McColl Center for Art + Innovation

Residency experience at McColl Center for Art + Innovation in Charlotte, United States.

by Agnes Yombwe

"After being in residence at McColl Center for Visual Art, I see myself and my future in an entirely new light. Before, I was an artist struggling to share my expertise with my students and other young artists in Botswana, and throughout southern Africa. Now I see myself first and foremost as a professional artist, and one who is a part of a much larger international arts community. Despite the hardships I continue to face daily, I now have hope that my voice as an artist can make a difference.
This is a major change for me. Through the residency, I met so many other artists. Artists such as Todd and Judy McKie will remain friends forever. They, and many other artists, administrators, board members, gallery owners, and acquaintances keep in touch with me, and respect my work. I feel connected in a way I never felt before.
Perhaps, most importantly, the residency gave me time, space, and materials—three essential ingredients in the life of an artist. As a teacher, mother, and resident of Botswana, I’ve never had my own studio before; I’ve never had large blocks of dedicated time to do my artwork, and I’ve certainly never had access to so many wonderful materials and supplies! I was able to use new equipment, to learn new techniques (especially in printing), to experiment with new materials, and see new art. My bags were bursting with supplies and equipment upon returning home—material that one cannot buy in Botswana, or that are prohibitively expensive. Just seeing so many original works of art in museums and galleries was a new and mind-opening experience for me!
The staff and facilities at the Center were outstanding. The open houses and ongoing exhibitions enabled me to meet new people and make invaluable connections. A local gallery in Charlotte expressed an interest in my work and has borrowed a few pieces to exhibit, and hopefully, sell. I, also, managed to sell a few pieces of my art through the open studios, enabling me to make a postcard from one of my pieces. This was good publicity for my work, and some of the postcards are now on sale in Zambia and Botswana.
The residency gave me time to think, to reflect, to meditate, and to plan a future for myself as an artist—a future that is bigger than my immediate life as a teacher. The financial stability that the residency afforded me and my family is a key factor; without this, I could not begin to think beyond the daily needs of the family to the future role I can and will play as an artist. Now I have so much more to share with other artists in the southern Africa region. I cannot express enough thanks to the McColl Center for their support of my residency."

Agnes Yombwe testimonial was an Artist-in-Residence from September-November 2002 at the McColl Center.