Celebrating 20 Years – Rising Residencies and Beyond

December 6, 2021

Throughout our 20th year we’ve been reflecting on our programs, the artists and scholars who have shaped them, and the inspiring new works that have resulted. We believe that reflecting on our histories is essential to the work of shaping our future. In our final edition of this series, we sum up the past two extraordinary years, a time shaped by new themes, a pandemic, a new building, and multiple hurricanes.

In January 2020, we released the call to artists for Rising: Climate in Crisis Residencies. A natural evolution of our previous Adaptations series, Rising Residencies invite artists to examine the severity of the climate crisis and be agents of change to guide our collective understanding, response, and vision as we shape our shared future. We also released a call for Emerging Writers, looking to highlight the completion of the Writer’s Cabin, a new building that had been 10 years in the making. This new space was set to increase our capacity by 50% – from two artists at a time to three – or so we thought.

While these applications were live, the whole world changed. When the pandemic began we were hosting three residents for the first time ever. Two quickly headed home while one stayed, feeling safer in the Woods than returning to the city, he remained for almost 12 weeks. Staff shifted to working from home and we began asking ourselves a seemingly unending series of questions – Can we even host residents? How? What should we do about our current applications? And most importantly – What can we do to help in this time of tremendous need?

We came together and made complicated decisions. We continued our open calls to artists, hosting our jury panels virtually for the first time. We reached out to every upcoming resident to check in, see how they were, and ask how we could help. We paid out stipends early and reworked timelines. We worked with Tulane to establish protocols and procedures to be able to host residents at a reduced capacity – back to two at a time – each with completely private spaces. In July residencies resumed. Writers began using the Writer’s Cabin and local and regional artists returned to the Woods. We also crafted a new program in response to the question of “What can we do?” – Relief Residencies. These residencies provide one-to-two week funded retreats for local, BIPOC artists and culture bearers who have not participated in an artist residency before, serving the sector of our community hardest hit by the pandemic.

In October 2020 Hurricane Zeta hit the Woods and in August 2021 Hurricane Ida followed. Between the two we lost many large trees on the land and the canopy lowered from an average of 30ft to 10ft.  Two major hurricanes in 10 months is unheard of, and there is no research currently available on how this will impact the forest long term. As Environmental Curator David Baker put it, “We are offering a front row seat to climate change.”

It has been a tumultuous time, but also a proof point of the value of our work. At this writing we are preparing to release the next invitation to Rising Climate in Crisis residencies understanding that now more than ever –  We must look to artists to ignite our imaginations, illuminate our challenges, and offer new ways to examine the world. This is the work we will continue into the next twenty years and beyond.

Rising Residents

Claire Alexander – upcoming
Sidiki Conde
Virginia Hanusik – upcoming
Lisa E. Harris
LaChaun Moore
Lydia Y. Nichols
J.M. Nimocks
Yudith Azareth Nieto
Andrina Turenne – upcoming

Relief Residents

Christine “Cfreedom” Brown
Jose Cotto – upcoming
Jarrell Hamilton
David L. Harris
Kina B. Joshua
Mwende “FreeQuency” Katwiwa – upcoming
Donald Lewis Jr. – upcoming
Gypsi Lewis – upcoming
Quiana Lynell – upcoming
Sabine McCalla
Greer Mendy
Nikkisha K. Napoleon – upcoming
Sha’Condria “iCon” Sices-Sibley
Alex Sorapuru – upcoming
Bill Summers

Emerging Writer Residents

Benjamin Aleshire
Wendy Gaudin
Ra Malika Imhotep
Saheli Khastagir
Su Prevost
Leon August Waters

Inaugural Writer Residents

Anya Groner
Kristina Kay Robinson
Maurice Carlos Ruffin – upcoming


Image: Relief Resident Jarrell Hamilton, photo by Relief Resident Christine “Cfreedom” Brown