Categorized | IN OUR COMMUNITY

MakeRoom Artist Residency welcomes first artists with a ceremony

Posted on 26 March 2018 by calvin

Longfellow resident, creative maker, and Airbnb host Thomas Wegner (featured in the November 2017 Longfellow Nokomis Messenger) held a reception for his first MakeRoom Artist Residency participants on Feb. 24. The idea of offering an artist residency is something that Wegner has dreamed about for years. Artists Keegan Van Gorder and Morgan Vessel were chosen by Wegner from a stack of applicants that stretched from Oakland, CA, to New York City.

Both artists currently live in Philadelphia, PA, and were invited to stay at Wegner’s Longfellow Airbnb at no cost for ten days. They brought many examples of their screen prints and wearable textiles to show and sell, but it was primarily their curiosity about non-traditional ceremonies that fueled their MakeRoom Artist Residency. They came intending to use their time here to meet other creatives in the arts community, to explore local arts resources, and to deepen their own ceremony practice.

The two dozen guests that braved a blizzard to attend Van Gorder and Vessel’s welcoming reception had a chance to experience one of their ceremonies first-hand.

Photo right: Artists Keegan Van Gorder (left), Morgan Vessel (center), and Thomas Wegner (right) at the opening reception of Wegner’s first MakeRoom Artist Residency. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

The artists posed a question, “What have you learned about accepting failure?” and gave the audience a few minutes to respond in writing. Their responses were put in a bucket and, one by one were read out loud by audience members—but not by the writer. There were some additional ceremony elements involving putting socks in funny places and enthusiastic heckling. The result was hilarity and a lightened feeling about failure.

Van Gorder explained, “If this kind of goof-making seems silly, it’s because it is. Creating these non-traditional ceremonies is about formalizing play, valuing nonsense, trusting yourself, and connecting with others. It is not about being rewarded with money, or other conventional measures of success.”

At week’s end, Vessel said, “This was our first real residency experience, and I didn’t know in what ways it would be valuable until I got here. Keegan and I are just getting started formalizing our work around ceremonies, and Thomas is just getting started offering his residency program. We think we were a good fit for each other. The opportunity to focus on growing our art was wonderful.”

“We were able to visit several Minneapolis art-making places,” Van Gorder added, “the Northern Clay Center, an Open Studio event at the Vine Arts Building in Longfellow, the Walker Art Center, the High Point Center for print Making, and the Textile Arts Center.”

“While we were here,” Vessel said, “we came up with an idea for a monthly ceremony subscription through a new Instagram account we created. That felt like a big step. Our platform of ceremonies has the intention of using humor to talk about things in a way that encourages people to be more unguarded, to get ‘unstuck.’ Usually, when friends meet up with each other, it revolves around buying a meal or a drink or going to something that costs money. These ceremonies, they’re about doing something weird and funny—sharing an experience instead of a commodity as a means of connecting. It feels like a nice way to care for people.” To subscribe to their email newsletter, contact Morgan Vessel and Keegan Van Gorder via email at

Wegner launched his second MakeRoom Artist Residency on Sat., Mar. 17th by welcoming Wisconsin sculptor Jordan Jerschele. Themes in Jerschele’s work include psychology, values, mythology, and sometimes draw from the realm of science fiction.

Looking ahead to next year, Wegner will re-open the application process for the MakeRoom Artist Residency in late 2018 on his website www.make– He plans to offer two ten-day residencies again in 2019: the first in February and the second in March. This year he received a total of 34 applications, the applicants ran the gamut from emerging artists to well-established professionals.

“One of the criteria I used for choosing the artists,” he said,”is to ask myself, is their work something I want to see more of in the world?”