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A Studio in the Woods

A Studio in the Woods, Copyright Neil Alexander 2018


Since its founding as a secluded and protected haven for artists, A Studio in the Woods (the Studio), a program of the ByWater Institute, has become one of the foremost competitive and collaborative artistic and academic residency programs in the Gulf South region. The dual mission of the Studio is to protect and preserve the eight acres of endangered woods within which the Studio resides while also providing a tranquil retreat where artists and scholars reconnect with universal creative energy, working uninterrupted within its natural sanctuary. In 1969, Lucianne and Joe Carmichael bought the site upon which the Studio now stands, hoping to transform the bottomland hardwood forest into an artistic and academic retreat – a true source of creative inspiration and education. Considered a pioneer in the growing world of environmental residencies, the Studio provides an unusual and powerful combination of a forested retreat, adjacent to a vibrant urban center with the resources of a major university.

The Studio believes that the changing relationship between humans and the environment is the defining issue of our time and focuses on interrelated areas of programming, including residencies for artists and scholars, forest restoration, and science-inspired art education for children and adults. The Studio’s work is based on the premise that southern Louisiana is a microcosm of the global environment, manifesting both the challenges and possibilities inherent in human interaction with urban and natural ecosystems. The Studio’s residencies are often thematic, and, in keeping with the organization’s mission, are grounded in the interplay between art and science; between humans and the natural world. Aside from creating compelling pieces of art, literature, music or academic research, the residencies serve as the catalysts for new ideas and public discourse around the issues that matter most to individuals living in the Gulf South. During and post-residency, artists and scholars are supported to share their work within the broader community, thereby enhancing the Studio’s impact.

Current Programs

In its fourth cycle, the Studio, in conjunction with the ByWater Institute, supports the scholarship and creativity of Tulane academics by awarding one- to two-week Scholarly Retreats at the Studio. Open to faculty, post-doctoral fellows and graduate students, these residencies provide a retreat for scholars across disciplines to work on a discrete project or scholarly pursuit. This program is funded by Tulane and administered by A Studio in the Woods. More information on scholarly retreats is available here.

Since 2001, the Studio’s residency program has directly engaged more than 100 artists and scholars from New Orleans, the nation, and the world by providing time, space, scholarship, and staff support to foster critical thinking and the creation of new works. The Studio has advanced the careers of artists working in variety of genres and inspired a wide range of creative works including jazz albums, museum exhibitions, site-specific theater, and nationally acclaimed fiction and non-fiction books. The Studio has been a platform for social change, offering support for artists across mediums to examine difficult issues through their unique lenses, and produce meaningful calls to action. We serve artists from diverse ethnicities, all disciplines, and from a range of career stages: established, mid-career, and under-recognized. Artists accepted into the residency program receive two - six weeks of room and board, a stipend, studio space, and precious, protected work time in a peaceful, natural environment. The majority of artist residencies have a significant public engagement component that is supported by staff. Examples include performances, workshops, and community site-specific installations.

Since its inception, A Studio in the Woods has offered thematic residencies designed to change over time to stay relevant, impactful, and connected to current events. A recent residency series titled “Flint and Steel: Cross-disciplinary Combustion” was designed to allow artists to join forces with invested academic partners. Each selected artist was paired with a Tulane or Xavier University faculty member to inspire each other in the development of new work, to excite the public, and to ignite social change. The current residency serires “Adaptations: Living with Change,” invites artists to examine how climate driven adaptations large and small, historic and contemporary, cultural and scientific, are shaping our future, responding to the human and ecological impact of historical and ongoing anthropogenic change. Topics might include climate migration and indigenous communities, environmental justice, reinterpretations of engineering and policy solutions or ecological ramifications.

Additionally we offer Special Invitation residencies often in partnership with other organizations. Recently, together with the New Orleans Center for the Gulf South at Tulane University, The Studio brought nationally acclaimed writer Edward Ball to New Orleans for a series of research trips, community workshops and lectures on race and family. In collaboration with Pelican Bomb, Newcomb Art Museum, Lower Ninth Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development, and New Orleans Department of Parks and Parkways, The Studio hosted a multi-visit residency for internationally acclaimed artists Fallen Fruit to work on a project to reach socioeconomically, racially, and culturally diverse populations via the values of generosity and collective action. Their project takes living fruit trees, public space, and collective participation as artistic media to transform cities. In New Orleans, Fallen Fruit has planted 300 publicly accessible fruit trees within neighborhood parks and across the city through public fruit tree adoptions. Fallen Fruit concluded their 18-month residency with an exhibition entitled “EMPIRE,” at Newcomb Art Museum.

A Studio in the Woods has conducted programs of Forest Restoration, Preservation and Research since 2004. Recent hurricanes have provided rare opportunities to learn how each storm impacts the woods and how sustainable land stewardship serves to protect the future of Louisiana’s Gulf Coast. The Studio employs a botanist as its Environmental Curator, tasked with examining, studying, and protecting the woods. The Curator’s research has been cited and published in numerous scholarly articles. Most recently, the Studio has obtained field station credentials for the Woods via the Organization of Biological Field Stations, formalizing accessibility to additional research projects.

For the past 14 years the Studio has hosted the Kids In The Woods Summer Camp, providing arts and environmental education for a diverse group of 18 students aged 7-11 years old. Students meet every day in June and are guided and encouraged by experienced arts educators who collaborate with Tulane doctoral candidates in Ecology, who lead weeklong intensives in fields such as ornithology and entomology.

The Studio produces a popular annual “FORESTival: A Celebration of Art and Nature at A Studio in the Woods” each Fall. Held at the Studio complex, FORESTival features artist presentations and exhibits, guided nature walks, live music, local food vendors, art activities and a silent auction. The all-ages festival embodies the Studio’s mission, focusing on environmental education paired with creative artistic projects to instill an appreciation for the beauty of our natural world.

The Studio is currently in a campaign to build a Writer’s Cabin on the Studio grounds – a capital project that will double the Studio’s annual capacity to serve artists, scholars and students. The 500-square-foot, standalone building will feature a private work room with views to the woods, separate sleeping quarters, and a screened-in porch. Once completed, the Cabin will be the only piece of permanent architecture in greater New Orleans dedicated to the creation of the literary arts.

Click here for more information on A Studio in the Woods