July 29, 2022
Nestled on Guinea Road in Biddeford Maine, an old Shamrock Farm has found new life as a residency providing artists a space and time for their creative dreaming.
Founded in 1998 by Niki and Jorge Cousineau, Subcircle is a performance and installation company based in Philadelphia. Choreographer and performer Scott McPheeters later joined the Cousineau’s as a co-director, and in 2014 the trio decided it was time to expand their programs. In 2019, they invited their first artists in residence.
We interviewed Niki and Scott to learn more about the programs and what went into making their dream a reality.
Tell us a little bit about the property and what steps you’ve taken to turn it into a residency location.
Niki: “We got the place as is, so there has been a lot of clean-up, dump runs and good will pulls. It was an old milking barn many years ago and had other uses over the years as well. We’ve spent three years cleaning and hosting fundraiser events in the barn.
The house has four bedrooms and one bathroom. It’s one of the oldest houses on the street and was a working farm for many years. The last few years we’ve been fundraising the renovation of this barn because we want it to be a structure that is independent of the house so we can rent to folks for photo shoots, video shoots and so on. We’ve been trying to put two restrooms and a shower downstairs and have a more official entryway that is up to code.
We have quite a large field (about 9 acres in total) around the house and barn too. We love that it’s an open space and we can envision people doing performance work out there.”
Scott: “The first few years of this project definitely included a lot of fundraising. We knew we wanted to have astudio for dance and theaterin the barn. Once we got that, we started a pilot residency in 2019 with close friends who provided us feedback.
We are still working on improvement projects, but we also want to preserve as much of the space as possible and keep it the way it is. We would also like to insulate it one day.”
What is a residency and why is it important to the creative process?
Scott: “A residency, or artist-in-residence program, gives artists the opportunity to live and work outside of their usual environments and provides them with time to reflect, research and produce work.
We’re currently only accepting applications by invitation, but do welcome inquiries. To come here, an artist has to submit a proposal of what they plan to do with their time here.
We understand how the creative process goes and know a project can change. So we are also open to those who submit one proposal but leave here with something entirely different than they anticipated.
Artists have exclusive access to the barn, the house, and any other part of the property during their stay here. Stays can last anywhere from 7-10 days. Some come here free, and a few are sponsored. Those that come for free are required to do some sort of public engagement, like host a workshop or class.
They are welcome to do their public engagement here on the property, but we’ve been doing work to partner with places downtown like Engine so they can have a presence in our communities. The goal is to have artists create here and then do something downtown so it’s more accessible to the general public.
We are always amazed how productive people are when they have the space to just do their art. It’s really integral to the creative process.”
Niki: “A residency is such a gift of space and time where you’re away from your normal life. You can live in the work you’re doing. You don’t have to be making a specific piece either, you can just reflect on your process. It’s a gift to not be in your real life if only for a short while. It can make all the difference in the world to the progress of one's creative endeavors.”
What is the hope for the future of Subcircle?
Niki:"We’d love to have another small building or tiny home on the property that would serve as a place where writers and painters can stay if they don’t need the rest of the space."
Scott: “The idea of this initiative is to have a way for artists to engage in the community and feel valuable. Knowing Biddeford residents can be aware of this as an experience they can be a part of is exciting to us and we look forward to making our presence more known to the community.”
For more information about Subcircle, visit their website: https://bit.ly/3b7ALdU