Chodos’ history with the program is a long one. Chodos attended a papermaking class at Oxbow and fell in love with its community. After graduating from Sarah Lawrence, she moved on to attend graduate school at Chicago Art Institute, an Oxbow affiliate. After graduation, Chodos was offered her position at Oxbow while running a non-profit art gallery in Chicago. She has now worked with the program for over a year. From experiencing the program both as a participant and a facilitator, Chodos is an unabashed Oxbow advocate. Among her favorite aspects of the intensive one to two week art program is its location. The natural environment of the campus, made up of 115 acres of protected old growth forests, provides a more closed-in community and a refreshing retreat for city dwellers.
The work at Oxbow is intense. As Chodos puts it, “You make work from the time you wake up to the time you go to bed.” However, she also notes that the program isn’t too stressful. “You end up feeling very energized,” Chodos says. Another attractive quality of the program is the accepting and creative community. She explains, “In the Oxbow community, social hierarchies kind of dissolve. Students and artists bond through a mutuality of purpose. Creativity is the paramount value.”
Along with studying with various teachers, students at Oxbow get the chance to speak to resident artists one on one, whether in the dining hall or sitting around a campfire. Oxbow is quite literally an artist’s commune.
Now that Chodos works on the administration side of the program, she envies those who attend the school. “It’s always different to implement rather than to enjoy, but I do get to go out there all the time.”
Chodos affectionately remembers the papermaking class that marked the beginning of her love affair with Oxbow. She describes her instructor, Andrea Peterson, as “an amazing human being”. While trying to live off of the grid with her potter husband and two children, Peterson worked in organic paper and soap making. One day, she instructed her students in creating paper from beginning to end. She brought in reeds for the students to beat into a pulp. Using wood and coal from her own farm and an iron cauldron, Peterson and her students worked on the chemical transformations of the fiber. By the end of a long, arduous day, Chodos had made completely usable, organic paper. “When you make something yourself, there is a certain kind of connection with the earth that we lack in everyday existence,” explains Chodos, “It was my ‘ah-ha’ moment.”
To find out more information about the Oxbow program, visit their website.
In the meantime, check out the exhibition in Heimbold before it goes away on April 29th!