MOULTRIE — Inflatable mattresses might seem a little out of place filling two rooms at the Colquitt County Arts Center, but for the artists of the Sandarbh U.S. International Artist Residency, the former Moultrie High building will be home for the next week.

The phrase “artists in residence” has taken on a whole new meaning.

“Art is a mystic medium through which one forgets oneself and gets lost in the realms of creation. It has the inherent quality of side-stepping all the racial, social and economic divisions. A playful process of learning is at the very heart of Art,” Vijay Sekhon, facilitator of the U.S. residency, wrote on a blog on his website.

Sandarbh is an artist workshop/residency that was started in a small village in India by artist Chintan Upadhyay. Sekhon, an artist himself, said that art was not even being taught in the schools there before the workshop and within a couple of years art became an integral part of their curriculum.

“The local people are taking this as something enjoyable; artists who were used to working in either their studios or in predetermined/project based residencies are actively participating in this unique concept every year,” he said.

Sekhon also blogged that he believed Sandarbh “broke certain conventions by bringing artists to a rural place and making them live together in the same environ for a certain period of time.” The idea, he said, was to encourage the artists to create public art works that would arouse the curiosity and imagination of the area residents.

“It proved to be an amusing intervention in the on-going life cycle of that small village; some curiosities turned out to be collaborations with the artists and some took the form of initiatives by the villagers themselves crafting ingenious creations of their own at the workshop,” he said.

As Sekhon visited his brother, who lives in Moultrie, he thought the town would be the ideal place for a similar residency.

“Sandarbh U.S. then became a natural outcome. An artist call was put out and an understanding with the Moultrie Arts Center formed, where by all the participating artists would be able to lodge and make use of the various facilities of Arts Center for 10 days,” he said.

Over the past month, staff and board members of the Colquitt County Arts Center have been working with Sekhon to gather bedding, toiletries, and other items to make the artists’ stay at the center comfortable and to plan for their arrival.

“My hope is that it will expose people in our community to artists from around the world and their creative process. This international artist residency will also bring regional attention to Colquitt County and our arts center,” said Jeff Ophime, executive director of the center.

Sekhon said he wants to “channel constructive and collaborative energy” into the community through this residency and he would like to do some projects using local aesthetics to create something new that might draw interest. The artists will look at several public locations around Colquitt County to be possible sites for their projects.

“We got more responses then we had anticipated; considering we were not paying for any travel or material cost to any of the artists and each artist was being encouraged to use the local materials — materials they may find in and around the town,” blogged Sekhon.

The participating artists for first Sandarbh U.S. residency include Alvaro Verduzcos of Mexico City, Mexico; Christy Speakman of New Orleans, La.; Sarah Olson of New York City; Sarah Rahbar of Tehran, Iran, and New York City; Abby Manock of New York City; Anindita Dutta of Chicago; Swati Khurana of New York City; Jaishri Abhichandani of New York City; Chintan Upadhyay of Mumbai, India; Ivan Smith of the United Kingdom; and Sekhon of New York City.

“We’re all really excited about taking the challenge,” said Smith. “What interests me is there is no precursor for the experience. That’s what makes this interesting.”

“The bridging point will be the local people,” said Upadhyay, who has been the facilitator of the international artists’ residency in India for the past few years.

He went on to say that the artists could be different from year to year but the community would be the constant and he said gradually, he believed, they would join in the process of creating the art works. This had been his experience with the village in India.

Today, the artists will be out and about taking a tour of the community to draw inspiration and learn about the area because they are working with a limited amount of time to create their projects.

“Ten days seemed appropriate since this was going to be the first workshop/residency and everyone would be still getting familiar with the area and the idea so a shorter duration seemed more viable. Once there is more acceptance and familiarity, we can consider a longer time frame for the residency,” said Sekhon.

Sekhon encourages people to drop by the arts center or to visit with the artists if they see them out working on their projects around the community.

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