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Newcomb Campus Hosts Artist in Residence

Emma Percy is fifth artist to work at AIC for a summer
9/19/2017

Emma Percy teaches paper making to girls from Girls, Inc., a Syracuse-based agency that inspires all girls to be strong, smart, and bold.

"The whole process of making paper from start to finish is entrancing in a way. It seems to be one of the most environmentally friendly art-making processes," said Emma Percy, this year's artist in residence at the Adirondack Interpretive Center (AIC) in Newcomb, New York. "You're using plant materials and water and not much else."

Percy, a Buffalo native, graduated from Alfred University with a bachelor's degree in fine arts in May 2017. "I focused on papermaking, print making and sculpting and finding ways those three things intersect," Percy said.

"All of my work is really grounded in natural materials and imagery that speak to the things I'm trying to talk about," Percy said.

For Percy, that message involves getting people to "consider their relationships with other organisms and other people and slow down - to have more care and tenderness with the world that we live in every day."

" I also try to use my art as a way to educate others about ecology," Percy said.

While Percy creates a variety of projects and a favorite thing to make is zines, self-published booklets. The booklets comprise poetry or text accompanied by Percy's photography. The artist has written a guidebook to help people learn more about the ecology of where they live, and one on how to make seed bombs - small balls of seeds and organic material that are "planted" simply by being tossed onto the ground.

The artist-in-residence program started in 2014. It's part of ESF's Newcomb-based Northern Forest Institute (NFI) and reflects the institute's interdisciplinary approach to conservation education, according to Paul Hai, NFI associate director.

"In addition to increasing interactions between t creative process and the general public, the residency highlights the important history of artists in the Adirondacks," he said.

"I feel like my art envelopes everything else in my life," said Percy, "but I think the things that influence me mostly are a love of being outdoors and love of ecology."

"The books I'm reading usually have an influence on what I do, too." Percy is currently reading "Staying with the Trouble" by Donna J. Haraway. "It's about how we can reconceive how we think about our relationships with other species in light of knowing about climate change and what's going to happen and what is happening. It's given me a lot to think about."

Percy is the fifth artist-in-residence at the AIC. Percy learned about the program while taking an honors class about walking at Alfred in the fall of 2016. "Professors can design classes around something they're passionate about, even if it's not academic," Percy said. The class included a field trip to Newcomb to hike the trails and discuss the relationship between walking and understanding the environment.

It was there that Erin Griffin, senior education specialist, mentioned the artist-in-residence program. "I liked the weekend I spent there and decided to apply," said Percy. "It's been a good way to keep the art process going after graduation."

A typical day in Newcomb for Percy begins early. "Breakfast is at 6:45 which is a little earlier than I'm used to," the artist admitted. From there Percy heads to the studio and works on the project of the day - perhaps a book or making paper. Later in the afternoon, Percy takes a break to hike or "spend time with the other folks who are staying here for the summer."

The residency also includes interacting with visitors to the AIC.

"We do ask the artist be accessible to the public while working along the trails or in the studio," said Hai. "The informal interaction helps promote the artist's work while also potentially sparking an art interest in the visitor."

Percy has conducted a number of workshops including a papermaking class. "That was a lot of fun," Percy said. "It was totally full and everyone had a good time." A bookbinding class in June was also popular, so much so that another one will be held in August.

Percy's work will be featured in an art show on ESF's main campus in Syracuse Oct. 26-28 in conjunction with Alumni and Family Weekend.