Tag Archives: Artist Residency

Feminizing Myth: Maria Dahvana Headley

MariaDHEadley3Maria Dahvana Headley, USA fantasy writer for young adults as well as adults, also writes non-fantasy, and is at Arte Studio Ginestrelle on a serious mission.

“I am here to finish the sequel to a young adult novel, Magonia, which I did and to write an adaption of a classic saga which mainly, in its original, focuses on male heroics.” A full time writer, with five novels to her credit, Maria is disciplined and driven. Knowing the task ahead of her, she searched for a place where she would be productive, and an environment, that in some way, is similar to the setting of her new title.

Maria elaborates, “I was looking for a place where I could be on a mountain because the two heroes of my story live on a mountain with ghosts and wolves.  This setting is amazing, and everything I write lately is set on a mountain. I have 3 things I’m writing about set on mountain so this is perfect.”

MariaDHeadleyAt Arte Studio Ginestrelle, located in Assisi, Italy, a country that Maria loves, there are only women artists in residence, but Maria is enjoying the time and sharing with the other artists, especially at leisurely breakfasts, during breaks from their respective goals and cooking for dinner. Comfortable in the kitchen, Maria enjoys whipping up a dish to share with her cohorts as she takes a break from fantasy to explore another genre.

“I write fantasy that I make up completely.  I though it would be nice to work on something based on historical literature, and also I think it is inspiring to be in this colony, which is located in a beautiful place in the world, but also isolated – and the novel takes place in isolation.”

Maria began this novel in Paris, last year, when she went to visit her sister who had a new baby. She reminisces, “I wrote in the middle of the night, the baby was crying, lots was going on, but I wrote amidst all the travails of domestic life.” However, at the residency she is exploring the wilderness section of the book, and therefore requires a different headspace.

Perhaps some readers do not fully understand the process of writing a book, and the prerequisite research necessary to the plot development. In this case, set in contemporary America, Maria “researched women in the military, in the last fourteen years of conflict, years of furious war, and women coming out of it with a lot of injuries. I also looked at fossil records of New York. I promise, it all makes sense.” While the novel is about ghosts, Maria also wanted to find out what was there first, and this is what she discovered.

“An old forest in upstate New York – a  fossilized forest, discovered in the 1920’s when they were building a dam there; they found full fossil trees! It is considered the most ancient forest in the world, and it was under the dam, drowned.  I learned that and I just wanted to write a book about it –upstate New York, ghosts, water, marshland and floods…Then it turned out it was all one book, the ancient world saga, combined with present day NY politics.”

“I always write about women,” Headley says. “I also always write about monsters, the definition of what might or might not be monstrous. So that’s what this novel is about too.” The novel is finished, in draft at Ginestrelle, and it couldn’t have been written anywhere else. “The solitude combined with being able to tell fellow artists every morning where I was in the word count – and then get there! – was invaluable.”

 MariaDHEadley2 Magonia CoverTo learn more about Maria Dahvana Headley visit her websites:  www.mariadahvanaheadley.com

Exploring the Violin: Harriet Wheeler

DSC02462Harriet Wheeler, British violinist, lives and works in Denmark, and was at Arte Studio Ginestrelle to work with Signe Lykke, Danish composer. Intense and committed to being a first class player, Harriet says, “I just aim to continue improving and evolving and bringing joy with the music I make.”

Harriet first became aware of Signe last year when she heard one of Signe’s compositions being played.  Although the piece was for the clarinet, she liked it so much, she contacted the composer, “and I asked her to write me a piece, and she did, “Blue Season,” which is a wonderful piece.” Harriet smiles at this memory, looking very much like a young Jacqueline Kennedy.DSC02552

As a result of listening to more of Signe’s compositions, and getting to know her personally, Harriet and Signe decided they wanted to collaborate, to explore how composer and musician can work together.  Once they arrived at this realization, they looked around for a space to begin this partnership, and learned about Arte Studio Ginestrelle, and were thrilled when they were accepted.

Practicing is fundamental to being a good violinist, and Harriet practices an average of 3-4 hours daily.  When practicing and playing, everything else ceases to exist, and she gets lost in a world of musical communications.  She is open and available to all.

“I don’t have a favorite composer; it changes too often and there are so many greats! I guess something about having a thirst for all styles of musical languages, especially classical?”

Although it is not usual for composers and musicians to work together on a piece, Harriet believes this should change.  Reflecting on an orchestra, Harriet says, “Contemporary music is created by composer, but Signe and I are combining the process, to explore what is possible with the violin, in a way that is natural for the violinist.”  Finding the possibilities and arriving at what is comfortable to violinists and other musicians is essential, Harriet states.  “It takes a lot of time, and we need freedom to experiment –try different sounds.  The process of us working on it together has been very rewarding. Signe would write something and give it to me, and she told me what she was thinking, and I was able to incorporate her ideas because she always asked me about things.”

Harriet and Signe will continue to work and develop this piece that will be performed -Spring 2016. “We will play with a young string ensemble in Denmark, work with young children to explore their instruments, and hopefully they will get more excited about playing.”

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To learn more about Harriet Wheeler, visit her Facebook page.


Create in the MT. Subasio: Arte Studio Ginestrelle Artist Residency

DSC02276 Nestled in the lush, verdant mountains of Subasio, Assisi, Italy, Arte Studio Ginestrelle, artist residency was established in 2007 by Marina Merli, the soft-spoken, gracious, director.  Located in the Regional Park, the environment is tranquil and inviting, and ideal to start or complete any project. I certainly accomplished more in three weeks there than I did in the previous four months.

Marina Merli says, “The idea to develop an artist-in-residency program germinated after I finished my degree in Economics of Tourism and worked in the field of management. My desire grew to plan a cultural program at Subasio, the ‘sacred mountain’ of Assisi, to connect old traditions and history to contemporary minds worldwide. One of my aims was to offer opportunities for people interested in learning about the heritage of Umbria.” Known as the green heart of Italy —il cuore verde d’Italia— a phrase, lifted from Giosuè Carducci’s poem, Umbria is bordered by Tuscany to the west, Marche to the east and Lazio to the south.

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I have been asked why do I need to go some place far to do my work, and the answer is simple. I go where what I do matters, and where I am given the time and am in a community that is likewise engaged. Another important aspect is the exchange that often occurs at great residencies. Marina concurs, “I think one of the main aspects in a residency program should be to create an International, cultural network for artists worldwide.” While I was there, artists from USA, Denmark and Russia were in attendance, painters, musicians and writers, creating a richly diverse setting.

Marina notes, “artists who apply to Ginestrelle are attracted by the natural landscape and are interested in finding a quiet place to focus on their projects, as well as the possibility to meet international artists.” Mount Subasio of Assisi is a journey into the past. “We can still breath the authentic style of life, sustainable and in harmony with nature. The ancient forest and sanctuaries (one of these is Madonna dei Tre Fossi from X century) represent the richness of this secret side of Assisi.” Marina continues. At Ginestrelle, where memories are preserved, you will connect to one of the cultural goals of the program.

In keeping with the personal and economic family values of Italians, Marina began this residency in collaboration with her parents who serve as board members of the Cultural Association Ginestrelle. Marina is grateful for their support and says, “They have always been involved in the projects.” And indeed they are, much to the delight of residents for the amazing breakfast that is prepared daily, mainly by Adria, Marina’s mother. But throughout the day, both parents are busy tending the grounds and attending to other things on and around the site. Mrs. Adria Eugeni serves as CEO Chief Executive Officer, and Mr. Enzo Merli, as Treasurer.

Yearly, Ginestrelle host an international art exhibition of projects developed by resident artists throughout the year, under the auspices of the cultural association of which Ginestrelle is a registered member of Assisi’s associations. The Assisi’s Council provides a prestigious art gallery space for the exhibition that will take place in November, 2015. For more information about this residency go to: http://artestudioginestrelle.wordpress.com/