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  • Writer's pictureBrandon Walley

Harvesting my Fellowship with Kresge Arts in Detroit

With the new class of 2021 Kresge Arts Fellows just announced (congrats all!) I've been reflecting on the past year. Indeed, a very strange and often stressful one for all. This made for a fellowship year that was undoubtedly different from any other, operating largely in isolation from the other fellows, mentors and KAID staff that would have previously shared much more physical space together. But there was also an odd sense of intimacy I felt with the other fellows that choose to partake in the gracious offering Kresge gave us throughout the year. During the fall and winter months, we got to know each other, huddled over our individual screens like it was a warm fire. Spring saw some comrades in their gardens, surrounded by budding life all around, sans other humans. Physically in the same city, but we grew and interacted together through an ether of satellites beaming 1's and 0's that translated to a web of interaction with one other. Now summer has burned away our formal time together, but many fellows are now rooted together as we see how high we collectively can reach.

I'm bringing to the great table some dishes of ideas, growth and gratitude that came from the past year, morsels you may find tasty.

The thought of being in front of the lens instead of behind the camera is somewhat cringey for me, however I'm trilled with the result of this short profile film. During the "Old Normal," Kresge would hire a filmmaker or agency to make very well produced, but pretty straight forward short documentaries on each fellow. However, with this being the "Covid Class," they had the foresight to open up the process and allow the fellows to collaborate as much as they wanted with a filmmaker of their choosing to create any sort of piece they could dream up. I lucked out by choosing Na Frenette, they were so receptive to my ideas and a natural talent as a director. We worked together seamlessly. Do yourself a favor and check out their other stuff and if the need is there for a project, HIRE THEM! Special shout outs to DARKROOM DETROIT for the use of your space, Jack Cronin for the use of your Morse developing tank (I gotta get one of those!) and Robert Sestok for opening up City Sculpture for us to shoot in.

Beyond the awkwardness of being the subject of the film, I decided to up the anxiety by including something I wrote. It is a sort of an Artist Manifesto, or at least the closest I'm willing to commit to one. Like many, and if you have the luxury, hobbies and passions were allowed to develop during lock down. I've alway loved writing but haven't allowed myself the time to indulge, for the most part, since college. And I've NEVER really put my writing out into the world, but this is a force I'm feeling a strong pull to and actively working on. The poem can be hard to focus on in the film, competing with the images, so here it is solo. I'd love to hear any constructive criticism, musings or writing advice!

Willy Nilly / Wabi Sabi

Truth exists in the observation of nature

Everything, devolving toward, evolving from

A transformation of matter

Subtle alchemy of capturing light

At the bardo of nothingness

Truth hides in the inconspicuous cracks

Imperfect, impermanent, yet interconnected

Acceptance of the inevitable

Appreciation of the cosmic order

Coaxed out of mere existence

Slow down, be patient, look closely

Expressions of time frozen

Toward or away from potential

The universe destructs as it constructs

Capture notchings from

Sun, wind, rain, snow, heat and cold

Single frame impressions from

Human, animal, vegetable, spiritual interaction

Just existing possesses an undiminished poise

A testament to histories of use and misuse

A strength of character, a beauty

Projected back at the universe


Up next is the Virtual Artist Salon: Film + Playwriting I took part in with two other amazing artists, playwright Andrew Morton and filmmaker/producer Paige Wood. It's all fantastic, but if you are lacking the time you can jump ahead to my segment around the 54:00 mark.

Again, being in front of the camera is super uncomfortable! Please have grace, I'm working on it. Also, do to the Zoom interface, my prepared video montage during that presentation is a little jerky so I'm including that next if you want to watch a higher quality version. Props to my brother and collaborator Ben Ahlteen for mastering the audio and being the music mastermind in 3 of the film excerpts featured in this montage.

Final thoughts...

An extremely rewarding part of the fellowship was the workshops with Center for Whole Communities, Strategic Planning Partners and Creative Capital. So much useful knowledge was warmly given about making the most of an artists life. And I have so much gratitude to my mentor, Ela Troyano, for pushing me past my comfort zone and giving me the tools and support to grow! I look forward to continuing to learn from you. Special shout out to my Kresge "Buddies" Mike and Andrew! I can't wait to continue our friendship IRL and see all your artistic achievements to come. And of course, a million thanks to Kresge Arts in Detroit for this life changing experience.

If you've made it this far, thank you, your interest means the world to me. If you like, subscribe, and stay tuned for more from my corner of the film and art world. I promise not to flood your inbox and I will restrain from posting until I have something worthy to share.



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