Embracing creativity with wide open, wool-sweatered arms

WORDS: Geoffrey HolsTAD
Photos: Carson Davis brown, colin Mccarthy, Ryan Greaves

I started Cabin-Time in 2011 with my designer-friend Ryan Greaves, partly by accident. While blizzarded in, near the westernmost dog-sled-tracked reaches of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Ryan and I spent the long weekend sketching together in the old C.C.C. cabin’s register book. By candlelight, and between runs to Lake Superior across the frozen dirt road for coffee water, we dreamt out loud about a creative future rid of commercial client expectations rife with compromise, and chock full of risk and wonder. It was on that snowglobe trip that Ryan and I set forth a plan. A plan for magic. Invite six other creative people, of different practices and relative strangers, back to this same exact cabin in the northwoods to make artwork together in close quarters, off-grid. Cook meals on a wood stove together. Split kindling together. Snore together. Kick the rudder of self-expectation, far from everyone’s studio, cell service, power lines, and egos.

Mother nature can be the great neutralizer, and we welcome her meteorological adversity with wide open wool-sweatered arms.

cabin-time1_insidepages.jpg

That first Cabin-Time residency was a true inland-sea tide shift. We parted ways each to our respective studios, reeling with pure ideas, new directions, new convictions, rattled priorities and a new creative friend family. Upon release of the book and film archiving work from the residency, I began receiving dozens and dozens of emails from jazzed strangers far and wide, asking when the next one was. What next one? The magic was spreading.

Starting with CT2, we opened the residency up to international applicants, and fielded over 200 proposals to join our small crew, this time in the upper reaches of Minnesota, on the mosquito-soup-pot-bog surrounding Bogus Lake. Since December of 2011, we have hosted close to 100 artists on eight such residencies, in different remote places around the United States. Salty islands, Superior islands, dusty deserts, an old artist’s commune in Northern Idaho (the darkest spot in the lower 48), the frozen boreal northern forest, and sunburnt scrub-sage alpine mountains.

cabin-time2_inside.jpg

That first Cabin-Time residency was a true inland-sea tide shift. We parted ways each to our respective studios, reeling with pure ideas, new directions, new convictions, rattled priorities and a new creative friend family. Upon release of the book and film archiving work from the residency, I began receiving dozens and dozens of emails from jazzed strangers far and wide, asking when the next one was. What next one? The magic was spreading.

Starting with CT2, we opened the residency up to international applicants, and fielded over 200 proposals to join our small crew, this time in the upper reaches of Minnesota, on the mosquito-soup-pot-bog surrounding Bogus Lake. Since December of 2011, we have hosted close to 100 artists on eight such residencies, in different remote places around the United States. Salty islands, Superior islands, dusty deserts, an old artist’s commune in Northern Idaho (the darkest spot in the lower 48), the frozen boreal northern forest, and sunburnt scrub-sage alpine mountains.

From each ten-day residency, we publish a book archiving the residents’ work with Michigan-based Issue Press and release a short documentary film chronicling the voyage. Occasionally, we’ll also host an exhibition local to the residency to share our work in person with the community.

The work on each Cabin-Time takes many forms. Each resident and crew member (the six crew members act as both facilitators and residents) come prepared with a proposal, and light supplies to execute the work they planned upon research of the announced location. Upon arrival though, we invite that each resident depart from their plan (in form and/or concept), and instead allow themselves to change minds, fight self-expectation, and collaborate with those around them. Dancers writing plays with botanists. Graphic designers doing rock-rubbings with chefs. Musicians and painters competing in a 'who-can-hold-their-breath-longest-underwater' competition.

geoff_quote_600w.jpg

For myself as the director and lead facilitator, Cabin-Time is a chance to really focus on my own personal practice, and to continually simplify. We’ve had thankful feedback from past residents that Cabin-Time was a chance to experiment, and not obsess over the product of their practice, but instead focus on the practice itself.

You can do anything, or be anyone, for ten days. You’re isolated, cold, wet, hot, chapped-lipped, sunburned, and surrounded by zero smartphones and 11 of the most creative and stoked people alive. Most residents leave Cabin-Time executing or exploring a practice very different than the one they arrived with.

This practice of being wholly present is very important to Cabin-Time. The power of bearing witness in a place takes on a form of activism, as it’s proven that we defend the places we grow to love. To experience and commune with a wild place is to acknowledge it, appreciate it, fear it.

We strip all distractions from the experience that compete with our own intentions on a day-to-day basis. At times, many miles from cell service, powerlines, toilets, and running water, we are left only with with our hands, hearts, minds, and each other.

cabintime3_inside.jpg

We believe in the power of unshakeable optimism, a Shackleton-inspired manifesto for existing and creating. We’ve seen winds explode six tents. We’ve kayaked three miles to get antibiotics for a ear-drum bursting infection. We’ve seen people spend the first night of their life ever sleeping on the ground outside. True growth happens when everything can and does go wrong, and ours happens to a Philip Glass portable cassette soundtrack. The present is perfect, no then, no when.

My personal professional creative practice sometimes looks like packing 10-days-worth of a dozen artists’ poop off a tiny island, and I could not be more stoked. Come be a part of our best-friend-stranger-family.

Cabin-Time (501c3) is a roaming creative residency to remote places. The ninth Cabin-Time residency will be announced Fall 2018. http://cabin-time.org