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This is Personal | Ann Brady - Rauschenberg Residency (Captiva, Florida)

This is the age of information.

We are online, on the phone, on newsfeeds, on air, and sometimes on overload. Take a deep breath with us now as we turn off the data streams and make room for some plain old wit and wisdom in This is Personal, a new series of short interviews with directors of artists communities in which we invite them to tell us what's on their minds and ask them how they got here from there.

In this month's This Is Personal Esther Grisham Grimm - Alliance Board Member and Executive Director of 3Arts - sits down with Ann Brady to discuss her work developing, and now leading, the Rauschenberg Residency in Captiva, Florida.

Alliance: What was it that lured you away from your work as an independent consultant to become the director of the Rauschenberg Residency and what keeps you engaged?

My passion for the field began 22 years ago at Atlantic Center for the Arts and intensified when I was on the board of the Alliance of Artists Communities for six years. I love this field!  I consider myself a disciple. (And I am well versed in the “eye glaze” from unsuspecting acquaintances who wonder what the heck I’m going on and on about.) Working as a consultant allowed me to engage with different artists’ communities in various capacities, a desire that serving on the Alliance board had cultivated. While doing so, I began working with the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, and I was fortunate enough to be involved in the process of creating a residency. Process! Creation! That was exciting and gratifying. When they asked me to be the director, it was an easy yes. By then, I was completely committed to this place, the people, and the program.

Alliance: What is it like to work on an island? Is there a way that the environment influences you, alters your perspective, and/or sets your pace?

This is a part of Florida with which I was unfamiliar – it’s very tropical with a lushness and density that I didn’t expect.  Captiva and our property in particular have a proximity to nature that is tangible. Osprey nest outside my office window; on the way to lunch I see egrets and ibis, snakes and rabbits, dolphins and mullet – one afternoon there was an alligator in the swimming pool! Being able to see the sunset every night and watch storms form reminds me why I moved to Florida (and why I put up with 90% humidity). The artists are entranced by it all, too, to such a degree that they are often astounded by its effect on their work and on their being. So, each residency, my perspective is revitalized and my pace, which is naturally pretty fast, has moderated; I am intent on spotting the bobcat that only a lucky few have encountered.

Alliance: What are you thinking about more than anything else these days? 

The Rauschenberg Residency is unique (I know! I know! We’re all unique!). But at its core is an artist who was not only cutting edge, collaborative and inspirational, but was generous and kind, endlessly curious and infectiously optimistic. AND he lived and worked here for four decades -- in these studios and residences. I want to continue to build on his legacy. One way we can do that is to continue to pilot – in terms of our selection process, the structure of our residencies, and our partnerships, including with the Foundation’s own philanthropy department. It’s an exciting and pivotal time for the Foundation as it transitions from an artist-led model toward a broader scope. At the center is Bob’s belief that art has the power to change the world. It probably sounds corny, but that’s why I love this field, because most of us who work with artists or are artists, believe that, too. 

Alliance: What do you most want to talk to your peers about at the Alliance’s conference in Charleston this year?

I always look forward to the conference – being around such smart and engaged people who have similar issues elevates me. This year, I’m anticipating the Ecology day – to see what others are up to, learning from them and talking about ways we can intersect. I’m interested to explore possible pipeline/exchange opportunities, where artists and scientists/creative thinkers who are working on one aspect of a project at one site can continue a phase of the project at the Rauschenberg Residency and vice versa.  And, ahem, in addition to being a culturally dynamic city, Charleston has great restaurants and so I am interested in personally taste testing new recipes for our chef.