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Summer Residency

Island artist’s report from Ontario’s Spark Box Studio

by Monica Lacey

Monica LaceyFor the month of July this past summer, I was accepted to be an artist-in-residence at Spark Box Studio, a printmaking studio near Picton, Ontario in Prince Edward County. I had my own studio in the printmaking building, and a room in the owners’ house.

I graduated in June from the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design after three years of intensive study in the Textiles and Photography studios. In 2010 I was awarded a W. Garfield Weston Award, Canada’s largest scholarship for college study, which paid for my residency as a summer project.

A residency is basically a place where artists can go to have studio space and glorious, uninterrupted time to work on their art. Every residency is unique and has different facilities available. Some have a fee, whereas others pay a stipend, and sometimes living quarters are also provided. Some are discipline-specific, and others welcome artists in any discipline. They tend to range in length from one week to two years, and usually you select your residency based on the project you have in mind. Normally you’re asked to send your CV, project proposal, and a portfolio. A residency can be a nourishing retreat and facilitate the rapid growth of a project.

My focus at Spark Box was making photo-etchings using my photographs and Solar Plates. These plates were developed by Dan Welden and are non-toxic: they expose in sunlight and etch in water (as opposed to the traditional acid). I began printmaking at NBCCD and was inspired to follow non-toxic practices by the work of Debra Percival, Wendy Mcmillan, and the Sunbury Shores Printshop in New Brunswick. A great deal of my learning was through the generous international community of printmakers who share their skills and knowledge online.

Chrissy Poitras and Kyle Topping, the owners of Spark Box, are both artists themselves. In addition to running their studio and residency, they publish Square 2, a quarterly art magazine, teach at Loyalist College, and maintain an extensive database of resources for artists at—and their residency attracts artists from all over the world.  My fellow residents were Cynthia from Shanghai, who does precise pencil crayon drawings that reference pop culture and advertising; Jessica from Atlanta, who was preserving found objects in vegetable oil; and Alison from Toronto, who did large-scale watercolour paintings of quilt patterns. The diversity of people and artistic styles contributed to an already inspiring and engaging environment.

Doing a residency was, for me, both a wonderful transition from student life into professional studio practice, and an opportunity to work deeply with a single process and to explore the possibilities within a medium. Thanks to the concrete floor in my studio, I survived the Ontario heat wave, and thanks to the heat wave, I managed to be prolific and still justify a few trips to the beach.

For more info on creative residencies around the world, visit and for more about me and my work please visit and my blog at

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