For someone who has facilitated dozens of month-long artist residencies, I am shocked at how quickly my month in Neskaupstaður is flying by! Let me tell you a little bit about the first half of my residency:
My arrival to Iceland was fairly uneventful until my flight from Reykjavik to Egilsstaðir. I’d never flown over the island before, so seeing the Highlands from above was quite the treat despite the heavy cloud-cover. At the Egilsstaðir airport, I was greeted by the lovely Karna Sigurðardóttir, an icelandic filmmaker and project manager extraordinaire. Karna and I had met briefly back in 2013 when we both participated in Explore. Reflect. Respond. during which she, Pete Collard, and Lára Vilbergsdóttir presented their impressive project Designs From Nowhere. As soon as I learned of this project, I knew these were my people. A year later, Pete would come to Green River, Utah, to develop the community project This is Green River with me, and now I'm working alongside Karna in Neskaupstaður.
After a gorgeous drive from Egilsstaðir with Karna and her family (sorry, I didn't take photos... I wanted the memories all for myself), I was greeted by my dear friends Megan Urban and Daniel Byström as well as my soon-to-be friend-for-life Hákon Guðröðarson. Hákon generously treated the Art Attack team to pizza and drinks at Beituskúrinn (aka "The Bait Shack"), a cozy cafe directly on the fjord that would quickly become my second home. Anyone who knows me, knows my ability to make the local coffee shop or bar my second living room. I've already been deemed a bartender-in-residence.
After a delicious meal and despite my jetlag, the whole team dove head-first into preparing Þórsmörk, the visiting artists' housing for the summer. The incredible Þórsmörk house, used mostly as studio space in winter, is run by a local group of artists. Prior to my arrival, Megan had already done an incredible amount of work setting up the house, but there was still much work to be done. We spent multiple days cleaning, setting up the house, hanging black-out blinds, and more. The result is a cozy live/work space that we adore.
Currently in residence at Þórsmörk (in addition to me and Megan) is Sigga Björg, a visual artist that lives and works in Reykjavík, Iceland. Sigga studied at the Glasgow School of Art, has exhibited widely in solo and group exhibitions around the world, and is a friend of Hákon. She's working on a mural on Neskaupstaður's main street at the entrance to the town botanical garden/park. Along with Sigga is her partner Mikael and daughter Clara. It's been a pleasure getting to know them and I've already invited them to Green River.
Megan and I have met with various local groups and leaders both to learn more about the community but also to offer our expertise. To start a new weekly tradition, we hosted Coffee & Waffles at Þórsmörk. We've met with the organizer of and provided a nearly-exhaustive document of ideas for Eistnaflug, an infamous metal music festival that takes place every July in Neskaupstaður. We're planning a design workshop for next week's Neistaflug, the annual local town festival.
Multiple residents have taken us on tours, invited us into their homes to learn more about life in Austurland, and for barbecues in the nearby forest above the avalanche wall. Takk fyrir Ína, Jóna, Sigurður, Danni, Þórður, Hákon, Hafsteinn, Karna, and Nalli! One of the major highlights was visiting the nearby valley/farm with Jóna & Sigurður who even provided classic Iceland treats for the drive. Can you believe this lovely waterfall is just one of many in the area? Anywhere else, this would be a major attraction!
The local music scene has been an unexpected pleasure for me. During my short time here, I've been to four house-shows that have varied drastically: a concert for the older crowd (basically classic British/English easy-listening pop songs with Icelandic lyrics), a hiphop group complete with Icelandic lyrics, a rock/metal band, and an experimental jam session. Most of these bands feature many of the same musicians, a few of whom I've already befriended. My second home, Beituskúrinn, hosts most of the shows, but I've also had the pleasure of going to Garage Party which is literally bands playing in someone's detached car garage to a cul-de-sac full of bundled-up families.
Ah, the pool. I wonder if the folks in Neskaupstaður realize just how lucky they are to have this pool? Probably, but also I think outsiders might be more impressed and appreciative of the view. I'll have to ask around. As someone who lives in a spectacular natural and rural setting, I often wonder how/if people get jaded about the views and nature in general. How could you get bored of this view? Speaking of the pool, I'm off for a soak myself...