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Richard Curtis, Thomas University Assistant Professor of Art, shares some of his artwork that he created while in Soltau, Germany, in June 2018 as the city’s artist-in-residence.

 

A common thread:

TU art professor participates in German artist-in-residence program

Richard Curtis, an assistant professor of Art at Thomas University, enjoys getting to know people and experiencing different cultures. Those adventures then translate into his artwork that explores the beauty of a place and the uniqueness of the people who live there.

“It was a great opportunity to get involved in a location I’ve never been to before,” Curtis said. “I enjoy getting immersed into an environment and sort of allowing my work to be influenced by that. That was the challenge that I wanted to set for myself and also to see what creatively came out of that.”

From June 10 to June 30, Curtis lived in the town of Soltau in Lower Saxony, Germany, where he was the city-funded artist-in-residence. Curtis used his skills to capture colorful snapshots of the city and countryside while also learning about new art forms specific to the region. He had an apartment above the city’s library. At the end of the program, Curtis exhibited his work and presented a lecture about it.

“I did a project where I looked at the local landscapes and cityscapes and people and did a series of drawings based on that,” he said.

Curtis heard about the program from some German friends whose brother was one of the founders of the residency program in Soltau about 25 years ago. They encouraged him to apply for the opportunity. Curtis was one of the first international artists selected. Previously mostly German artists, writers and musicians participated in the residency.

While in Soltau, Curtis discovered the Felto Museum, where he learned about the importance of felt in the region where it was produced and turned into hats, clothing, toys and decorations. Curtis attended a workshop at the Felto Museum and learned techniques for creating artwork of felt.

Curtis stepped into the classroom at Soltau Secondary School, where he was a guest lecturer in an art class for students who were refugees from various countries. The students have been painting a mural during the year. 

He also discovered a working letterpress club working in the basement of a government building. The members were eager to preserve the historic art form. (Curtis previously completed an internship in letterpress in Nashville, Tennessee, in the summer of 2017.)

Curtis’ students at TU will benefit from his summer adventure. He plans to share his experience with them and some of the artwork he created while in Soltau.

“It may not show up directly in my classroom immediately but just kind of influence the way I’ve been working,” Curtis said, adding that he may lead students in his studio class in a double-exposure type of painting like he did in Soltau.

In the letterpress operation, Curtis created a flyer with the words “Roter Faden,” translated as the common thread or red thread. He paired the phrase with a paraphrased quote from German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, “I’m searching for what holds the world together.” Curtis considered that a fitting description of his work. In his rope of felt that he made at the Felto Museum, he made a segment from red wool and explained the “common thread” that unites all humans during his lecture in Soltau.

“If you get the opportunity to go to a different country, take it no matter what,” Curtis said. “I think for me what was most rewarding was just finding those opportunities to engage with the community. I could’ve just holed up in my little apartment and done drawings or whatever by myself. Actually doing the work with the community and with the kids and whoever was the most rewarding because you were not only learning something new like felting…you form relationships. I’m still in touch with those folks and hope to possibly return or work with them, collaborate with them virtually or long distance.”

 

View the video of Prof. Curtis talking about his experience as the artist-in-residence in Soltau.

View the video of Prof. Curtis sharing artwork he created while in Soltau.

Richard Curtis (second from left), Thomas University Assistant Professor of Art, joins an art class of refugee students in Soltau, Germany, as they paint a mural. Curtis was in Soltau in June 2018 as the city’s artist-in-residence.

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