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National Arts Club Hosts FLATTPRIZE Winner, The First Resident Artist In 50 Years

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    Articles Articles Mar 24, 2014 03:12 PM EDT

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    Artists are never short creativity. It's time and money that are usually sparse.

    However, even in an era when the value of a liberal arts degree is constantly questioned and many museums are being forced to get creative to survive, there are still opportunities out there to ease those burdens so artists can flourish.

    When Fabrizio Arrieta arrived in New York City last month, one of the biggest surprises was something locals are very accustomed to: snow. The 30-year-old Costa Rican had never seen it before in person and it was one of many firsts.

    Like most newcomers to the city, he said the density of people and things to do was shocking. The streets, he said, are nothing like the ones in Costa Rica and the level of stimulus was something he had never experienced.

    He'll have the entire spring and summer to acclimate to Manhattan but he's not here to vacation. He's here to paint.

    Arrieta recently began a fully-funded artist residency at the National Arts Club - the first the club has hosted in 50 years.

    For six months he is living rent-free in a studio apartment overlooking Gramercy Park, one of only two private parks in New York City. He has a cash stipend, meal services, all the supplies he needs and full club privileges (including access to the park).

    He appreciates all of the amenities, but he is most excited about the abstract experience; the influence the atmosphere will have on him as an artist.

    "I knew this was my passion as a kid," Arrieta said. "So from the beginning, I knew that I wanted to keep that passion in me and go forward with it."

    Arrietta is already an acclaimed painter in Central America but his aspiration to continue to grow is what led him to apply for the residency.

    Out of more than 200 applicants, he was chosen by a panel that included Naomi Beckwith of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago; Chus Martinez, formerly of El Museo Del Barrio; and Christian Mattermeyer of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

    A typical day means painting throughout the morning and night with museums, galleries or walks in the afternoon for inspiration.

    The apartment has an enormous north-facing window overlooking Gramercy Park and enough space to accommodate large works.

    "This place is a wonderful place," Arrieta said. "The history downstairs and the exhibition and collection. Every little thing is an inspiration for me."

    The residency was made possible by a collaboration between the National Arts Club and FLATT, a quarterly philanthropic book focused on celebrating and sponsoring art across all fields. FLATT's annual FLATTPRIZE has previously included a cash award of $10,000. This year's prize also included the six-month residency that is unprecedented, according to the book's editor-in-chief, Christina Lessa.

    "We teamed up and this tremendous space in this historic building is perfection," she said. "What could be better than this?"

    For more than a year an half, Lessa collaborated with the National Arts Club to make the full live-in residency a reality.

    "Christina and I got very excited when we got the go-ahead to make this marriage of FLATT and National Arts Club, and the residency was something that was up next for the club," said Dianne Bernhard, the director of fine arts at the National Arts Club.

    In the private club at 15 Gramercy Park South the apartment was being used for storage. It was cleared out, painted a neutral white and made ready for Arrieta.

    The estimated value of the residency is $150,000 but the artistic influence on Arrietta and the influence he will have on figurative painting in New York City is invaluable.

    Bernhard said Latin America has been on the modern art scene for some time now and when she heard Fabrizio won the prize the said the club was excited that some of the Central American "creative energy"

    "I just came from Nicaragua and the things that I saw in the Museums there and the galleries were unlike anything that I had really seen around here. It's like they'd been doing these wonder, wonderfully weird things for much longer than anyone around here. It was so beautiful and so creative," she said.

    Arrieta found out he won the award only two months before the residency began. He said he was nervous about moving to the United States considering the amount of English he spoke, but he knew if he was going to go, he had to go now. The opportunity couldn't be passed up in what he said is "the undisputed art capital of the world."

    At the conclusion of the residency, Arrieta's work will be displayed here in New York City. The details of that have not been made public but "they are working on some big ideas," according to Lessa.

    The residency will undoubtedly impact Arrieta's career as a painter and could do the same for painting in New York City, but the philosophy and collaboration that made the residency possible is what Lessa and Berhard also hope will resonate.

    "You know, this is just the perfect example of how these opportunities exist, these types of relationships with quality cultural institutions that people have sort of forgotten about and need to be brought back into the forefront of our support," Lessa said. "If everybody really started thinking about philanthropy in a new way, and patronage in a new way, other than just writing a check, we would make some tremendous progress."

    Berhard agreed.

    "Institutions have forgotten too. And so the institutions need to step up and provide the opportunity for artists. We are keepers of the arts for next generations and we need this kind of temporary, constant experience to keep it alive," she said. "It's a perfect connection."

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