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.