In the rural village of Sinthian in the southeastern region of Senegal, the Josef & Anni Albers Foundation facilitates the multifaceted Thread Residency and Cultural Center. Housing two artists’ dwellings and indoor and outdoor studio space, its award-winning building designed by Toshiko Mori nestles into the rural landscape and is perfect for artists who enjoy working independently in the studio.
Thread was built in close collaboration with Le Korsa, a non-profit organization that empowers individuals and organizations in Senegal to increase access to economic opportunity, education, medical care, and the arts. In addition to providing space for artists, the center also serves local residents as a base for agricultural programs, language and health classes, a library, markets, parties, music performances, and sports.
The Josef & Anni Albers Foundation was established with its namesakes’ creative legacy at the core. Anni, considered a foremost textile artist of the 20th century, taught at the Bauhaus with her husband Josef, and later at Black Mountain College in North Carolina, before dedicating herself full-time to designing commercial textiles and developing her practice in the studio. In 1949, she became the first textile designer to have a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. “Anni considered visual art a source of stability and joy in spite of the inevitable vagaries and complexity of human existence,” the foundation says.
Josef Albers often extolled the wonders of experimentation, deeming it more vital to the mere accumulation of information too often emphasized in education. Thread has been built in accord with these values.
When the Alberses emigrated to the U.S. in 1933 and joined the faculty of Black Mountain College, Josef was asked by a student what he planned to teach, and he famously responded, “to open eyes.” While he supported self-expression and experimentation, according to one of his students, Susan Weil, he insisted that “when you’re in school, you’re not an artist, you’re a student.” He ran the painting program at BMC until 1949, when he left to head the design department at Yale and continue a focus on observation, hands-on experimentation, and the appearance of maximum effect through minimal means.
Thread continues the educational and experimental legacy of the Alberses and invites artists and writers of any medium or style for residencies that last four weeks. Two artists will be in residence between the months of August and May; the residency is closed during June and July. Artists are responsible for travel to and from Senegal, however, food and board, all travel within Senegal—from arrival to departure—and a modest materials budget are included.
Applications for 2023 and 2024 residencies at Thread are open through January 8, 2023. You can learn more about the program and the Josef & Anni Albers Foundation, which runs two additional residencies in spectacular surrounds in Bethany, Connecticut, and Carraig-na-gCat, Ireland, at albersfoundation.org.
Anni considered visual art a source of stability and joy in spite of the inevitable vagaries and complexity of human existence.
Header photo by Thatcher Cook. All images courtesy of Thread Residency and Cultural Center and Le Korsa (AFLK).