"I envision myself as a dragon protecting golden eggs in a cave," says Anya Klapischak.
by Jenn McKee
From the April, 2017 issue
Klapischak, twenty-five, felt frustrated by the local art scene after earning a BFA from the U-M Stamps School of Art & Design in 2015. So Klapischak, who works as a server at the Ravens Club and Old Town Tavern, founded her own underground art "happening/residency." It's called the Hosting, because she hosts the event in her apartment in a house on N. State St.
"Everybody leaves Ann Arbor," says Klapischak, who grew up in New Jersey and studied inter-arts performance at U-M. "If you're an artist, and you don't move to L.A. or New York, a lot of people leave to go to Detroit.
"There's a big exodus right now. Ann Arbor isn't cool anymore, because nobody can afford it, which is sad to see. There are a handful of grassroots places like Arbor Vitae and Canterbury House, but otherwise, speaking to my demographic, there isn't a whole lot going on. For a long time, I thought I'd have to leave here to make my dreams come true."
But a funny thing happened while Klapischak waited tables: she talked with locals fighting to save historic buildings and served the mayor lunch and generally got to know the townies.
"Only now, looking back, have I realized that these last five years, I've been doing the work of making myself part of the community," says Klapischak. "I don't think a lot of people who come here to go to school ever get that feeling of belonging. Ann Arbor's a transitory place, and it always will be, but I finally realized that this is my place."
To fill the gap she saw in the local art scene, Klapischak curated the Hosting's first art show on December 15. With live performances and works by multiple artists displayed in every room in her apartment--living room, bedroom, small bathroom, and modest kitchen--the show drew about 100 attendees throughout the evening.
The first people to arrive were Klapischak's friends and colleagues, but "as the night went on,
more and more people I'd never met before came in," she says. "And that was my objective for the first show. To get people through the door ... so more and more people will go past this place and think, 'That's an art space. People are making things in there.' By the end of the night, I was introduced to people who live down the street, and they said, 'We saw all these people coming in, and we were curious.' So there was a community block party aspect to it ... People are looking for that kind of experience. It's not beer pong on the porch. It's a chance for community members to engage with rigorous art by local artists."
Klapischak then moved into the next phase of her dream: a residency by a group that goes by the name Call Your Mom. The residency involved providing workspace for the group to develop projects; documentation, in the form of photos and video as they worked; and a curated critique. At the Hosting's second show, "This Isn't Going to Be Easy: A Show About Hard Work," Call Your Mom presented a performance piece.
That show also featured jewelry, woodcuts and prints; a large painting (above the natural object that inspired it); a photo series; large, painted ceramic sculptures; a rototiller mounted on a table in Klapischak's kitchen (with rototiller soundtrack); a .gif image projected onto the shower curtain; and a connected series of framed paintings (marked "sold"). The turnout was slightly smaller than the first show, according to Klapischak, but she's still experimenting, trying to see how "hands-off" she should be, and how to present the live performances in a way that doesn't overwhelm the rest of the art.
"The purpose of the Hosting is to talk and get people together, like what a salon used to do at the turn of the [twentieth] century," she says. "That's how culture's created, and how we can ensure that Ann Arbor maintains a badass creative culture."
The inspiration for the Hosting came, in part, from her life-altering past experience at the National Theatre Institute in Waterford, Connecticut. Klapischak's larger, long-term ambitions for the Hosting include acquiring a plot of semi-rural land for artist retreats.
But for now, she's starting small, up against financial and space constraints. "I'm getting no financial support from my family or anybody else," she says. "I'm a waitress, and this is what I have to do to make this happen." She also notes that to live as she does in Ann Arbor and host art shows, she'd have to get a curatorial position that paid close to $100,000 a year in a city like New York or L.A.--and "that's just not going to happen."
Klapischak's ultimate dream, though, is to provide the space and means for local artists to pursue their dream projects. To get there, she'll have to find a way past her discomfort in asking potential donors for support.
"I didn't wake up one day and fearlessly do this thing," Klapischak says. "It took a lot of unpacking on my part, and a lot of support from my life coach. I'm hoping, on an informal level, to do that same kind of thing for artists. That's really my goal." And as Klapischak sees it, artists wouldn't be the sole beneficiaries.
"People are hungry for communal experiences, and an artistic community that's accessible to all of us," she says. "That was clear at the first show, when this little apartment was at capacity all night."
This article has been edited since it appeared in the April 2015 Ann Arbor Observer. The year of Klakischak's U-M graduation has been corrected, and the description of the group Call Your Mom corrected.
[Originally published in April, 2017.]
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