The Rensing Center

This past spring I was fortunate enough to meet Ellen Kochansky, the director of the Rensing Center in Pickens, SC. The Rensing Center is a non-profit artist residency that houses creative individuals in a community open to artistic, environmental, and entrepreneurial fields. The center resides on twenty-seven acres in the Appalachian foothills and also offers an outreach program in Northern Italy.


I was able to take a walking tour on site led by Ellen herself and a current resident, named Matt, who was a poet. The grounds overlook a beautiful open field with cattle and other livestock as well as a hidden trail leading to a waterfall. There are a few housing areas that have a neighboring studio. Each one is full of character, especially a main gathering room with a library of books, a piano, and a house cat named Bob.

Rensing has hosted residents from numerous states and nine different countries. Resident sessions are spring, fall, and winter and last up to three months. In addition to residencies, it also sponsors lectures, exhibitions, school programs, and other opportunities throughout the year.

With a vast alumni base, they recently hosted an exhibition displaying work of past artists. I was most attracted to the works of a textile worker who made pieces out of human hair and a painter who made quick paintings using India ink washes. These works spoke to me in the way they used the body as a found object and capturing every day moments quickly like a camera.



Directed Studies Conclusion

At the beginning of this course, I was experiencing life hardship and just really needed an outlet from it all. It was very refreshing to truly absorb my surroundings through the walks I took, sketches produced, and museum visits. I usually attempt to do most of these things but life and apathy tend to get in the way. The course sort of worked as a type of therapy that forced me to move my feet and pour out all of that energy into making.

It was also very bittersweet to come to an end to my college career but this course was a great launching pad for a new season. It forced me to stay alert to the environment around me, appreciate little moments, and keep me on my toes. It is one thing to say you are going to do things but another to actually make them happen. This is something that I need to work on and it was great to have a training session.

I was able to keep my hands and mind active, but also broaden my horizons in the art community. I had never visited all of the locations I wrote about and was excited to see new works and make connections as well. Since I will be moving to Charleston soon, it was good to more acquainted with the city and discover new spots that I had not yet found or overlooked. The Gibbes Museum was a great experience and I look forward to finding what else Charleston has to offer. The Rensing Center was a nice connection as well, I was able to follow up with a past acquaintance and get a small taste of what an artist residency looks like. I have been considering looking into them for the future so I was pleased to be to get a first hand look and conversation with one. Finding new communities and places such as these will definitely be something that I continue as I enter the adult world of art.

However, I wish to push some aspects that I set out for myself even more. I think that I could push the walks more into a type of scavenger hunt to find more things like Rosalie Gascoigne. I appreciate the “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” mindset and will set out to see what I can find. She created beautiful works in a minimal way and I believe that will be the ultimate task for me because I tend to get caught up into detail and overworking. In past works I have primarily done this through photography by capturing reference photos or images of things or places that interest me or would inspire me for future projects. Having an artifact for a change would be an excellent new venture and using the incorporating the artifacts into art as well.

One challenge that I found with the course was keeping up with a sketchbook. Sketching has been a weak point for me over the years. It has operated primarily as a quick brainstorming session to just get an idea or vision onto paper but never a daily practice. It has never been my strong suit, which is something else I need to work on more because I do think that sketching is a good routine to keep in order to build up practice and keep your mind fresh. In retrospective, although difficult the daily sketching was a good challenge for me and will be another task that I set out to do more often than less. I produced many valuable sketches in this course that I will hold onto in hopes of extending it into a more completed project or help farther develop a new idea. I hoard my sketches and reference images for long periods of time and so far they do end up resurfacing  into my work.

I have learned vastly about myself through this course and also about the world around me. As a creative individual, I carry a mass of thoughts that soon end up on some sort of surface whether it be paper, canvas, wood, glass, or found objects from the environment around me. This has been a great experience for me at the end of my college career, that I think will help carry me into this new season of life and art making. I have discovered new techniques of making, been exposed to new communities, and learned a little bit more about myself in the process. I plan to expand on this experience and utilize it to my advantage by continuing these practices more frequently in order to continue moving my feet, hands, and mind.