Emily Lanctot in Deruta, Italy.

An Art Nest in Umbria


The accidental connections one makes in life often lead to unexpected, affirmative experiences. For Emily Lanctot '08 BFA, director of NMU’s DeVos Art Museum and art professor, meeting Michelle Grabner and Brad Killam smack dab in the middle of Wisconsin, led to an invitation for a two-week creative residency in the central “green heart” of Italy. The couple are professors and through their Poor Farm art space, sponsor the immersion at the International Center of the Arts in the 15th century hill town of Monte Castello di Vibio, which has welcomed many respected and well-known artists from across the globe. And where this July, Lanctot and about a dozen mostly Midwest artists formed the Nido (nest) group and made work alongside internationally known artists forming the Ucello—robin, dove, swallow, thrush (bird) group.

“These two groups would get together for meals and talk about practices and each other’s research,” said Lanctot. “Plus there were opportunities to learn how to make ink or paint, or do landscape painting. There were field trips to Deruta, known for its decorative pottery, and to Assisi to see Giotto paintings, and to Florence, the center of the medieval and Renaissance art world. It was really stimulating and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It was great to get a view into other people’s practices, learn about food and culture and be steeped in arts and traditions.”

On the last day the groups talked about their work and what influenced it there. Many pieces were exhibited along the village streets and piazza or in the same spot depicted by an artwork.  Lanctot made abstract paintings based on the architecture of the thick-walled village capturing how buildings patterned the light and how sound uniquely vibrated. “I could hear conversations crystal clear because nobody has windows, just shutters,” she said, adding how much she felt part of the protective environment, and that indeed they were living in a giant nest.

Back at NMU she is sharing with students what she has seen first-hand: How varying artists implement a methodology, set parameters, and respond to environments in different ways. “After you’re done with school you no longer have assignments and it can be confounding and makes you feel a little lost. Now I teach that you may have to try different ways, work with others to solve problems, and be present in the moment.”

Photo by Rachel Collier. Emily Lanctot in Deruta, Italy.


Interview and conversation with Hunter Foster, theatre director and actor, at Revolve CC 2021

Creating Marquette’s Future


While people out west want to "Keep Portland Weird," Keith Ellis wants to make sure Marquette stays quirky. “It’s going to keep growing, so let’s grow it with people who contribute to the exciting quirkiness that is Marquette by creating our own identity and promoting our community as a creative culture, with the supports and structure to attract these folks.” That’s why he formed REVOLVE CC, a creative collaborative conference in Marquette, marking its third year. He sees it eventually becoming he U.P.’s South By Southwest.

It was just held in early November and featured Game Designer, Advocate and Futurist Keisha Howard; Visual Artist Christina Mrozik; Lawyer for Creatives and Documentary Producer Seth Polansky; and Native American Author and Visual Artist Chris Stark; as well as breakout sessions on the nuts and bolts of forming a successful creative career or enterprise. Ellis stressed they also build in lots of opportunities for spontaneous meetings, and break down creative silos and egos.

“We are collaborating across a variety of disciplines, moving away from the rock star, diva aspect, and bringing in those behind the scenes instead of the front people.” That’s not to say small potatoes, by any means. The first conference in 2019 featured Nirvana producer Steve Albini. “Being able to be two degrees from Kurt Cobain was magical,” Ellis recalled. The editor of “Dead Pool,” Vashi Nedomansky, also presented.

Although Ellis is a graphic design professor at NMU and three of REVOLVE’s four board members, Shana Baril '09 BS, Ashley Saari '14 BFA and Madison Eazsol '20 BFA are alumni, the organization is committed to enhancing the Marquette community as a whole, by attracting talent, jobs and opportunities. He noted that a freelance book editor landed six clients by attending one conference.

“The point is to help people find their own niche and be inspired. The creative industry has an imaging problem, like there are no jobs. In truth, everything you touch that isn’t nature is touched by an artist. The skill set that is broadly creative is integral to how we function as a society."

The best way to create a strong community is to create an interweave. The most amazing things happen when you combine, say biology and sculpture

Photo: Interview and conversation with Hunter Foster, theatre director and actor, at Revolve CC 2021.