In Haverhill, The Switchboard Connects Artists and Community
Four years ago, Residency Director Sarah LoVasco and Hailey Moschella opened The Switchboard in Haverhill, an artist residency program that enables artists to work independently on projects for four weeks at a time. Upon the acceptance of their application, artists are given a space and provided with professional consulting services, which include making connections with curators. From sculptures to paintings, artists can work in an array of mediums at the Washington Street studio.
Following the successful 2017 O+ Festival of arts and culture in Haverhill, LoVasco dreamed of a permanent place for artists to work whenever they wanted. We realized that there was no sustainable, long-term venue for creative arts and music [in Haverhill].” Now, aspiring artists can simply apply for their own space to work.
During the pandemic, it has become more difficult for local artists to find space to create and display their work. And LoVasco had to get creative when it came to keeping The Switchboard active during times when many people have been avoiding social interaction. Just as many schools and businesses have reverted to their computers for interactions, so have the arts. “Basically, we turned our entire programming virtual,” says LoVasco, who hopes to give local artists the exposure she thinks they deserve even if it means showing their work through online exhibitions.
For many local artists, The Switchboard has been precisely what they’ve needed to get inspired and create. “It’s not only just a workspace that you’re setting up, but you’re setting up a gallery which you don’t have at home,” says former and returning artist Tina Gagnon, who works with colored pencils and will be returning this summer to utilize The Switchboard’s unique workspace and gallery. However, a residency at The Switchboard offers more than just a place to work. “It’s a good way to get your feet wet and learn the ropes,” says Gagnon, who livestreamed her creative process online straight from the studio, in addition to displaying her work there.
At first, The Switchboard was primarily a gallery and event space. Then, in June 2020, they launched the artist in residency program. The first resident artist was writer and photographer Jessica Furtado. To reflect on life in lockdown during the pandemic, Furtado began a photography project last June called “Firsthand: A Portrait Project to Close the Distance.” She asked participants to bring an object that was special to them during their time at home. From journals to stuffed animals, Furtado captured the masked participants and the objects that provided comfort during one of the hardest months of the pandemic. This June, the same participants will be invited back to pose again with their beloved objects. “It will really be a different time for everybody,” says Furtado, who is eager to see the change a year makes.
For those who are more inclined to see art rather than create it, gallery appointments are available by phone or email. In the past, the studio was only open to the public for shows and exhibitions, but the ability to support local artists in Haverhill has become easier. If leaving your home is not an option for you, many artists offer live streaming classes as well as YouTube tutorials.
Although Moschella has left the organization, she will be starting a monthly art walk beginning in June and ending in September that should also be on the radar of anyone interested in Haverhill’s cultural scene. Check out CreativeHaverhill.com for details.
Artists seeking a residency can find a digital application on The Switchboard’s website. They must relay to LoVasco details about their work and their specific needs in the studio.