For decades, the Djerassi Resident Artists Program has provided a place where artists from all over the country could come together, reflect and work in a beautiful natural setting located in Woodside, California. But after Hurricane Katrina devastated Louisiana’s Gulf Coast, Djerassi has made it a priority to host displaced artists from that region, offering them an environment in which to regroup and re-energize their creativity. Spark checked in on two New Orleans artists that found refuge at Djerassi.
After Katrina hit, the Alliance of Artists Communities set about creating the Gulf Coast Artists Hurricane Relief Program to take in displaced artists. Through this program, Djerassi, along with several other organizations in California (the 18th Street Art Center, Montalvo, the Kala Art Institute, Headlands Center for the Arts and the Exploratorium), has been able to provide a peaceful, inspirational and meditative environment far from the trauma of the disaster.
One of the artists selected for the Djerassi program was Rashida Ferdinand, a ceramicist whose studio in New Orleans’s Ninth Ward was destroyed during the hurricane. The Djerassi program provided her with a work space to resume projects interrupted by the hurricane. For Ferdinand, the experience has added another layer to her psyche as well as to her work, causing her to re-examine the uneasy balance that exists between financial interest and human life.
Another artist selected was writer Michael Patrick Welch, who was also evacuated from New Orleans but who has since returned home. Spark visited him as he worked on a collection of essays about his experience of the flood and its aftermath. Each story revolves around his pet goat, Chauncy. For Welch, the Djerassi program provided the mental and physical rehabilitation he needed after the trauma of Katrina as well as the peace and quiet he needed to write.
More about the Djerassi Resident Artists Program
The Djerassi Resident Artists Program was founded in 1979 by Dr. Carl Djerassi in honor of the memory of his daughter Pamela, a painter and poet who died the previous year. In the 1980s, with the renovation of structures on a nearby ranch into fully operational living quarters and studio spaces, the project was transformed into a comprehensive residency program. Today the Djerassi Resident Artists Program is the largest program of its kind in the West and ranks among the best in the country. Tours of the sculptures on the Djerassi property are offered.
Where: 2325 Bear Gulch Rd., Woodside
Phone: (650) 747-1250