What I like about Alchemy is it takes the production of art and places it into a different context.
Hillier is a tiny hamlet in the farming community in Prince Edward County. There is an arts community here, with hobbyist and serious practitioners making their studios available for special events. But it is the fact that Alchemy is set in the historic town hall, a community gathering place. They use the space for art production but most importantly they use the kitchen for their food centred art practice. Food is a foundational means as gathering us together, and they use food as a catalyst for joining our stories, our cultural practices. Whereas art making is a means of converting the personal internal landscape into something external and palpable, there is a degree of removal from those who aren’t producers. Creating circumstances for regular folks to appreciate the artfulness of daily living and linking the divide between art and regular life is an important activity in a small community like mine, where conservative perspectives about art and artists is usually an impediment to mutual understanding.
I love having “ the Alchemists ” setting up camp here in Hillier and the more opportunity, the better!
Mary MacDonald, Artist and Vineyard owner, Stanners Vineyard, Hillier Ontario, Alchemy Artist in Residence 2021
In August, 2017 I set out to Hillier hoping to have a focused period of time to pursue research on collected plants and the making of plant dyes, in order to advance several installation projects I had been working on. The residency exceeded all of my expectations.
First of all, I was given outdoor and indoor studio spaces that met all of my needs for the cooking of multiple dyes, drying textile samples and researching further dye recipes. My 10 days allowed me to advance my research greatly and to determine the process I needed to continue once back in my regular studio.
I also wanted to be a part of a diverse community of passionate makers. The residency programming and the thoughtfulness of its facilitators, Claire Tallarico and Tonia Di Risio, met and surpassed what I was looking for, permitting the participants to get to know each other quickly and learn about our very different practices. It was a wonderfully generous group of people whom I remain in touch with despite our being geographically distant.
At a time of general global distress, the opportunity to live in a rich and caring community was particularly nurturing and hopeful to me. This led me to ask the facilitators how I could be of help in being a part of Alchemy’s future. In the fall of 2017, I was invited to be part of an advisory retreat where we were able to meaningfully discuss the vision for the residency and future goals in its programming.
In 2018 I returned to Hillier as an invited visiting artist for Alchemy 2018. During my three days I met all of the new residents, presented an artist’s talk on my current work, gave a workshop for the residents, and showed collaborative pieces with Claire Tallarico as part of Alchemy’s first Open House event at Hillier Hall. My participation with Claire in the Open House, was supported by a timely Ontario Arts Council exhibition grant.
Deborah Margo, Artist, Alchemy 2017, Guest Artist 2018 & 2019, Kitchen Artist 2020
Alchemy Artists Residency has found a welcome home in Hillier. Since their arrival in our small hamlet in 2017, the visible presence of artists from Ontario and beyond has been a positive experience for our local community of farmers, bakers, wine makers and year round residents. Setting up shop in Hillier’s Community Hall has introduced long time residents to art created and meals shared with artists influenced by their surroundings — site specific painting, photography, print making, collage and sculpture.
Jamie Kennedy, JK Farm/Jamie Kennedy Kitchens and Victoria Taylor, Landscape Architect, Hillier
The Alchemy program offers artists in residence the unique opportunity to explore their artistic practice and specifically, how it intersects with food, whether it is growing it, cooking it, sharing it, or all of the above. I know just how powerful this residency is, as I have experienced its transformative capacity first hand.
As an Alchemy alumni resident (2015) and returning performance guest (2016), I have been witness to how this residency has brought artists together to collaborate in studio, garden and kitchen.
Vanessa Rotondo, Artist, Alchemy 2015, Guest Artist 2016, 2019, Kitchen Artist 2020
If artist residencies are intended to foster artistic creativity through the interaction between artists who may not normally find themselves engaged together, my Alchemy experience is a perfect examplar of this intersection. Alchemy, I believe, is a unique and valuable project not just for the artists involved but also for the communities it works within. In addition to my participation in Alchemy 2016 on Toronto Island, I visited the 2017 Alchemy residency in Hillier, Prince Edward County, Ontario. I could see immediately the impact of the group of artists on the surrounding community. And vice versa, There was a dialogue with other local artists, with vintners vintners,and with local food growers.
The connection between art and food, art and the growing of food, and art and agriculture was vibrant, and exciting. Alchemy is a vital experience for any artist engaged with it and has an important place in the cultural climate of art and socio/political culinary binaries. I can think of no other experience like it.
Warren Sulatycky, Artist/Filmmaker, Alchemy 2016, Guest Artist 2017-2020
My experience at Alchemy was wonderful.
Throughout the residency, I was struck by the feeling of comfort and safety I had with this group of strangers. It felt like a family reunion without the tension and stress. Though our time together was fairly short I had many sincere conversations about topics that aren't usually spoken about so openly, including fears and struggles in our studio practices and the difficulty of making work during personal and professional ups and downs.
As one of the youngest artists in the group, still struggling to find my own path, these conversations were extremely helpful. I hope to continue the conversations we started at Alchemy for a long time to come.
Adriana Daniela Ciocci, Artist, Alchemy 2018, Guest Artist in Residence 2021
I truly appreciate the time I spent as a member of Alchemy Artists Residency 2018.
I was so blessed to spend ten days with women artists that I learned from, cooked with and grew to respect. I have never felt more myself and connected then I did at this Residency.
Patti Beckett, Artist, Alchemy 2018 & 2019, Guest Artist in Residence 2021
From the very first time we sat down together to share a meal, the quality and the generosity of the food set the tone for the rest of the stay. At that meal we discovered that we were from all over the world in different disciplines and stages in our careers.
Caire Tallarico and Tonia Di Risio know that the connection between food and art is a natural one. That food is cultural and creative and that art is nutritive. They showed us the everyday production of food is a work of art, starting with Tonia’s daylong pasta making class and including the idyllic farm setting they found for us.
This residency provided instant community and great means of networking.
Lynn Hubbs, Artist, Alchemy 2017 & 2019 , Guest Artist in Residence 2021
Because of the environment created by Claire and Tonia I felt safe to explore and share. I had been working in my studio alone for the past 25 years and of late I started to feel uninspired.
The Alchemy experience was affirming, educating, renewing, joyful, re-assuring, inclusive and healing. It was important for me to be open to the different perspectives and new ideas and the residency made is safe to do so.
My work is changing, I am ready for risk. I also now have a group of artist friends from all over the world that support me.
Good food, like-minded friends and stimulating conversations are nourishment in every form! Alchemy is a treasure.
Piera Pugliese, Artist, Alchemy 2017,
My first trip to AGP was to attend the Alchemy residency in 2015, which was for artists whose work is about food-related issues. While I was there, it felt like being in another world, quiet and magical yet more grounded than my regular life in Toronto. It’s an artists’ oasis, and the garden is central to the calm and clarity I experienced there. It is a place where when you sit and listen and look, you see the world a little more clearly.
The garden for me was a place to pull fresh ideas out of the ether, but also to pick some organic greens for my lunch. How spiritual, creative, and earth-bound is that? I spent my days on a picnic bench by the garden, or in a studio overlooking it, and the rest of my hours in the kitchen. The hard work, energy and love that goes into this garden’s upkeep is apparent, and I’m grateful for whatever time I can spend there.
Stephanie Dudley, Artist, Alchemy 2015
I applied to Alchemy because I wanted to be in a quiet country location during the summer where I could do my work as a painter and, most uniquely, experience and share cooking with other artists. Making art and cooking are my two favourite occupations and they have evolved congruently in my life since I was very young. I also wanted to talk to other artists about work and directions. I looked forward to seeing the countryside of Prince Edward County and to being able to swim at the local beaches. I was able to do all of these things and to also meet a fine new group of artists, many of whom I hope to keep in contact with in the future. During my time at Alchemy I created a moderate body of small exploratory paintings that are the beginning of a new phase of my work.
Ultimately, I think artist residencies are about the people one meets, what we learn from each other, and the encouragement and support that can arise from these connections. Alchemy was a lovely experience which met these expectations and my only wish is that it could have gone on a bit longer.
Moira Clark, Artist, Alchemy 2019
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All photos courtesy of Donna Greenstein, Peggy Taylor Reid, J. Pierre, Kirstyn Mayers and Tonia Di Risio