Alum-run “No Bullshit” Space To Offer Alternative, Affordable Artist and Music Residencies
The greatest art and music residency that you haven’t heard of yet is in a town even smaller than Saugatuck, Michigan (the home to SAIC’s partner institution, Ox-Bow).
Rose Raft Residency of New Douglas, Illinois, run by Jessee Crane (BFA 2010) and her partner and bandmate Philip Lesicko of The Funs, has been two years in the making. The alternative, and in their words, “No Bullshit Residency” will ultimately include facilities for blacksmithing, metal work, puppetry, screen printing and painting as well as a foundry and a full-fledged recording studio.
Rose Raft is located in the town of a little over one hundred residents and is a semi-operational family funeral home and estate dating back to 1872 that is owned by the Lesicko family. Located right on Highway 55 between Chicago and St. Louis, the Residency has already hosted bands and artists from across the country. According to neighbors, Crane and Lesicko are the “rock and roll kids fixing up the house next door,” but the two are serious about their mission to create a one-of-a-kind space for artists and musicians. “Residencies are tough for working artists because on top of paying the class expenses, you have to pay to get there and you have to take the time off work, too,” Crane explained in an interview last fall. “It’s just not attainable for artists with families or creators who can’t take the time away from full time jobs. This includes most of the makers I know.”
Crane says that the idea for the Rose Raft Residency came from her being tired of finding retreats that cost upwards of $3,000 for a class. “We are in the process of creating a space that is more accessible to struggling artists, which is almost every artist I know. It would be especially manageable for those located in the Midwest because Megabus and Amtrak both have stops nearby, which makes us accessible and affordable to more people. It’s super ambitious, but I want to keep this very inexpensive and also sustain an array of practices.”
So far, those who have come to stay at the in-progress space have heard about it by word of mouth thanks to Crane and Lesicko touring nationally with their band, The Funs. The couple has hosted up to ten musicians at a time, from members of bands traveling on tour such as NE-HI and Earring to individuals interested in helping renovate the space, such as SAIC alumnus (and current SAIC Wood and Metal Instructional Shops Manager) Ryan Chorbagian (BFA 2011). Visitors often stay for just a few days, but they hope to invite people for more extended residencies as they prepare boarding spaces in the house.
Lesicko, whose grandparents bought the home is 1961, says that “the house is part of a real small town, but it’s cool because we aren’t too far from St. Louis, about 45 minutes. So, visiting artists would have the option of taking advantage of the art scene there.” “It’s perfect,” he continues, “because almost all of St. Louis’s museums are free. There’s the Saint Louis Art Museum, Contemporary Art Museum, and The Pulitzer Foundation For The Arts. And, City Museum, designed by artist Bob Cassilly, is one the greatest places on the planet.”
F Newsmagazine recently spoke with Crane and Lesicko for an update on the project. They have now completed, and have appointments on the books, for the first-story recording studio called Mysstic Vappes that includes a vintage setup with all-analog live recordings. The studio is a side project of the record label Manic Static, run by Lesicko. The rest of the renovations to the estate are still under way, which will include the rest of the two-story house to accommodate resident artists and the barn, which includes a puppetry theater and will be home to the metal working and screen-printing studios. “I really get a weird sense of cleaning out someone else’s life to make way for our life,” Lesicko says regarding the process of transforming his family home.
When it comes to the future of the Rose Raft and what it could become, Crane, quoting her father, sums it up: “Don’t talk about what you will do. You are already doing it right now.”
Visit the Rose Raft Website at roseraft.com for renovation updates and to learn more about visiting the space. Also, look out for the launch of a crowdsourced fundraiser for the space to come later this year.