Alchemists share their stories: Testimonials



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 

If artist residencies are intended to foster artistic creativity through the interaction between artists who may not normally  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 and Film Maker, Alchemy 2016

"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

Alchemy 2018


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

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

Alchemy 2015

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. I had been working in my studio alone for the past 25 years and of late I started to feel uninspired. This residency provided instant community and great means of networking.”

Lynn Hubbs

Alchemy 2017


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, Sculptor, Alchemy 2018 


I had been working in my studio alone for the past 25 years and of late I started to feel uninspired. This residency provided instant community and great means of networking. Because of the environment created by Claire and Tonia I felt safe to explore and share. 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, Artistic Director, Bending Spoons Gallery, Alchemy 2017