June 16, 2009

A Visual Tour of Jentel: Part One

Welcome to the Jentel Artist Residency in Wyoming...

...also known as "Sandra forces herself to learn how this damned digital camera works."

Here is the home stretch of the long and winding road to Jentel--about 10 miles outside Sheridan, population 10,000. On the drive out one is like to spot deer, elk, cattle, horses, eagles, and prairie dogs.

As one comes up the driveway, the naturally scenic landscape becomes a bit more arranged. The immediate grounds are kept trimmed and gravel-pathed. But out back is "The Thousand Acres," a fenced off property that is perfect for wandering, as long as you don't need a trail. The residents are invited to access this property by using a specially built staircase that hops a fence.

Example of careful arrangement: There are these gorgeous irises everywhere. Probably not native to the plains, but they seem to thrive. The weather this time of year can vary by as much as 50 degrees (!) in a given week.

The first building you might spot is the office, with "J E N T E L" spelled out in big black letters that dance along the log siding. We're given all the privacy we need, and I admit that I welcome having some people who come to work at Jentel each day. Later in the month I'd love to stop in and learn more about the business of managing a colony. In many ways Jentel is unique, because it is the result of a single living benefactor--who lives just down the road.

This building houses the artist studios. There are four visual artists in residence at any given time. They have beds in their studios, and a lot of floor space, but the surfaces and furniture are pretty spartan to make cleaning easier.

...on the other hand, there are only two writers. We hide out in this cozy little cabin next door, brimming with fabric and color.

In so many colonies the door to one's studio is industrial-strength, impenetrable, bland blonde wood. Not here. Just translucent enough for a view to the outside world; just crimson enough to feel curtained from spies.

Every desk that has ever suited me was pulled up to a window. Better yet: these windows can be opened for a proper breeze. For the record, this is about as cluttered as I allow a desk to be. I keep my clutter elsewhere.

Even the shelves--usually a ramshackle hand-me-down at a colony--are engaging to the eye. There is one red wall, one white wall, and thankfully the red wall is at my back when I'm writing. Red is my favorite color, but it is potent; if I was every going to write a horror book, I would do so in an all-red room.

This is where I could happily spend the rest of my life, or at least many a night at Jentel. The chair fully reclines. The stove works year-round, and is controlled by a thermostat particular to my studio. So I don't have to worry about making anyone else overly toasty. Those are my books on the shelf--for once I brought as many prose books as poetry. What I read determines what I write, and I want to push through on some significant writing for Don't Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life while I'm here.

Beyond the window of my studio runs a creek that encircles the residency. It is deep enough and fast enough for tubing, though we'll have to steel ourselves for some icy water. At night the crickets and frogs gather to the creek bank, and I can hear them calling to each other from my studio.

In lieu of garden gnomes, the grounds are dotted with vintage farm implements, each well into the fourteen rainbow shades of oxidation. Just on the other side of this artfully placed plow: The main house! The main house!

Up next: The Main House, a.k.a. the land of a thousand nooks...


Oliver de la Paz said...

Oh man! I'd totally have a tough time writing there . . . I'd be exploring the environs far too much.

Have fun and get stuff done!

Steve Rogers said...

Looks like a really great place. Good luck with your writing! But I agree, I think I would want to wander. And a stream outside your window? I would be thinking trout all day.

Lisa said...

Absolutely lovely, Sandra. And it looks as though you've carved out your writing space and have your head in the game. May it go swiftly...

Brian Brodeur said...

Looks like a gorgeous spot. I hope you can pry your face from the view out your studio window long enough to write more than a blog post. (I'd sure have trouble doing so.) Bon Chance!

What's the application process like at Jentel, from one who was accepted?

Sandra said...

tBrian, I am no authority on the application process for Jentel--I was given the residency through my Poets & Writers Award from last year. But if you get the chance to go, go! It is lovely. Plus, they seem a little low on testosterone...it's all women this month.

Muser said...

Nice post of photos. Good luck with the writing.

Jills said...

Love the red glass in the door and the desk pulled up to the window. Thanks, via Eduardo. Have you tried riding one of the bicycles to Sheridan? Karen Russell has a hilarious story about the time she tried that.