The City of Moab is making the arts a priority and is demonstrating this initiative in a number of ways — one of which is bringing an artist-in-residence to live in Moab and dedicate their time to pursuing projects that benefit the community.
The promotion of the arts is revitalizing a new and energetic creative community in Moab, and when the officials began delegating more money to the artistic endeavors, Meg Stewart, director of the Moab Arts and Recreation Center (MARC), was ready to step up and make use of it.
“Part of my job is to figure out how to use that money in ways that make sense in the short term and in the long term,” she explained of her role as MARC director.
Stewart said she has been interested in bringing artists into the MARC for a while, so when the opportunity presented itself, she jumped at the chance to make it happen.
In October, the MARC welcomed Dania Morris, who is an internationally recognized installation artist and educator living in Los Angeles. Stewart met Morris in June 2017 while attending the Americans for the Arts convention in San Francisco. Stewart was drawn to Morris’ artwork and her energy, and when Morris expressed the desire to delve into Moab, Stewart began to form a plan to create the residency program.
Moab has seen only one other artist-in-residence in the past, through a program fostered by WabiSabi last summer. This is the first time the MARC has hosted an artist, and just as WabiSabi’s artist created a new bike rack for the non-profit, Morris will build an installation that can be featured in the community.
Morris began her career in the arts as a musician, and now she focuses primarily on visual arts. “Art, music, and the expression of ideas, are a way of both connecting to and interpreting our environments and communities,” she explains, in her bio “I strive to understand and illustrate the interconnected nature of our universe via frequency, vibration and human interaction.”
She combines these media by constructing “windstrumentals,” which are large-scale instruments you can play with. For her local projects, she sourced her installations from upcycled materials from in and around Moab. Her main piece of work will be featured in the CommuniTea Garden, and be installed this week. Once it is finished, the garden will have a grand debut, with the date for that event announced shortly.
Morris has done other residencies in a number of places such as Reno, Nev., Osaka, Japan, and the Philippines. She views the benefit of residencies as mutual to both the artist and the community she enters. “It exposes the destination residency to a different culture and new ideas, and vice versa I get exposed to a different culture every time I do a residency,” she explained.
In Moab, Morris is especially inspired by the open space and beauty of the desert, in stark contrast to the concentrated crowds of Los Angeles. “It definitely feels different in Moab,” she said, “just the landscape itself and the beautiful open spaces, and the amount of everyday natural beauty I encounter here is spectacular.”
Morris has also enjoyed interacting with the local arts community here, and has spent time working with artists such as Tim McAllister in his studio. She is looking forward to returning and building some more art for the city. As far as what the future holds for the artist-in-residence program, Stewart is not yet sure. Mentioning both WabiSabi’s program and hers at the MARC, Stewart explained that these were early stage trial runs for such an initiative. With the support of the city and a number of local non-profits, she said she hopes to build a regular program that will be sustainable.