coexist with art. UNIS.
11 a.m.: Presentation of Artica Svalbard’s book collection to Longyearbyen Library, poetry reading by guest artist Ashur Etwebi of Lybia and presentations by program officials. Longyearbyen Library.
Noon (approximately): Bus to Svalbard Airport, arriving at 12:10 a.m. for those participating in Artica Svalbard’s debut events.
7 p.m.: Film screening, “Hunters Since the Beginning of Time” by Artica Svalbard artist-in-residence Carlos Casas, Kulturhuset.
Noon-2 p.m.: April-Fools’ print workshop for children ages 6 to 12, featuring “fooled and magic” prints. Reserve space by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Artica Svalbard workshop.