Writer Natalie Edwards wants you to come to her party. A development associate for Ox-Bow School of Art and Artist's Residency, Edwards is on the cusp of all things hip and current—case in point, The Rumpus named her one of the funniest women of McSweeney’s-- but the thing she cares most about was founded in 1901.
“Ox-Bow” she says was established “by artists from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago who wanted to create a place to make work in an environment that was both beautiful naturally, but also one that could support their mutuality of purpose as creative thinkers and makers.” Since its inception, Ox-bow has continued to compel artists and foster their work, and now the artist’s residency needs you. Edwards spoke with Our Town about the Ox-Bow Winter Benefit and what it’s like to be a writer in Chicago.
Our Town What’s so special about Ox-Bow?
Natalie Edwards The artists that participate in Ox-Bow often remark on how productive their time was at Ox-Bow, both in terms of the amount of work they made there, but also in terms of how the atmosphere at Ox-Bow recharges them with fresh energy, ideas, and connections to bring back to the studio after they've left. Most artists spend about one or two weeks at Ox-Bow, but the impact of the experience influences the work that they make for a long time after.
OT How did you become involved?
NE I was a student at Ox-Bow for several years. I took a painting class where I learned that painting is difficult and I am terrible at it. I took a printmaking class where I learned that printmaking is difficult and I'm ok at it, and then I took a playwriting class with the amazing Beau O'reilly where I learned that writing is the best thing ever, and then I learned that producing a play is the most difficult thing I could ever do. Those classes made such a tremendous impact on my personal and artistic life, that when a job popped up there I hopped on it. It's nice to work for a place you care about.
OT Chicago is bloated with gala events. Why is this one important?
NE Well, I wouldn't really call this a gala, because that sounds stuffy. I would call it an awesome art show where you can actually take the art home. I would also call it a super fun dance party. All proceeds from the event go to keeping the place running and in good shape. It also goes to our artist-in-residence program and scholarships and other ways that we can help artists enrich their lives. I think Jerry Saltz said this, and I'm going to paraphrase it terribly, but here goes: even if artists don't become all famous and rich, isn't it good to have creative thinkers out there in the world solving problems in inventive ways? Yes. The answer is obviously yes.
OT What are you most excited about?
NE I'm excited about seeing who takes what home from the auction. I'm always surprised to see what people scramble over. I'm also really excited about drinking the cocktails that City Provisions is providing. We also have beer from Half Acre--they are consistently amazing--and we have wine from this great winery in Michigan called Good Harbor. So I'm excited that I get to be grateful for all these generous people coming together to make this event awesome.
OT The live auction features works by prominent Chicago artists. How did you get them to donate?
NE The thing is--people love Ox-Bow. I'm a writer and not a visual artist, so they aren't donating because they know me through my presence in the art scene. I don't have one. Ox-Bow makes a very personal impact on the lives of artists, and they want to give back. All of the artists in the auction have some sort of relationship with Ox-Bow. They aren't random people.
OT What are the Chicago writing community’s strengths and weaknesses?
NE I think that the greatest thing about being a writer in Chicago is the sense of community. Writing can feel stupid sometimes. Like you're typing words and sending them into a vacuum. But here, I feel supported. I get excited to see what other people are working on, and people ask me what I'm doing and if they can read it. I like to read what my peers write. We like each other, even if we do poke fun. The flip-side of that is that we can get a little inside-jokey and maybe that can alienate non-writers, particularly at readings or performances.
OT What are you working on right now?
NE Right now I'm working on getting photos of my new cat from the perfect angle. I'm also writing short stories like it's my job, and trying to arrange them so that they make sense together. My attention span can only handle short stories right now. Oh, I'm also throwing a giant party for Ox-Bow! So I've been working on that.
The Ox-Bow WInter Benefit is Friday February 24th at 6:30 p.m. Purchase tickets here.
A writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum freelances for a number of web sites and print publications. Her debut novel, “Herself When She’s Missing," (Soft Skull press) is available for pre-order here. She is also a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago’s StoryStudio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She's kind of looking forward to it actually.
IMPORTANT: the official Our Town site doesn't support comments. Join in the conversation by following facebook.com/OurTownBlog.ChicagoSunTimes and Sarah on Twitter: @SarahTerez and Facebook.