GPRC Instructors Explore Art and Inspiration in Estonia
Wednesday, March 3rd, 2021
GPRC instructor, Tina Martel (left) with GPRC alumni, Kasie Campbell (right).
Somewhere in a small historical town in Estonia, the artistic influence of Grande Prairie still lingers. Given the opportunity to attend an annual residency program for two weeks in the spring of 2019, four GPRC faculty members were able to do what they love best - conduct research and create art.
This chance to share knowledge and creative practices in a setting far from home is the brainchild of Dr. Shawn Pinchbeck, GPRC music technology instructor.
Located 150 kilometres from the Estonian capital of Tallinn, the picturesque town of Viljandi may appear to be off the beaten track, but it boasts a thriving cultural scene, an arts academy and an abundance of creative talent. It also happens to be located in a country that holds the world record for business start-ups per-person and bragging rights for creating the software known as Skype.
“I’ve been running this residency program for four years, but this is the first time other GPRC faculty became involved,” said Dr. Pinchbeck. “Despite it being self-funded, there was a tremendous amount of interest this year. A residency is a nice getaway for an artist to meet different people and be inspired. Away from your usual routine, you get into a different head space - one that’s less cluttered with everything going on in your life. Sometimes you might even find that what you’re working on at home is more relevant in other places.”
Tina Martel, an instructor of painting, drawing and visual fundamentals, attended this year together with her husband Doug Wills, a digital media instructor at the College.
“I said to Doug, ‘I think we need to do this artists’ residency in Estonia’ and he asked, ‘Why would we go there?’ And I said, ‘Why would we not?’
“I thought it would be great to immerse ourselves in a completely different culture and share the experience with colleagues. We are teachers all the time and artists second, but this residency allowed us to be professionals at a different level.”
Martel, a two-time breast cancer survivor who wrote Not in the Pink, an award-winning book documenting her experience, created a text-based artwork on the same theme which is now prominently featured on the walls of the arts academy in Viljandi.
Wills, who trained as a sculptor, ceramic artist and graphic designer, completed a short film and a compilation of photos based on elements he observed while in Estonia. Both are now on display at GPRC. “I’m curious about things that were once useful and have history, but are now obsolete - like small pipes with electrical cords sticking out, or unused nails which now painted or stuccoed over.”
For Marina Fridman, who taught drawing, sculpture and portfolio development at the College, her Estonian residency allowed her to further germinate her idea for a large-scale, multimedia art installation.
“The process of art-making and art research always begins with a question” said Fridman. “The more interesting the question, the more interesting the artwork in response to it.”
Fridman is fascinated by the idea of fear within a political context and how it is used to divide or unite groups of people. She is interviewing more than 200 Grande Prairie residents and recording them whispering their fears. The final multimedia experience will encompass drawing, sculpture and sound. It’s a project she describes as both rewarding and perspective-altering, and much more research-based than anything she has done before.
“Some people list all their fears, but others discuss just their biggest one. One fear that was particularly genuine and relatable came from a woman who worried she’s not making the right choices, not living life the way she was meant to live. Another woman told me she has epileptic seizures that she describes like entering a velvet black space, where you forget who you are and everything you know. She is most afraid that that’s what death will be like.”
“I tend to voice my fears often as I feel this lessens their power over me, and I hope this art piece will have the same result for people participating in the project.”
“Art residencies play an integral role in influencing and furthering an artist’s work and career,” Fridman said. My worldview expands dramatically when I’m in an international location. It influences my artwork and opens my eyes to different ways of thinking and living.”
Learn more about GPRC's Department of Fine Arts here.