This month, Dexter Wimberly announced the Hayama Artist Residency, a four-week cultural immersion set to take place in the summer of 2021. The independent curator and Founder & CEO of Art World Conference recently connected with the coastal Japanese town after a visit turned into an unexpected three-month stay due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
His experience there turned into an idea to offer artists their own time and space to create on foreign soil. Wimberly, who is also a Senior Critic at the New York Academy of Art, shared with Whitewall what to expect from the inaugural residency program.
WHITEWALL: Can you tell us about your own unexpected “residency” in Hayama this spring, and how your time there inspired the idea for this residency?
DEXTER WIMBERLY: What do you do when you have three months on your hands and you’re 6,000 miles away from home? Well, I had to figure that out with my wife and children in tow. I had thought of creating an artist residency in Japan a few years ago, but I never felt like I had the time to put all of the pieces together. Were it not for being unable to leave Japan for three months, I doubt I would have been able to organize my plans to launch it.
I have a very active mind and I knew that if I had ample time and space, I could bring my idea to fruition. Offering “time and space” is actually a primary goal of the residency. I want to give artists the time and space necessary to slow down, take stock and make plans for the future. I realized that our prolonged stay due to the pandemic was potentially a once in a lifetime situation and I didn’t want to waste the opportunity laying around on the beach. Although, we did spend a lot of time at the beach!
WW: How are you hoping artists will take advantage of the residency?
DW: Over the years, I’ve had conversations with hundreds of artists. One thing that stands out from these discussions is that nearly everyone is pressed for time. I’m sure that’s a general problem of the modern world, but for artists, I think a lack of time is detrimental to career development and mental health, among other things. How can you make progress if you never have time to plan, and how can you see your situation objectively if you’re never removed from your day-to-day routine?
Some of the best ideas can emerge when you are still. This is a practical and attainable state of being, but so many of us never achieve it. I want artists to use this four-week residency to calm their mind. However, it’s not a vacation. There’s an exhibition during the residency as well as the expectation to meet with curators, gallerists, and other artists in Japan. It is a real career-building opportunity, but it also offers ample time for quiet reflection.
WW: What kind of impact can a residency of this nature have on an artist’s practice or erspective?
DW: Though it is not a prerequisite for acceptance, it is likely that the artists selected for the residency will have never visited Japan before. That fact alone can potentially have a profound impact on their perspective. Travel, whether to Japan or any other distant place, can change the way one sees the world and their place in it. My first trip to Japan was 22 years ago, in 1998. I can say with certainty that I returned home to New York City with a new way of seeing things. If nothing else, it reoriented my sense of self and erased a lot of my preconceptions of Japan. It also revealed to me how much I had to learn about art, fashion, food, culture…and frankly, the world.
WW: Travel offers an opportunity for dialogue between cultures, a chance to reflect and slow down. Now more than ever it is so precious. Do you anticipate the value of travel changing given the events of the past few months?
DW: I think people are clamoring to travel and that will only intensify as the year goes on. For artists who travel for inspiration, this has to be an especially depressing time. I know that launching an artist residency in Japan during a global pandemic is almost comical in its boldness. I mean, I get it! But here’s the thing… So much about what makes us human is our curiosity and our desire to try new things. I don’t think the pandemic will stop that. I’m also a forward thinker. The Olympics open Japan in July 2021, at the tail-end of the residency. I think it’s exciting to offer artists a chance to travel to a country that the entire world will be focused on just ahead of all the excitement!
WW: How do you see this residency as part of your role as a curator?
DW: Curating has always been a gateway for me. I absolutely love organizing art exhibitions, but becoming a curator was about building lasting relationships with artists and opening doors for them. I’ve never lost sight of my original goal. The Hayama Artist Residency is a manifestation of my desire to be a catalyst and to share my humble resources with a global community of artists.