The AFD Residency what?

August 15th is the kick off for my AFD Residency... but what exactly is an AFD Residency?

AFD stands for the Austin Fire Department, and an "artist's residency" is a place where artists go to research, reflect, and make new artwork, away from the interruptions of daily life. A lot of times they're given a studio space to work in too.

The AFD residency is really unique because it's a public art project and an artist residency in one.

But first, a little bit about how public art projects in Austin work...

In Austin, 2% of public building project's budgets are dedicated to public art. Artists from across the country submit applications to make artwork that will highlight the history and values of our community through Austin's Art in Public Places program (AiPP). The art is made for and owned by the public, and adds to Austin's identity.

Six Fire Stations here in Austin are being renovated with women's locker rooms to accommodate the ever growing and changing Fire Department, and a really cool public art project (the AFD Residency) is going along with it.

The stations are #5, #7, #22, #24, #26, #27.

The AFD Residency is really special because I get to create permanent artworks for these six stations AND spend time with everyone who works there. This means I'll meet 72 fire fighters in A, B, and C shifts at these six stations.

Why me?

In my application I talked about my personal experiences with the Fire Department, and how in the past I've used painting to connect people. Between growing up with uncles in the Baltimore City Fire Department, and watching my childhood home burn down, I knew there was something behind this public service role I had to explore.

Here's an example of the artwork I applied with: an eight foot wide pencil drawing of a motorcycle crash, inspired by Renaissance battle paintings. Similar to life situations, it's unclear here who the victor will be. It's almost as if the crash could be a fire and the riders could be firefighters, can you see it?

My artwork combines three parts: 

  • research 
  • documentation
  • connection 

I'll focus on combining these elements in my residency by connecting with fire fighters over coffee, researching through ride alongs, and documenting in pictures, sketches, and drawings, in what's sure to be my most challenging and dynamic artwork to date.

Turkish Rugs

July and August are apricot season. 

Apricots are picked as they ripen and placed on people's roofs which are flat and are used as extra rooms. When the new day’s ripe apricots are delivered they're placed next to the first batch. This continues until they are done for the season, which only takes a few weeks. They look like rugs that gradate from bright to muddy orange.

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Pigeon Caves

With so many abandoned cave dwellings in Cappadocia, farmers started using them to breed pigeons. Today our goal was to drive a fellow resident's small deity sculpture/candle holders to one of these "pigeon caves" as an art installation.

We rode through Ürgüp, and turned off onto a gravel road lined with carved fairy chimneys. Single file, we climbed the “stairs” carved into the giant rock that gradually dissolved toward the top of the soft tuffa (volcanic ash) mound. Cresting the top, we abruptly descended to enter a hidden cave entrance some 60 feet up. The 4 foot diameter rolling stone gate was once used to hide the cave and to protect its inhabitants against enemies. This room was lined with a grid of cavities dug into the walls for pigeon breeding.   

Nearby views included an abandoned fresco painted church beside a dirt road that narrowed until it was just a little foot path through a tall wheat field. I climbed a huge hill and could see little windows in the tall rock face hills above. People must have lived there because there were small crops hidden in the valleys. I couldn't find the entrance anywhere, they're all secret.

They say the walls have eyes here. I definitely got that impression.

Today & Yesterday

The roofs here are flat and the view from mine is pretty incredible. Today I went up there and made a painting of my neighbor's house, which shows a great comparison of ‘today versus yesterday’.

People popped in and out of the house on the left all day. This house was built onto the remnants of the older version, which was used heavily at one point but has fallen apart. Its black soot stained walls mean it was once the kitchen.