From Shirley Serviss, Artist-in-Residence

By Shirley Serviss. Shirley and Sande Waters are The Haven’s 2012 artists-in-residence.

Monday, September 9

I’ll be at The Haven a week from today and I’m in panic mode. I’m frantically marking the first assignments for the course I am teaching for Grant MacEwan University-all 49 of them. I still have to finish preparing my lectures for this week. It’s a course I’ve never taught before so I can’t just reuse materials or wing it. I teach again the day after I get home so hope to have that session prepared before I go as well.

Besides teaching three days this week, I spend two days at my part-time job as a literary Artist on the Wards for the Friends of University Hospitals. I will be giving a talk about our program while I’m at the Haven. I’ll also be facilitating a workshop on memoir. The materials I need to bring for that workshop are either in one of the piles of papers on the chairs in my office or maybe, if I’m lucky, in my filing cabinet.

I’m the president of an organization that is planning to build a facility in downtown Edmonton that will house arts organizations and also contain studios and live/work spaces for artists of all ages, family configurations, income levels and artistic disciplines. We have been working with a consultant and an architectural firm on the first phase of the feasibility study which we will be presenting to the City by the end of the month. I have to proofread the document one more time and meet with our consultant to revise the concluding summary.

I say all this not to bore you with my To Do list, but to illustrate the benefit of artist residencies and retreats. They allow artists to put aside all the day-to-day claims on their time and focus on their art. Perhaps some artists are better able to carve out such spaces in their regular lives. Perhaps they are able to limit their volunteer commitments and social interactions. Perhaps they don’t have to earn an income to support themselves. I’m not one of those artists. Having a dedicated period of time away from the distractions of my home allows me to immerse myself in my writing.

The residency at The Haven will give me the opportunity to forget about my students, the housing project, and the hospital and focus on a manuscript that has been sitting in draft form in a box for far too long. Being on the island will give me the distance I need to give me perspective on a prairie pilgrimage. Being in a new and unfamiliar place will give me a chance to reflect on my life when I’m not totally immersed in it.

I can hardly wait.

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