Tiffany Lange

With any great adventure, taking opportunities as they emerge is essential. Following graduation, I found myself transitioning from one full-time job to the next, neglecting my chosen career path as a visual artist and the satisfaction that creating provided for me. With Menomonie giving me everything I needed to succeed in my career, it felt like I was living the same day-to-day lifestyle and I wanted to submerged myself in a new art scene. After making the decision to move to Minneapolis, Minnesota, I decided it was time to apply for an artist residency. I had been searching for a studio space for a few months with no luck, while working on smaller studies in my living room, the idea of going on a residency seemed right. Moments after sending the application to Elsewhere, I began questioning if the opportunity would ever become a reality due to funding. I am a recent graduate with thousands in debt, who just relocated to a new city with her husband, and working in the restaurant industry to cover the bills. As the snow began to melt away and spring approached in Minnesota, I received an email that I had been accepted into the program. As rational thoughts loomed over my head, my heart was screaming to take the opportunity. So, I chose to accept. I communicated with my employers, created a budget, and immediately started a new sketchbook for a fresh start. Knowing the challenges ahead, the organizer in me, made a general proposal of what I wanted to accomplish upon arrival. After a few months of bartending and working overtime at my job downtown, I was ready to go. Filled with different emotions on what the month would bring, I boarded a plane with my PFAFF sewing machine and flew into Denver. This was not only an artist residency for me, but also a trip that I could find personal growth in traveling by myself. The first night in Colorado, I set out to find some delicious pasta at a local Italian restaurant. I sat at the bar, drank my pinot grigio, and ended up getting into a three-hour conversation with a woman who was originally from Wisconsin. With uncertainty in a new city and state, I strangely found comfort quickly in accepting that this was my home for the next month. Little did I know, it was only a preview of what the rest of my journey in Colorado would hold. The next afternoon, I took a much delayed train ride through the Rockies only to see the canyons and mountains in the perfect painter’s paradise, the golden hour. One dip in the hot springs and a short car ride later, I had arrived in Paonia and the infamous pale green building with the ornate window sills appeared through the trees. I quickly met the other residents, got acquainted with “the gingerbread house,” and received a tour of downtown Paonia with the final stop at the tiny taco truck at the end of Grand Avenue. Then I stepped in the studio…An immediate doubt rolled over my head. I left my jobs for a month, my husband and friends back home, and I was in an unfamiliar place with people I did not know. I have had a residency in the past, but never away from where I was living. The pressure of creating was my only job for the month and I was anxious that I was going to disappoint all the people watching from home. About an hour after arrival, I decided to grab fresh canvas, stretch it on the wall, and apply some gesso to remind myself that this was my reward for all the long shifts and nights of bartending. After a few days in Paonia, it felt like everything fell into place. We had completed our interviews with local high school students, did our community artist talks, taken a hip hop class, and got comfortable in our studios. The town felt like it was where I had to be at this particular moment in my life. Maybe it was the vortex, but who knew this small community in the North Fork Valley of Colorado would be so vibrant and welcoming to the artist’s that reside at Elsewhere. The more I was in the studio throughout the day, the more I felt comfortable and accepting of the fact that this was my only job for the next thirty days. I began exploring the idea of being a 90s baby and how that has motivated my current color palette. Influenced by gender roles of the 90s, I have been looking at fashion, toys, and overall being a young girl of the 90s era. Utilizing materials like bias tape, snaps, and Velcro, I realized they would begin to play an important role in what I was making. I was able to update the professional aspects of my practice (i.e. My website, CV, artist statement, and marketing through social media platforms) and confront doubts I had with past work. The days began to pass faster, even in a town where I felt time had slowed down compared to the city life I had been living. As the routine of making became an everyday practice, I was learning the importance of taking breaks from what I was making and giving myself the opportunity to connect with my fellow residents. Right away, our group planned to have weekly family dinners that consisted of showcasing our love of cooking to one another. We out dressed the town of Paonia for Cowboy Goth night at the local watering hole, Linda’s, where the margs are cheaper than the Pinnacle vodka. We drank mimosas while plein air painting for the local Paint Paonia competition. We shared our in-progress work to each other and formed a very supportive community with one another. The memories from my first residency family are something truly special. Reflecting on this experience, I am happy to have found Paonia. Not only did I gain clarity with what I was making, but also with my personal values and the way I think about sustainability in my life. Elsewhere was carefully planned out with the artist in mind. The studio space, the gingerbread house, the people, and the separation from the city in this scenic town helped me find peace again. I found freedom in traveling by myself, comfort in unlikely of places, gained a residency family, and started to rebuild my practice. Paonia had healed the time that was lost the last few years within my artist practice and the residency at Elsewhere was the key. I am grateful to be a part of its history and I hope other artists will discover the beauty that I found this September.