Elena Devers has been with The Studios of Key West for more than six years as the deputy director. One of her responsibilities is the Artist in Residence program that brings outside artists to Key West to share their experiences and expertise. Let Elena talk about TSKW and her job in her own words.
Q: What are some of the duties of the deputy director?
A: I am primarily in charge of marketing The Studios, including design and strategy. I also coordinate the residency program, which each year, brings about 30-35 of the most talented artists, musicians, performers, filmmakers and writers from all over the world to spend a month creating new work in Key West.
Also, because we offer so many concerts, exhibitions, and workshops each year, it’s often all hands on deck to make events run smoothly!
Q: How long have you had the position?
A: I’ve been here at The Studios about 6 ½ years.
Q: Are you an artist or patron of the arts?
A: I am an actress, and am thrilled to have just gotten a role in “Leading Ladies” at Waterfront Playhouse in late December. I am also a writer, and so it’s really inspiring to get to meet and work with so many local and residency artists on their own projects each year.
Q: The Studios of Key West has pretty much stepped up to the forefront of the local art community, bringing together painters, sculptures, photographers, musicians and others. How hard is it to organize all this and how many people are involved?
A: Well, it takes a village! We have a small but incredibly hard-working and dedicated staff who oversees day-to-day operations, events, and working to promote and support artists. Behind the scenes, we have an incredible board that helps with all the other things that make TSKW such a dynamic place – like event planning and fundraising.
Q: How many member exhibits are held each year?
A: We have 22 exhibits per year. Two of those are member month-long shows in the main hall of the Armory. TSKW members show work in all mediums.
Q: How does one become a member? Do you have to live in Key West?
A: Not at all! You can live anywhere and still be connected with TSKW by becoming a member. Many members actually visit Key West only once a year but like to stay connected by keeping their membership current. But the majority of our members do live here year round or spend part of the year living here.
Q: The Artists in Residency is an interesting and popular program. Do both the artist and Key West get something from the program?
A: Yes – when artists apply to the program, we ask that they propose a program, concert, or special project in the community in exchange for their residency. Last year, a pianist named Jiayin Shen offered three salon style concerts that were remarkable. We also just worked with Tropic Cinema to show the short films of two filmmakers in residence. Our residency artists have taught workshops, demonstrations – they’ve also had exhibitions.
Key West gets an amazing infusion of energy from the visiting artists: fresh perspectives, new ideas, and the chance to connect with people doing creative work all over the world. The artists, in turn, have the remarkable opportunity to live and work in a beautiful place with such a rich artistic heritage and vibrant artistic atmosphere.
Q: The Studios has some eclectic workshops and programs throughout the year. Can you give us a hint of what’s scheduled for the fall? How is it decided what workshops and programs will be offered?
A: Well, stained glass was such a hit last year we are doing it again this year. We are also thrilled to work with some of the most talented instructors who live here in Key West – Richard Grusin is an actor with an impressive resume of film, theatre and television credits. He’ll teach acting and scene study classes next season. We’ll also work with other wonderful local artists like Roberta Marks, Karen Beauprie, Michael Marrero, Sean Callahan, and more to offer visual arts workshops in many different mediums. Ros Brackenbury also teaches The Artist’s Way each year – which is a great way to get the creative juices flowing.
Q: The concert programs have been very successful. Will that success mean more concerts in the coming season?
A: Of course! Concerts are a really important part of our season. Listening to live music in the historic Armory is an incredible experience. The acoustics are out of this world. We’ve got a really exciting plan for the concert series – and we’ll be announcing all the shows in the fall.
Q: How does The Studios of Key West support itself?
A: TSKW relies on the community – membership, donations and business sponsorships to round out the income we take in from workshops, events, and grants. It takes the generosity and support of the community to manage our facilities, which include residency cottages, a sculpture garden, studios, and two exhibition spaces – and to continually offer stimulating and exciting programs.
We have been very fortunate to have been embraced by Keys’ residents, and now, thanks in part to our residency program, we are really gaining a national and even international reputation as well.
But what really makes the difference for us are donations and support from the individuals, families, and businesses who realize that we are a vital part of the community.