WSU Tri-Cities program allows scholars to live, work — bring inspiration

Washington State University Tri-Cities art residency program allows scholars to live and work here — and bring inspiration _ Tri-City Herald

Canadian artist Laurel Terlesky is the first participant in the new Guest House Cultural Capital Residency through Washington State University Tri-Cities.

WSU Tri-Cities program allows scholars to live, work — bring inspiration


SEPTEMBER 30, 2017 1:29 PM

Laurel Terlesky is a celebrated artist who’s spent years exploring touch and memory.

She’s based in Canada, and she’s worked and exhibited around the world.

She’s about to add a stint in the Tri-Cities to her list.

Terlesky is the first participant in the new Guest House Cultural Capital Residency through Washington State University Tri-Cities.

The program invites creative scholars in varying fields to live and work in Richland for short periods of time, from one week to one month. They conduct research that’s inspired by the area or that seeks to build culture and community in the region, and they make connections with students and community members along the way.

“We hope this will culminate in some fruitful projects,” said Peter Christenson, an assistant professor of fine arts and the residency program’s director.

It’s an opportunity for the scholars to work and research in a new setting, and for the community to get an infusion of new ideas and inspiration, he said.

Terlesky arrives in Richland this weekend.

Like the other resident scholars who’ll come to town over the next several months, she’ll stay at the Guest House, a “living learning community” a couple miles from campus.

Terlesky is staying about two weeks.

surface rupture

Canadian artist Laurel Terlesky is the first participant in the new Guest House Cultural Capital Residency through Washington State University Tri-Cities. She’s known for installations including Surface Rupture.

She’s based in Squamish, British Columbia, and holds a master of fine arts from Transart Institute and a bachelor of fine arts from the University of Victoria.

In recent years, she’s focused on exploring memory and touch, from installations such as Weighted Strings, which used wires to meditate on connection, and Surface Rupture, which explored the skin’s surface and the power of touch.

She’s completed residencies in other places, but the Guest House Cultural Capital Residency is her first in the U.S. She’ll work on a project about hope.

Terlesky said she’s excited to make the trip.

During a residency, “you’re out of your day-to-day situation. You’re there, you’re focused on your work without a lot of other distractions,” she said.

And it’s a chance to make new connections and be inspired, she said. Terlesky said she’s especially looking forward to working with students.

weighted strings

As part of the program, the resident scholars interact with Guest House students and the community through lectures and other creative activities. They’re also asked to donate a piece of research or art to a GH Cultural Capital Permanent Collection.

Terleksy’s schedule of public events will be posted on the residency program’s website,, this week.

People also can inquire about appointments with her by emailing Christenson at

Along with Terlesky, five other resident scholars have been chosen for the program so far. Three more will make trips this fall, and two will arrive in the spring.

But, “we’re hoping to grow that number,” Christenson said, noting the program has received more than 50 submissions from creatives all over the world.

The program is funded in part through the Guest House. Chris Meiers, vice chancellor of enrollment management and student services, and Danielle Kleist, director of student life and services, helped make the program happen, along with former WSU Tri-Cities official Brandon Fox.

Christenson said he’s excited to welcome Terlesky and kick off the residency program.

“The goal, first and foremost, is to give students and the community access to diverse research practices and scholarship,” he said. “More broadly, we’re hoping that this continues to build culture in the Tri-Cities. We want to keep Tri-Cities on the map, and we want these (scholars) to think about how we can enhance the cultural capital of the Tri-Cities.”

Sara Schilling: 509-582-1529, @SaraTCHerald

Canadian artist Laurel Terlesky is the first participant in the new Guest House Cultural Capital Residency through Washington State University Tri-Cities. She’s known for installations including Surface Rupture.

Inspiring creativity. Artists in residence give quest students fresh perspectives on art.

Inspiring Creativity

Mike Chouinard / Squamish Chief
March 3, 2016

dozen or so students line up in twos and begin to walk a slow lap around a classroom inside Quest University.

At one point, they interlock pinkies, with the aim of becoming aware of how their bodies are moving around the space. At first glance, it might not seem what one would expect inside an art class, but there is a method.

“Different movements require different support systems,” said current artist in residence Amara Hark-Weber. “A shoe is basically a tool.”

In this case, the students are taking a class in making shoes from Hark-Weber, a cobbler whose own creations are sometimes conceptual or unusual and sometimes more familiar.

Over the three and a half weeks of the block at Quest, the students, who represent a range of academic pursuits, are looking at shoes from all angles, with the aim of making a pair of their own as the project for the class.

“It’s interesting. You never really think about how to make shoes,” said student Bayle James, who is focusing her regular course of studies on the social sciences. “It’s a different way of thinking.”

In just a few weeks, Hark-Weber’s cobbling course has managed to cover a lot of ground. Early on, the students were making patterns in paper as models for shoes. One assignment required them to research different types of shoes from different eras, such as moccasins, turn shoes, prehistoric shoes and medieval era shoes. From there, they had to put together a short visual presentation.

They also had to research other aspects of making shoes. For example, in one class, Renée Hall delivered a presentation on an overhead projector about different types of stitching, or at least those she had been able to pick up so far – running, back, whip and saddle stitching. “This is the extent of my sewing knowledge,” she said. “I don’t know anything fancier.”

Unlike full-semester programs during which students take several courses simultaneously spread over a fall or spring, Quest offers block programs. The students take one class full-time for three and a half weeks, which allows them to study something more deeply and with fewer distractions.

Quest tutor of music and humanities Jeff Warren, who oversees the artist in residence program, says this approach is especially suited for arts studies because artists tend to take this approach with their own work.

“Artists are quite often project-based,” he said.

Former artist in residence Laurel Terlesky’s work often involves questions around interactions between the body’s senses and technology. – Submitted

Laurel Terlesky, a Squamish artist who served as artist in residence last year, finds the approach allows classes to explore many new ideas. “The students come from a lot of different angles,” she said. 

Her course focused on art, technology and the body, examining how technology extends the body. 

“We’re able to connect and communicate in ways we haven’t before,” she said.

The class involved photography, collage pieces and electronics, as students worked on projects such as soft sculptures that included interactive sensors attuned to touch, light and sound.

She had one student, with a focus in neuroscience, working on a project that looked at the “aha!” moment in the brain by taking art theory and mixing it with the technical side to literally show the moment when the thought occurs.

Regardless of what endeavours the students choose, Terlesky thinks the course can only help in their chosen field.

“It makes for creative thinkers,” she said. “That’s the reason I like to teach…. I like to work with people and tease out their personal skill or aptitude.”

Over the first two years, the program has offered a wide variety of opportunities and artists with whom the students can study, such as Whistler-based James Stewart, who was the first artist in residence.

A sculptor who also has worked in the film industry with a background in computer graphics, Stewart’s body of work includes films such as Chronicles of Narnia, Harry Potter and District 9. Over the timeframe of the class, he wanted to get students into the workspace quickly for work ranging from painting nudes to using a scientific approach to abstraction and colour theory, all of
which ultimately led them to a better understanding of art quality.

“You can take something like Picasso or Matisse and really appreciate it,” he said

Stewart agrees the intense period of study allows the class to deeply delve into the work.

“You actually have, in my mind, three chunks of time per day, seven days a week you can use, and that’s kind of the way art works.”

For Stewart, the Quest method offered him a different way to teach in another sense.

“It’s not just the block system at Quest. It’s also the way that the school runs itself,” he said. 

Stewart says the university is structured differently from other institutions, which are more hierarchical or centralized. Although he ran his course syllabus by Warren, he basically had the freedom to set up the class how he wanted.

He had the class tackle the question of asking where the line between subjectivity and objectivity in art is.“Instead of me telling the students where that line is, the point was to try and find it as a class,” he said.

Another element of the residency is that it allots the artists time for their own work. Terlesky was able to continue working on her installation piece with the help of Canada Council funding and is adapting her piece for exhibition in Bangkok, Thailand.

Current artist in residence Hark-Weber has taken on a new challenge, working with corsets and printing plates, to explore connections between the body, language and narratives.  “I did something that is totally new and outside my comfort zone,” she said.

Her current students have had to quickly pick up new practical skills, as many had not sewn before. For students like James, this meant having to make patterns on paper three times, adding adjustments along the way, before starting to cut into the shoe leather.

As the class approached its completion, the conceptual side of the class took a back seat, as the students busily worked away on their projects, cutting leather, punching eyelets, sewing or hand-dyeing exteriors, with the aim of finishing in time for a show of their work on Tuesday night.

It also offered a chance for the students to discuss with Hark-Weber the obstacles they discovered along their path, whether this was breaking a needle or learning how to punch holes in leather or having to re-measure soles. “There are challenges every step of the way,” Hark-Weber said. “It really has been like a survey course. There’s a lot of different elements.”

As a teacher, she is not expecting to be turning out a dozen new cobblers, but that is not what the course is about for her or the students. Rather, it is about the process.

Hark-Weber likes to minimize the differences that academia can sometimes place on disciplines like the arts and sciences. Instead, for her, the challenge comes down to problem-solving, and as to the work the students have produced, she has been more than impressed with the fresh perspectives she has witnessed and the growth she has seen in just a few short weeks. “In terms of the designs that people have come up, they’re so awesome,” she said. 

Models for the students’ shoes. – Mike Chouinard