Being in Community

Artist Barrie Kaufman on the value of a residency

Artist Barrie Kaufman in her studio, “Pouring Forth” & “A West Virginia Story”


From Renee Margocee, Executive Director, Tamarack Foundation for the Arts:

As we ease our way out of a year that was unlike any other, we have started dreaming of better, brighter days ahead, and all the wonderful creative things that 2021 might have in store. In the spirit of optimism, this edition showcases the artwork of Barrie Kaufman and explores the value of participating in an artist residency.

What is a residency? An incubator. Permission to focus solely on creative pursuits; and now more than ever, a rejuvenation. They provide artists an opportunity to meet fellow artists: to draw inspiration, share techniques, and expand community.

Read on to find out how the MidAtlantic Arts Foundation’s Creative Fellowships provides support for West Virginia artists to do just that!

Renee Margocee, TFA executive director

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Article by Colleen Anderson
A Thin Blade” by Barrie Kaufman

“I knew I was going to be an artist when I was about seven or eight,” Barrie Kaufman told me recently. “I think my parents knew — I was drawing on the walls and on the papers — they’d better get me signed up somewhere.”

That child grew up to be an award-winning artist whose prints, paintings, and sculptures in ceramic and glass are displayed in museums and galleries throughout the U.S. and internationally. Named West Virginia’s Artist of the Year in 2014, Kaufman has also been an art therapist, an educator, and a mother to three daughters who have all — each in her own fashion — emulated her creative lifestyle.

Barrie’s parents signed her up for art classes at Sunrise Museum in Charleston, where her first art teacher was Mary Black. “We had really good art training when I was growing up. We don’t have as much art education here now, and there’s a lot of really talented kids who need exposure and guidance.”

Such guidance was her passion and vocation for many years. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in art and a master’s degree in art therapy, and her work as an art therapist influenced her own art. “My first 20 years of working, lots of my stories were about abuse that I saw, or poverty. I think I’m a storyteller in my work, wanting to bring awareness to certain stories. And they really are human stories, but also Appalachian stories.”

Another important influence is being in community with other talented artists. That’s one of the reasons she values the fellowships she has received from the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation (MAAF) for residencies at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (VCCA). VCCA maintains two campuses, one in Amherst, VA and one in the small French town of Auvillar; Kaufman has been a fellow at both locations.

They Say It’s In The Pipes” by Barrie Kaufman

“I was fortunate enough to go to their French campus. You’re eligible to apply there if you have been to the Virginia campus. They only take four residents. It’s fabulous. It’s in a little town of 800 people, a medieval town in southwest France. I’m slated to go back there after Corona. I liked it so much I wanted to go back.”

She also raves about her two stays in Virginia, in 2009 and 2019: “VCCA is just an amazing residency. I’ve made friends there that I will keep for life, probably the most creative people that I’ve ever experienced — in all disciplines, in writing, in composing, in every discipline.

“VCCA takes ten visual artists, ten writers, and usually two composers at one time. Even if you do not receive a fellowship, it’s well worth it to pay the minimum of $70 a day to have the experience. And that includes three gourmet meals, a beautiful place to stay, and a magnificent studio — and all the grounds and acres they have, as well as the use of the Sweet Briar College gym and pool. You also have a bed in your studio, so if you want to work all night, you can go to bed in your studio. It really encourages you to have a 24-hour experience.”

Uninterrupted time for creating is not the only benefit, according to Kaufman. “I’ve talked to a lot of artists about the importance of a residency. People say, ‘I’ve got my own studio,’ but it’s not the same. You’re really in community. I find that the camaraderie of being with committed creatives is a jumpstart to your career in so many ways.

“You eat your evening meals together, and lots of people do presentations in the evening, which are optional, but a way to be exposed to top-level creatives in this country and also from other countries. It’s an amazing exchange.”

A residency can be an opportunity for an accomplished artist to experiment with a new medium. “I started out as a printmaker and a painter, and gravitated into sculpture in about 2013,” she said. “I took a few ceramics courses. I move around in mediums a lot, and you need a lot of background and training. It’s trying to find the medium that’s the best vehicle for expressing what I want to express.” During her most recent stay at VCCA, she worked on creating wax models for glass sculpture.

 Kaufman’s current work, in ceramics, is based on forms from nature. The work is informed by her home in West Virginia and also by a recent stay at the Hambidge Center, the country’s oldest residency program, which houses artists in separate dwellings on 600 forested acres in northern Georgia.

“Floodwater 2” by Barrie Kaufman

The beauty and fragility of nature have been the focus of Kaufman’s more recent work. “Living in the West Virginia mountains, we’re isolated, but we’re also surrounded by beautiful nature. And, living through the water crisis here in Charleston, and other environmental problems, my work has reflected some of the parts of West Virginia we’re not so happy about. I have brought that into my work in the last seven years. It’s a strong part of why I make work.”

Kaufman’s enthusiasm about residencies is bolstered by their growing numbers: “It’s really growing in America, the opportunities for residency. There are so many of them. And they want applications from West Virginia. West Virginia is really under-represented.”

The MAAF fellowship awards $3,500 or $1,750 (depending upon the length of stay), paid directly to the art colony, in support of a residency. In addition, MAAF contributes up to $250 in travel expenses for the grantee. Residencies may last from two to six weeks or even longer. The grant is available to artists in Delaware, Maryland, New York, and West Virginia.

VCCA suspended residencies for 2020, and its international residencies remain on hold, but the center plans to reopen its Virginia campus for the Summer 2021 session. The deadline to apply for that session is January 15. For more information and to submit an application, visit


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Be well. Stay Safe. Wear masks. Make art.

Renee Margocee | Executive Director | Tamarack for the Arts