Make art and do with it

The term “emerging artist” is often used without thinking too much about what it means. In a sense, artists should always be “emerging”. But there is a moment when the process is most acute. It’s like a butterfly struggling to free itself from its chrysalis, emerging in its colorful glory but not yet in flight.

Dominique Pecce during a printmaking class at the Fine Arts Work Center this summer. (Photo by Agata Storer)

The term seems appropriate for Dominique Pecce. She is not an amateur, but she is still striving to establish herself as a professional artist. She has committed to one technique – printmaking – and is working to further develop her skills while experimenting with different styles.

Historically, the Outer Cape has been a place that nurtured young artists. Charles Webster Hawthorne opened the Cape Cod School of Art in Provincetown in 1899 and established the town as an artistic colony. Other influential teachers would continue to attract young people to become mature artists who would profoundly shape American culture.

Ross Moffett first arrived in Provincetown from Iowa in 1913. He wrote of his arrival with his friend Henry Sutter: “When our train arrived in Provincetown, Sutter and I walked to the hall at eat at Jennings where, for thirty cents each, we had our first meal in Provincetown. . We then located the offices of the Hawthorne Art Class, and from there we were directed to Mrs. Dora Drisco’s house, where for $3.00 a week we enjoyed a room with a kitchenette and amenities. to prepare our own food. (Of course, it would be unthinkable today for a young art student to show up at the start of the summer and thus easily find affordable accommodation.)

Moffett returned the following year: “When Sutter and I returned…we took studio number 2 in a row of new studios that had just been built at Days Lumber Yard on Pearl Street. These studios, which rented for $50.00 a year, were not furnished, and we had to build bunks and gather, here and there, a minimum of the furniture that we found necessary.

Dominique Pecce, Plante. (Photo courtesy of the artist)

The studios at Days Lumber Yard, where Moffett lived until 1917, continue to be used as workspaces for young artists: the Fine Arts Work Center (FAWC), founded in 1968, bought the building in 1972 in part of an effort to preserve Provincetown as an arts colony. Even then, rising costs associated with tourism were a concern. According to a history of the center provided to its board members, “In the 1950s and 60s, America’s first and largest art colony…was in steep decline. The cost of living rose inexorably. Tourism atomizes all values… The rule of the economy is absolute: artists are chased away by high rents in the summer, held back in the winter by the lack of jobs. The gallery scene slid into eclipse. Schlock’s art flourished. Sound familiar? (Note: some historians dispute the claim that Provincetown was America’s first art colony.)

FAWC’s Signature Program was a seven-month residency for which 10 visual artists and 10 writers are chosen to live and work in Provincetown. They receive accommodation, a studio and a modest allowance. The influence of these artists on American culture has been significant, with former scholars winning Guggenheim and MacArthur fellowships and prizes, including the Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Prize in Literature. Many others have led modest careers of quiet, sustained devotion to their craft, including a number who have remained in Cape Town and nurtured the local creative community.

The FAWC has thrived in part because of its exclusivity: this year, 20 fellows were selected from a pool of 1,500 applicants. The center’s summer program caters to a wider audience, typically hosting 500-600 participants each season in writing and visual arts workshops. About half of the center’s revenue comes from its summer courses. A typical week-long course costs $800, plus an additional $1,000 for accommodation. Ironically, FAWC remains out of reach for many of the emerging artists it was designed for and is no longer the refuge from gentrification that its founders envisioned. A young Ross Moffett is unlikely to be there.

Or maybe he would.

At 35, Dominique Pecce isn’t the same age as Moffett when he arrived in Provincetown – but she’s in a similar place. Originally from the Outer Cape (she grew up in Truro), Pecce has always been familiar with the Fine Arts Work Centre. “It’s a facility that I frequented and wanted to go to,” she said. An opportunity presented itself this summer when she won two scholarships to take printmaking classes at the center. She said she would have been “priceless” if it hadn’t been for the scholarships.

Pecce plans to bring non-toxic etching techniques back with her when she returns to the Outer Cape from an upcoming research stint in western Massachusetts. (Photo by Agata Storer)

It is only fitting that Pecce received this help, since generosity is at the heart of his philosophy as an artist. I first met her at a sad art fair in Provincetown that hardly anyone attended. My daughter, six years old at the time, was with me, and the two struck up a conversation, eventually exchanging artwork: my daughter’s brightly painted seashell for one of Pecce’s rocks with a complex design. Later, Pecce made my daughter a kaleidoscope. On a walk in the woods in Wellfleet, my wife found another pecce rock – this one with a miniature drawing of a nude figure – left for someone to find.

Pecce’s work defies easy categorization. Besides her kaleidoscopes and rock drawings, she generally works in two dimensions in a graphic and linear style. In the work she created at FAWC, color became an important focus. (“Color in the encounter with color is new to me,” Pecce said.) And though she works in multiple mediums, printmaking is her main passion. But getting access to a print shop was a challenge.

“Print shops are expensive and hard to find,” Pecce said. “I can’t afford both rent and studio rent.” She periodically used the press at Castle Hill in Truro during the off season, but struggled to cover the cost of using the facility. Last winter, determined not to let finances get in the way of her practice, Pecce began applying for scholarships in earnest and received awards from Castle Hill, the Penland School of Craft in North Carolina – and the Fine Arts Work Center .

“The scholarships give me a sense of validation in my long quest to be an artist on Cape Cod,” Pecce said. “Making sure we still have a place to grow is so vital. It’s hard to find. It’s so good when it comes from the community. Thanks to the scholarships, Pecce was able to put aside his day jobs, which included driving a taxi, working at the salt market and installing artwork at the Rice Polak Gallery. “I thought if I got the majority of scholarships, I would have to treat myself and my job differently,” she said. “It was a difficult choice to withdraw from the labor market. But the time has come. I feel like I’m not expecting to be an artist.

Dominique Pecce, rope. (Photo courtesy of the artist)

Pecce’s experience at FAWC was made possible by a program that offers scholarships to Cape Town residents in addition to two dozen other scholarships. “Many of them are specifically aimed at young people, people in economic difficulty or people of color,” said program director David Simpson. “They are specifically intended to increase the diversity of people who attend workshops.” Last summer, approximately 10% of total workshop registrations were scholarship recipients. “Executive Director Sharon Polli and I are committed to making the center as welcoming to as many people as possible,” said Simpson, whose recent appointment closely followed Polli’s appointment and represented a game-changer. major in direction. But he admits that “the dominant demographics in the summer programs are pretty obvious. It is white people in their 50s and 60s who can afford to attend. There is work. »

It is unclear to what extent a venue like the Fine Arts Work Center could expand its scholarship program to avoid the erosion of opportunities for emerging artists in Cape Town. “A nonprofit needs to be fundraising,” Simpson said, explaining the center’s reliance on summer programs as a source of revenue. For those like Pecce who can access the programs, experience can be crucial. Still, the economic challenges – especially related to housing – can seem overwhelming for those who want to stay in Cape Town.

Earlier this year, Pecce applied for a research position at a non-toxic etching facility in western Massachusetts. Soon after, she lost her home in Truro. “I’ve driven all my life seeing empty houses and having nowhere to live,” she said. “It’s a painful truth.”

With no local housing prospects and no opportunity in a more affordable area with constant access to a printing press, the decision to move was easy. “I’m packing my bags,” she said. “I spend my last days here as a practicing artist. I am grateful to the people who gave me chances. I wouldn’t be as far as I am without their support and encouragement.

But she hasn’t given up on Cape Town yet. “If I continue to progress in my studies, I can bring new, safer techniques here,” she said. “I want to be in the store to share knowledge. I promise to return with a heavily laden tool belt. I feel like doors are opening and I’m confident to walk through them.

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