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Four artists’ work intermingles in ‘Fugue Vernacular’ at Cheltenham Center for the Arts

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STORY BY TARA LYNN JOHNSON 
For Digital First Media

The sum is greater than the parts in the “Fugue Vernacular” Resident Artists’ Exhibit at the Cheltenham Center for the Arts. It features ceramics, painting, and printmaking by four artists: Francine K. Affourtit, Joan Brown, Stephanie Cayer, and Annie Sarachan. The women have been in residence at the Center during the past year.
In its third year, the Resident Artist Program is a competitive, community-based program that culminates in an exhibition. During the year, the artists have created new works and formed connections with each other. “Four individual artistic vocabularies build a melody that reverberates throughout the exhibition,” organizers say.
Margaret Griffen, executive director, thinks the resident artist program is a good way to use the organization’s amazing space and to bring more attention to it, as well as to help the emerging arts community and mid-career artists who want to try new things. The goal: to give artists the time and space they need “to dream up what’s coming next,” Griffen said, especially since life’s interruptions often cut into time for thinking or experimentation.
An outcome Griffen appreciates fits well with the mission of creating connections both in and out of the Center, which will celebrate its 75th anniversary this year.
“They’ve really created their own community,” she said of the resident artists. “They inspired each other.”

"Swarm" woodcut print on Daitoku, 2015 by Francine K. Affourtit. Photo courtesy of the artist.

“Swarm” woodcut print on Daitoku, 2015 by Francine K. Affourtit.
Photo courtesy of the artist.

And that helped to create a unique exhibit. In the past, resident artists’ works were showcased separately in the year-end exhibit, but since this year’s artists gelled so nicely, the exhibit pieces are intermingled.
The works of artist Francine K. Affourtit, of Philadelphia, are part of the woven whole. The artist, educator, and arts organizer, who earned her BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and her MFA from Tyler School of Art as a Temple University Fellow, wanted to create new works as a resident artist, but was excited by the prospect of being able to engage with the community. Residents can teach a class and also are expected to participate in all Center-sponsored openings and special events.
The residency also offered the chance to learn from other artists. Having limited knowledge of ceramics, for instance, Affourtit was excited to meet residents who work in that medium, she said.
Affourtit, who rethinks printmaking applications to create sculptural installations and unique constructions from woodcuts, didn’t have great expectations for the work she would produce during her time at the Center. Her only goal was to experiment with possibilities, like how large she could make her printmaking work. The residency offered “the time and space to take risks,” she said. “It allows you to grow.”
Griffen believes all of the artists grew and will continue to do so. After their residencies, all four artists will continue to make impactful work.
“They have been able to hone their skills and their thought processes,” she said. “Each one of these artists has something really special about them. I think that all of them are going to have a future.”

IF YOU GO

What: “Fugue Vernacular” Resident Artists’ Exhibit
When: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, through June 7.
Where: Cheltenham Center for the Arts, 439 Ashbourne Road, Cheltenham.
Info.: For information on Affourtit, visit http://www.francinekaffourtit.com/
For information about the Center, call (215) 379-4660 or visit http://www.cheltenhamarts.org/

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