In its heyday, during the 1960s and ’70s, the Quarry Hill Creative Center in Rochester had hundreds of artists — and hippies — passing through it each year. Founded in 1946 by Irving Fiske, a writer from New York, and his then-wife, cartoonist Barbara Hall Fiske, Quarry Hill is now 68 years old and considered the oldest alternative living community in Vermont.
Though Quarry Hill is still owned and managed by members of the Fiske family, its numbers have dropped to less than 30 year-round residents, many of whom have long-term leases on parcels of land. The community and artistic aspects of Quarry Hill tapered off over the years, according to Isabella Fiske McFarlin. The daughter of the founders, Fiske McFarlin, 63, is the last of her "blood family" to still reside on the 140-acre property. "Quarry Hill has become more quiet in recent years," she admits.
So when Pim Fakkeldij, a Warren-based artist and graphic designer originally from the Netherlands, approached her with the idea of creating an artist residency program at Quarry Hill, Fiske McFarlin was on board.
"We never had a cut-and-dried program," she says. "[My parents] invited people up who also had artistic and literary bents and let people use the place. They’d ask for a contribution or whatever, but they would let them use the space however they liked. It was all very ad hoc and very relaxed, but people would be doing artistic work everywhere."
The residency program, which Fakkeldij christened Isolated Arts, launches the first week of July with six residents participating in a weeklong pilot project called "United Artists." Three writers and three visual artists will collaborate toward the creation of a single exhibit, with the visual artists interpreting the writers' work in various mediums.
Each Isolated Arts project will have a shared theme or project on which all residents will collaborate, though each will produce individual work in their own mediums. "But I want them not to come and work on their own work, I want them to come out of their comfort zone and work together," explains Fakkeldij, 51. "That’s the difference between [Isolated Arts] and other residencies."
Though he named his program Isolated Arts for its rural setting, Fakkeldij actually hopes the remoteness of the setting will "help people who come to work be social with each other." He's advertising throughout the Northeast, including New York and Boston. Fekkeldij stresses that Quarry Hill provides an affordable and fitting location for the program — the "commune" aspect of the place faded long ago — but he likes that it will be held in a place with an artistic past.
"Quarry Hill started out as a creative community, so it’s great something creative is happening there again," he says. "It comes full circle, I guess."
So far, a range of people has expressed interest, from professional artists to veterans with no formal arts training, Fakkeldij says. A few have already signed up.
Fakkeldij, for his part, moved to Warren from Los Angeles last year. He was part of Quarry Hill's extended community, having visited a few times with friends who used to reside there. "I was getting very allergic in Los Angeles," he says. "I think it was the quality of the air there."
A longtime arts educator, Fakkeldij had been teaching at the Art Institute of California since 2006. Since moving to Vermont, he's supported himself through freelance graphic design work. "Being an educator was a full-on job, so I kind of missed being creative and I missed having a dialogue with other people who like to make stuff," he says. Fakkeldij says he felt personally fulfilled in the creative community he found in the Mad River Valley — and his allergies have cleared up — but wanted to facilitate more of that creative dialogue. His connection to Quarry Hill gave him the opportunity to dream up Isolated Arts.
"When Pim proposed this, I thought, Yeah, that’s a good idea
," recalls Fiske McFarlin. "That’s a way to recharge Quarry Hill as an artistic retreat, because that’s what it was meant to be, that’s what my parents thought it would be. They didn’t plan for an intentional community or a commune or anything.
"I like his idea that we can get people to be aware of Quarry Hill as an artistic entity again, and on a more formal basis," she adds, "and to let people see how vibrant and artistic and functional this place still is."
For more information about Isolated Arts, click here. To inquire about residencies, email firstname.lastname@example.org.