Charlotte Street Foundation identifies the needs and fuels the evolution of an ever-changing multidisciplinary arts ecosystem, acting as its primary provocateur. We cultivate the contemporary, the exceptional, and the unexpected in the practice of artists working in and engaging with the Kansas City Art Community
“What’s a writer need a studio for anyhow?” asked my grand-uncle Fritz after I told him about my acceptance to the Charlotte Street Foundation Studio Residency program. In my day, Fritz said, I would write just about any old place. On the streetcar. In the lunch room. At the precinct. In the back of the pool hall. “My social network was the streets!” he’d exclaim with pride, pounding the dash of his ruinous Winnebago while driving aimlessly through the outer reaches of Wyandotte County.
I think having a studio is great, however, especially on a day like today in which a blanket of snow is covering the roof ledge, creating a more pastoral view and temporarily obscuring all the dead birds. I like having a place to go each day to read, type, pace around or look out the windows. I can see the Power & Light building, the art deco pyramid that a friend took me to the top of (for research purposes) the week before my residency began. I can also see the cranes for the new apartment tower that’s being built down the street. On the top of the crane is an orange-and-white checkered flag that looks a lot like the Ralston Purina logo. No matter how many luxury penthouses the building eventually leases, I will always think of it as a monument to dog food.
My studio itself is filled with a small selection of books, papers, photographs, abstract-impressionistic paintings by my 2-year-old daughter, a cheap laptop computer and about a half-dozen vintage manual typewriters. At some point in 2014, I became intrigued by the compositional possibilities of this elegant — if effectively outmoded — piece of hardware, which I’m convinced has mystical properties. After repainting the studio walls, I started covering them with typewritten passages, some of which are interesting and many of which are terrible.
In October I set up an old garden column as a typewriter pedestal that anyone who walks by is welcome to use. It’s fun to show up and find that someone has left a new line or paragraph the night before. Occasionally I’ll post a new question or prompt for anyone who wants to write but isn’t sure where to begin. If you’re in the Town Pavilion, I encourage you to stop by and make use of it. For everyone else, I hope to hold a public-facing, community-driven typewriter installation/writing event this spring.
As useful as having a studio has been, the proximity to other writers and artists has been perhaps even more valuable. I enjoy hearing the hypnotic metallophones of the Gamelan Genta Kasturi on the other side of the partition, the superb jazz stylings of Shades of Jade down the hall, or getting an occasional sneak preview of dance performances by Jane Gotch and company. Volunteering at David Wayne Reed’s play “Help Yourself” at Paragraph last month prompted a greater interest in the theater, and last week I tried my hand at writing a theater review of KC Rep’s “An Iliad.”
For the open studios event in December, I worked with fellow Charlotte Street Resident writers Mel Neet and Danny Volin to create an “exquisite corpse” booklet consisting of one short story and a sestina, an Italian poetry form in which recurring words cycle through the end of each line. I wrote more about that night on my website, which I posted on every day for 50 days as something of a personal challenge.
I also recently redesigned Kawsmouth, the literary website my wife and I started in 2012 to promote the work of writers and artists in the region. The most recent piece is a review I wrote of fellow resident Rena Detrixhe’s “Make Time,” a solo installation at Plenum Space gallery in the Crossroads. Current and former residents Mel Neet and Will Meier have also recently shared work on the site.
In addition to finding new contributions for Kawsmouth, I hope to begin an interview series with other residents on this blog, so please let me know if you’re interested in discussing your work. I’m also happy to help if anyone needs help writing or proofreading their artist statements, website copy or other projects. Just drop by my studio or send an email to lucashwetzel at gmail dot com.
In the meantime, things are looking up in the Town Pavilion. New carpet has been installed in the studio hallways, and the giant duck someone drew in the dust of my window last year has been mercifully window-washed away. I’m looking forward to warmer weather, typewriting my way through some summer thunderstorms, and breaking up my studio time with some downtown walks and conversations (in honor of my old-fashioned, fictitious uncle Fritz). I hope to see you somewhere along the way.