Playing and Creating at the Hermitage

Posted by Sharyn Lonsdale on 9th July 2014

It’s really quiet at the Hermitage.
It’s probably really quiet where you’re working too, unless you work at an amusement park or sell fireworks. This is a big vacation week and I can count the number of times our phone has rung today, on one hand.
We have two artists in residence, and they’re both working in their studios and one of those studios is right next to our office. She’s even playing music, Linda Ronstadt, Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor. I like it. It makes it less quiet.

But the main reason it’s so quiet is because for the past two weeks, it’s been anything but. From June 14-29 the Hermitage hosted its annual Family Weeks Residency. That means there were two moms and two dads (all artists), two pre-preschoolers, two babysitters, at least a dozen stuffed animals, Play-doh, Legos, bubbles, a kiddie pool, puzzles and blocks.

It’s been a long time since I’ve had a two-year-old and I forgot how quickly and completely they can take over a space. Our couch turned into a fort, and then a cave and then a pool. Our dining room table was covered with crayons. There was a train set up on the living room floor.

And I loved every minute of it.

My daughter Jenna, who is certified in early childhood education, jumped at the chance to watch Maddie, a very energetic two-year-old, who sweetly talked Jenna into bringing in her stuffed kitties, and then I’m pretty sure, went home with them. (You can never have enough stuffed kitties according to Maddie). Adam, our slightly less-energetic nearly-three-year-old, also had his own sitter most of the time. This freed up the parents, allowing them to create some amazing art during their stay.
Occasionally Maddie would burst into the office, followed by Jenna, or her mom Erica or maybe her dad, Erik, and often mom or dad would apologize for the interruption. Apologize? No need there. How cool it is to have to pull away from your computer screen to look at a drawing, or a rock or a particularly adorable stuffed kitty? Very cool.

It was also wonderful watching these children, who don’t live very far from each other, play together, invent games and share their toys. When walking past their “cave” I heard Maddie say “I love my Adam” and my heart nearly melted.

Their parents never wasted an opportunity to tell us how much the residency meant to them, the time to work on their art and projects, the time to spend on the beach with their little ones, the time to spend together without their little ones.

All of this was thanks in part to a grant we received from the Sustainable Arts Foundation, a non-profit organization which supports artists and writers with families. I wish they were here to see what a difference these two weeks made to these two families.

The result was a very cool Open Studio last Friday night featuring paintings, video, dream catchers and jewelry made from objects found by the artist who finally had time to walk on the beach, and an eye-popping interactive installation also made with found objects. Friends of the artists braved some nasty weather to support them and many of them brought their kids too. It was a great night that fittingly ended with ice cream all around.

I can’t wait until next year.

Kate and Adam Wyshock enjoying family time on the beach

Adam and Maddie taking over the dining room table

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