Grace Clark ’21 MFA Studio Art, Creator of Overland Artworks

Posted on April 01, 2021

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Grace Clark started out on a fairly standard path for an art student. Raised in western Minnesota, the daughter of a photography professor and an elementary school teacher, she attended an arts high school in Minneapolis and went on to get her BFA with an emphasis in photography at Minnesota State University-Moorhead where her father taught.

After that, you might say she went “off the beaten path”: 

“I lived for six months in a teardrop camper that I built, travelling around the country doing artist residencies and working as a pizza vendor at music festivals to support myself. I was taking photographs and making work, but mostly I was trying to find my place in the art world.”

Clark went from Minnesota to California to Florida then back north to Michigan and westward to the Pacific Northwest. She was in New York City about to take a job teaching English in China when she got a call from the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art for an internship. That led to a job at the museum in art fabrication and installation, which she did while working to keep her own creative practice alive:

“I was juggling so much and working sometimes 80-hour weeks in order to be able to be gone for a month to do residencies. I was thinking about how unintentionally exclusionary these programs are because of how much time you have to take off from work and the money it takes to live somewhere else. Sometimes you get living quarters and studio space, but sometimes you actually have to pay to attend them.”

Clark knew that if this was a hardship for her, it was nearly impossible for many others, so she created Overland Artworks:

“I wondered what it would be like to have a web-based residency — something that follows more of the psychological aspects of a residency rather than the physical ones. An online residency like Overland holds an artist accountable to give themselves the time and space to create, and it gives the artist affirmation that their work is worth the time and space. It also helps with promotion of the work through social media and the website.”

 While she was in Massachusetts, Clark suffered a debilitating injury and had to move home to live with her parents while she recovered. She says it was time off from everything and a huge identity shift. But after a year, she was ready to get going again by starting grad school in Greensboro:

“I chose the MFA in Studio Arts at UNCG because it’s a very interdisciplinary program. So much of my work in the past was documentary photography and exploring the motivation of people who visit the national parks, their desire to connect with nature or seeking internal transformation. Then I started building objects based around those same themes. I’ve been making a lot of sculptural art lately and that’s something I don’t have any background in at all. I’ve also been reviving the social practice aspect of my work, especially working with Lee Walton.”

Clark has expanded her work with Overland Artworks to include the Shelter Project, which came about during the pandemic lockdown time of “sheltering in place”:

“I felt this urgency not just to be productive during that time but to do things in a way that shifted more toward my social practice. I had been navigating personal things like grad school and health concerns. And I thought okay this pandemic is giving me the chance to slow down and spin myself outward again and revisit this Overland. It wasn’t so much about having all this time at home and I should be producing more work. It was more about putting a label on that work because that can make you feel like you’re in control. Even if things aren’t getting done, you’re dedicating time and attention to your practice’s needs. The ultimate goal of the Shelter Project is to allow artists to reframe their time at home and to build community.”

Grace Clark (’21 MFA Studio Art)

Clark predicts that online residencies like Overland Artworks and the Shelter Project will continue beyond the pandemic:

“I think the future of artist residencies will include both digital and physical and components. People will want to be with others more than ever because we’ve been missing that so much. I’d like to partner with institutions to create more virtual residencies to coexist with and enhance their brick-and-mortar ones. That would create more artist opportunities, and it would help a museum to not have the expense of offering physical space.”

Clark is working on her thesis art show and writing a book about her work. She’ll receive her degree in May. What’s next:

“I’d like for Overland to be a sustaining, full -time job. I want to continue my digital residencies because they offer opportunities to more artists and increase the diversity of artists coming through the pipeline. I want to help people who don’t have a lot of resources to get a leg up in the art world. That line on your resume that you’ve done an artist residency really does propel further opportunities. I’d also like to have a mobile residency that artists can take to places like rural communities, state parks, and urban centers. I’m completely dedicated to making art experiences more flexible and welcoming to more people.”

Grace Clark’s MFA Thesis Exhibition will be at Greensboro Project Space April 6-10. Read more here

Story by Terri W. Relos

Photography provided by Grace Clark

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