While other HBU student trips are visiting national capitals and modern metropolises in South America, Asia, and the Middle East, a small medieval hamlet in the middle of Germany is forging a different kind of relationship with the MFAs from HBU’s School of Fine Arts.
Hilmsen, Germany, is situated in the scenic and historic countryside between Hamburg and Berlin. It is an ideal situation for immersion in the beauty of nature and for the solitude needed to focus and hone artistic skills. Every summer, Master of Fine Arts candidates from HBU occupy a farmhouse on the edge of the village for an intensive three week residency with internationally distinguished artist, Hans Molzberger. They exchange inspiration, ideas, experiences, and techniques. They also make a lot of art. At the end of the three week residency, the students exhibit their work in the historic and prestigious Kunsthaus gallery in the nearby town of Salzwedel.
The environment in the Hilmsen farmhouse provides a striking change of pace from life in Houston. Hilaree Hamblin, one of the MFAs in the residency this year, said, “The atmosphere is very special, unique and very different from what we are exposed to daily in Houston. As an artist, you can’t help but be influenced by the environment when creating new work. It truly was an invaluable experience for me both on a professional and personal level.”
The students aren’t the only ones who benefit from the connection between Hilmsen and Houston. Hamblin continues, “I think the surrounding areas as a whole, Salzwedel included, were exposed to art they might not usually be accustomed to seeing. I think the residency is such a special opportunity for students and artists because there’s such an intimate cultural exchange. The people in the surrounding towns get a chance to see what’s happening in the contemporary art scene in Houston and the residents get to converse and learn from the artists in the area.”
For at least one alumna of the Hilmsen residency, the connection became even more intimate. Sheila Swift Kahé has participated each year since 2012. While at the residency in 2013 she met the man who would become her husband, Chris Kahé, a German visual artist and professional musician. This year, Sheila and Chris welcomed their son Cohen into the world. They also collaborated on the residency’s culminating exhibit, “American Diary 7” this year in the Kunsthaus in Salzwedel. The connection goes even deeper, for the Kunsthaus was formerly the girls’ school which Chris’s mother Ursula attended in her youth.
Sheila has truly become a part of Germany and remained close to the Hilmsen residency and the city of Salzwedel while still being forever loyal to first home, HBU, where she received both her undergraduate and graduate degrees. Her experience and strong bonds with both HBU and Hilmsen have been essential in creating a mutually beneficial relationship for both of these pioneering institutions which will certainly continue to pave a legacy for future endeavors in visual and musical arts. Her parents Terry and Linda Swift have also been influential in bridging these faith filled institutions.
HBU proudly offers our MFA students the invaluable opportunity to participate every year in the Atelierhaus Hilmsen student residency. It is an invaluable life and career experience which feeds the spirit and connects the soul through purposeful cultural exchange.