HT: Did you ever think you'd start a residency program for artists?
ER: No, I never thought I would. However, in retrospect, I have always enjoyed doing studio visits with you. The smell of oil paint and plaster reminds me of a classroom and being in close proximity to creativity. STONELEAF itself, and the idea of turning the barns into studios, was something I immediately wanted to do—after you told me we were doing it!!!!
We’re sitting here at STONELEAF, a little more than a year after we purchased the property, and looking back on the work we have done. How does it compare to the initial idea you had for the space?
HT: I think it's slowly merging into the vision I had. As time goes on, there's so much more we can do with the place, like activating the land with sculpture and more barns and accommodation for artists and guests. We were so lucky to get the place—as it is perfect for a residency—so it's great to see it come alive with our minor renovations. I can't wait for the artists to arrive later this year for a full residency program and to welcome visitors to the open studios.
What have you learned from sharing your home with artists?
ER: I have learned, much to my amusement and surprise, that I really enjoy the different personalities of the artists and talking to them about all kinds of things that have nothing to do with art. I thought it was going to be art, art, art all the time and it’s not. I like that.
Why did you/we decide to focus on women artists this year?
HT: It just made sense in this current climate. It's true that women artists aren't shown as much and aren’t as 'successful' as men, and that's not right. We're doing a small part in supporting them. I'd love for there to be a time when men and women artists are distinguished by their practices alone, but we're not there yet.
You run your own business, designing and producing art and design fairs. Do you see/feel any inequality there?
ER: That’s tricky: at the management level, no. Women run most of the fairs. At the ownership level, or the corporate executive level, women are still very much a minority. Representation at the fairs reflects the overall art world, so I would say women are underrepresented there. In my own company, SPACE, I am very lucky to have a management team comprised of an incredible group of smart, hardworking, and talented women that make the company function day in and day out, in the office and around the world.
Do you have a favorite place at STONELEAF and why?
HT: It’s really difficult to pick one favorite place, as I love all of it. I fell in love with an amalgamation of things that make STONELEAF so special: the land, the history, the animals! My favorite thing is to watch how people react to being at STONELEAF and what they gravitate towards as they explore and discover new things.
I’m going to ask you the same question... and I’m guessing for you, it’s the walnut trees?
ER: The walnut trees are work! No, my favorite place is the pond, with your father, fishing just before dusk.
Has any of the work created at STONELEAF caused you to look at the space differently? Or, alternatively, has the space caused you to look at the work differently?
HT: It hasn't made me look at the work differently, but it's made me look at artists, their process, and what they need maybe not differently, but with open eyes. I love artists (friends, family, and visitors!) being at STONELEAF because that's when it really comes alive and it becomes what it's supposed to be. I'm sure it will take many, many forms and I'm excited we will be there for all the changes.
What are you dreams for STONELEAF for the next year and maybe the next five to ten years?
ER: I would love to see the entire property activated and see how different artists engage the spaces and land. Also, I am very interested in working with you to develop events, lectures, and maybe a speaker series. Ultimately, I am looking forward to the unknown and watching STONELEAF evolve and change over time.
What about you?
HT: This year I want to plant more vegetables and cook from the produce we harvest. The dream is that one day we have guest chefs who will cook from the land. Wellness is a component that I think will play a part in how STONELEAF evolves. And, I feel the same as you—there’s so much potential.... a sculpture park, workshops, events, and more artists of course! I want the place to come alive with activity and growth, continuing to be a connective and supportive place where ideas are exchanged and nourished.
APPLY TO the 2018 STONELEAF RESIDENCy, clickHERE. (note: deadline Feb 28, 2018)
HELEN TOOMER is Co-Founder and Artistic Director of STONELEAF RETREAT. She is an Adjunct Professor at Sotheby's Institute for Art, teaching Social Media and Marketing of the Arts and The Business of Art Fairs as part of the Art Business Masters program. Helen is the former Director of PULSE Contemporary Art Fair, which she lead for three and a half years and originated the year-round events initiative PULSE360. Prior to this, Helen was the Director of Collective Design Fair which she helped launch in New York in 2013. Helen has guest lectured at New York Academy of the Arts, Bournemouth Arts University, Pratt Institute and Christie's Education, taken part in panel discussions with The Barnes Foundation, 21c Museum Hotel Group, Soho House, NeueHouse and Artsy, and previously taught at the Fashion Institute of Technology. In 2011 she co-founded and managed a contemporary art gallery, toomer labzda, which focused on emerging artists, in the Lower East Side of New York and closed in 2013. Toomer graduated with a Bachelors in Fine Arts from the Arts institute of Bournemouth, England.
ERIC ROMANO is Co-Founder of STONELEAF RETREAT. He is the owner and founder of SPACE design + production and has designed and produced over 100 art and design fairs in the US and Europe including; Collective Design Fair, PULSE Contemporary Art Fair, ARCOmadrid and Outsider Art Fair. He received an M.Sc and a B.A. from Boston University.
Leah Dixon Installation & Mia Taylor Works on Paper, STONELEAF RESIDENCY 2017