PENDLETON — Pendleton artist Nika Blasser recently returned from a fall 2021 artist residency at Ucross Foundation, a nonprofit program in northeastern Wyoming.

She received studio space, living accommodations, meals by an onsite professional chef and a stipend to help defray travel expenses. Held in July and August, Blasser said costs associated with the fall residency were supported by a partnership with The Ford Family Foundation. This was Blasser’s first time at Ucross and she gave the facility and staff high marks.

“It was a wholly supportive environment in a gorgeous setting on a massive ranch in eastern Wyoming near Sheridan,” she said. “It is a prestigious residency for a reason, which I came to more fully appreciate after I arrived.”

Blasser called the invitation to participate “an absolute privilege and honor.” Past residents may only apply to re-attend after four years.

Residencies, Blasser said, offer the time and space to focus on art — something that typically requires some juggling while prioritizing other work. Blasser, who served as the marketing director at Crow’s Shadow Institute of the Arts for nearly six years, began teaching at Blue Mountain Community College in the fall of 2020.

The Ucross residency, Blasser said, offered more opportunities for social interaction — a past residency she participated in Denmark was solo, thus a more solitary experience. At Ucross, she was among a cohort of other creative individuals — and they were able to connect on a meaningful level while sharing meals and projects from their various disciplines, Blasser said.

“Being around the other creatives committed to their craft — writers, composers, musicians, filmmakers, and other visual artists — was incredibly inspiring,” she said. “The last couple of years have presented many trials, and being among these extremely talented, brilliant, and generous folks was restorative on a spiritual level.”

While at Ucross, Blasser said she was able to delve into several areas, including evaporated salt paintings, a series of cyanotypes (a historical photo process), as well as photo and video work. Each morning she would head to her studio, where she spent all day focused on making artwork. After eating with other residents, they would either return to their individual studios or share about their projects at readings or visit with others.

Last year at BMCC, Blasser started with the basic design foundations sequence class, which she taught on Zoom. This term, she is teaching two classes in person — basic design and painting.

“It is great to be back in a classroom with art students,” she said. “I did miss teaching and there seems to be a lot of interest in these classes at BMCC.”

For more about Blasser and her work, visit her website at www.nikablasser.com or search Instagram @nikablasser.

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Contact community writer Tammy Malgesini at tmalgesini@eastoregonian.com or 541-564-4532.

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