Artist Workshops are a great way to immerse your-self into the exploration of methods and mediums.  The locations are endless…Taos, Cumberland Island, Tuscany, Vermont, and Barcelona to name a few.  For some, its first come, for others it is a selective process.  Yolanda was awarded a fellowship to a 4 month workshop in Peter’s Valley with a concentration on textile exploration, a 2 week  long work/study at  Arrowmont in Tennessee and a  couple of weeks in Vancouver for felt classes.  For this post, Yolanda agreed to meet in her studio at the goat farm as my next subject.

The Goat Farm, formerly known as The Murry Mill, is a complex full of mystery and history.  It was originally built as The E. Van Winkle Cotton Gin and Machine works in 1889. Walking the grounds is as the name refers.…a few goats here and there, a guinea hen who thinks she owns the place, chickens, roosters, a wild turkey guarding the studios and walls patiently waiting to speak.  There is humor in the irony that Yolanda has a bird phobia and the largest wild turkey on the planet sits on a ledge outside of the studio and the guinea hen will chase you down if she is so inclined only to squawk and flap.

guinea hen watching.

wild turkey glare

Robert Haywood purchased the site in the early 70’s.   He maintained the integrity of its architecture with little renovation as he began to develop studio spaces for sculptors, musicians, painters and photographers.  In 1979, the property and its buildings were added to the National Register of Historic Places.   Robert died in 2009 and commercialism was predicted for this prime location.  The property sold for 7 million to Anthony Harper and Chris Melhouse who used residential/commercial complex as a back-up plan for Visual and Performing Arts Center.  By 2010, it was confirmed that The Goat Farm would forgo any conventional real estate.  The grounds would remain dedicated to the arts.  The site would host classical and contemporary music concerts, traditional and experimental theatrical performances, film screenings, contemporary dance, an anchor non-profit organization, art exhibitions and artist in residency programs.  Harper is quoted to say “We hope to make a contribution to the human spirit as well as a profit.  Before the Goat Farm, I would have never made that statement.  I never understood what ‘supporting the arts’ or ‘contributing to the human spirit’ really meant.  I’ve had a crash course in that and the reward that comes with it.  I was never a fan of the arts outside of music.  I know its cliché, but art fills a hole in my soul – a hole I never knew I had.”

Going to visit the Goat Farm has an air of the past.  On the right day with no events scheduled, it’s like a ghost town with the tin roofs, crumbling bricks and old machinery.  Yolanda recently acquired this studio but I’ve known her about 16 years and remember the close friendship and laughter she shared with her mom.  During my visit to the studio, I took photos and we talked about our lives.  Yolanda has a beautiful smile that always makes you feel welcome.  Conversation led to the past and I asked how long it had been since her mom died.   While she answered “14 years”, her new countenance seemed to say “yesterday.”

“When I was a child, my mother said to me, “If you become a soldier, you’ll be a general.  If you become a monk, you’ll end up as the Pope.  Instead, I became painter and wound up as Picasso.”  Pablo Picasso Ruiz

the goat farm.


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