Meet Our Spring Intern Artists!

The Intern Artist Program at Franconia is very special program, one that provides incredible opportunities to career-bound artists who exhibit a rare cocktail of  determination, passion, and ambition at an early stage in their practices. Many of these emerging artists hold undergraduate or graduate degrees in art, while others are still in school and return to their programs with a far greater sense of confidence and commitment to making sculpture and taking chances.

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Sarah Langsam, PA, cutting some logs down to size for her sculpture.

The Intern Artist Program is the brainchild of John Hock, co-founder and Artistic Director/CEO, based on pivotal experiences he had as a young artist. The program began with the park’s founding in 1996 and has grown to support more than 200 emerging artists to date. The program was recognized for Program Excellence from the National Foundation for the Advancement in the Arts for the creation of the Intern Artist Program.

This year we awarded 14 competitive internships to applicants from all over the world. Intern Artist are in residence at Franconia for 2 to 3 months over the course of the year, helping maintain the park, staffing events, assisting with guided tours, and teaching workshops, as well as completing a three-dimensional artwork for exhibition in the 30-acre sculpture park. While at Franconia Intern Artists receive room and board, access to equipment and tools, studio space, mentoring, technical assistance, and all the advantages of collaboration in a focused artist community.

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Richelle Soper, NY and Hannah Sawyer, NY plant daylillies and milkweed as part of Franconia’s Earth Day Celebration.

Our first four interns- Sarah Langsam, Hannah Sawyer, Reid Sancken and Richelle Soper- have been here since April 15th, and in their first week experienced a true Minnesota welcome; a snow storm dropped a foot of powder, and 70 degree weather a few days later turned it all to mud and puddles.

Here’s a look at where they’re from, what they’re working on, and what they’re cooking for dinner:

Where did you grow up? Where did you go to school?

Sarah Langsam: I grew up in Northern New Jersey, about a half hour outside of New York City. I got my BFA from the University of Delaware.

Hannah Sawyer: I grew up in Mamaroneck, NY and graduated from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY.

Reid Sancken: I grew up in rural Mackinaw, Illinois but commuted to Normal, IL for much of my schooling. I graduated from Illinois State University in December 2013 and earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Studio Painting.

Richelle Soper: I grew up in Syracuse, New York and attended the State University of New York at Plattsburgh for my undergraduate degree.

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 Richelle Soper, NY, cleans up our communal tool shed, knolling all the way. 

Why did you start making sculpture?

Sarah: In all honesty, I went into school as a visual communications major (graphic design) and hated it and did poorly. I switched to the fine arts major after failing a track class and was late registering for classes. As a result my only option was to take the intro sculpture class, which I found a terrifying thought and did not want to do. I was wrong… once I started to create three dimensionally things clicked.

Hannah: Paper didn’t satisfy me anymore.

Reid: Because painting is hard.

Richelle: It feels good? It’s challenging? Sculpture allows me to use all facets of my body, especially my brain. I’m most happy when I’m stimulated.

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Hannah Sawyer, NY, heating and bending steel to make the armature for her sculpture.

What are you making at Franconia this spring, and how is Franconia challenging, helping you develop, or supporting your process?

Sarah: This spring I am making a large circular structure that will sit upright. Think of it as if you cut a slice of 7ft wide tree trunk and then sat it on its side. The metal armature I hope to build will enable the structure to be anchored to the ground and for me to inlay the two faces with small pieces of wood cut from the rings of many trees and mosaicked back together.

My favorite thing about being here so far is that I learn something new everyday, and that in itself is inspiring. This project is going to require that I work with something less familiar to me, metal which Franconia is giving me the chance to explore. It also gives me the opportunity to better refine both a process and idea that I have begun to explore and to execute it on a larger scale.

Hannah: While I am at Franconia I will be building a location sign, turning the virtual Google icon into its physical form. Franconia is allowing me the opportunity of facilities and space that enable me to built my project as large as I dream up!

Reid: I’m making an installation in the newly acquired woods, something fun and colorful. I work very improvisationally and my ideas change rapidly throughout the entire process; my first completed component is composed of seventeen lifejackets fixed to a tree, it’s an exciting starting point for me and I cannot wait to see where this takes me. Franconia is challenging due to the nature of making work that lives outside; I am forced to consider materials, scale, and space in a way I never have.

Richelle: This is the first time that I have been in an environment where there are only outdoor facilities; it has pushed me to envision something larger. Something larger means more time, and more time means a sole commitment. I secretly have commitment issues- I’m always working on multiple things at once. This is good for me.

I’m using much of the same processes that I have been for the last 6 months or so which is to create a general shape/structure and then layer, layer, layer. I was using burlap and plaster, but this time around I will primarily be using steel and concrete.

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A drawing of the sculpture Sarah intends to make this spring.

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A site specific installation of life jackets in Franconia’s newly acquired woods by Reid Sancken, IL.

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A drawing of the sculpture Hannah intends to build this spring. 

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A tabletop maquette of the sculpture Richelle intends to make this spring at Franconia.

What were you doing before you got here? What’s next?  

Sarah: I was living, making art, and waitressing in Philadelphia. I was a member of an awesome shop called the Philadelphia Sculpture Gym, and also a part of the wood exhibition in their gallery. I installed a permanent sculpture in what was turned  from an abandoned lot into a sculpture park and garden in Northeast Philly while living and working there.

After returning from Franconia I plan to spend the summer living and working at my parents shore house where I can use the large vacant garage space as a personal studio.

Hannah: Most recently I have been freelancing for Anthropologie with the window display team. As for after Franconia, as soon as I leave I will be starting a summer long internship with the Parks and Recreation Department of NYC. I will be working as a member of the arts and antiques department restoring and repairing the permanent collection.

Reid: Looking for jobs, residencies, and exhibition opportunities! I’ll be looking for graduate schools in a few years.

Richelle: I was in Syracuse for the three months leading up to this glorious residency. During that time, I worked at the Everson Museum, curated a group exhibition ‘Discretional Intimacy’ at SPARK Contemporary Art Space and made new work for my solo show ‘Vicissitudes’ at Earlville Opera House.

Basically, I have been making a whole bunch of memories and having a good time.

Come August, I will be attending The University of North Carolina at Greensboro for my MFA in Ceramics/Sculpture.

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Richelle welding the steel armature for her sculpture.

What’s your nickname? Any good stories behind it?

Sarah: No one calls me by any nicknames. However in highschool some friends started calling me slangsam as a joke and it was always my email etc. I recently have shortened this and begun using SLANG as professional name.

Reid: Speedo. I was a wild child; and my Dad likes the song Speedo by the Cadillacs.

Richelle: Most recently ‘tater tot’, ‘T’ or ‘tbag’.

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Reid painting some ceiling fan blades sourced from a nearby yard sale.

If you were a tool, what tool would you be?

Sarah: Impact Driver

Hannah: JIGSAW

Reid: Fire

Richelle:  This is hard. For now I suppose I’m a tool belt.

What will you wear to your first Franconia dance party? What song will you play?

Sarah: Probably a maxi dress, but who knows if things get crayzee I may have to pull out a wig or something fun from that bag of dress up clothing Reid and I found while cleaning the upstairs closet.

Hannah: I will be blasting Missy Elliot FOR SURE and my attire will be bright.

Reid: A trenchcoat. The complete Huey Lewis discography.

 Richelle: My bathrobe. OBVIOUSLY MY BATHROBE. Salt n’ Pepa on everything.

What’s on the menu next time you cook dinner?

Sarah: Obviously if I’m cooking then we are definitely having dessert, often cookies. For actual dinner probably a pasta dish or chicken. One day I also want to bake Challah.

Hannah: Uh-oh, do I have to cook tonight?

Reid: I can’t wait to fire up the grill!

Richelle: Well, that all depends on what is in the fridge.

Franconia’s Intern Artist Program is made possible through generous lead support provided by the Woodbury Foundation, with additional support provided by the Sage Cleveland Foundation and RBC Wealth Management.

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