New Padnos Distinguished Artist-in-Residence eager to embed in community, guide students

A person standing at a podium gestures while speaking.
Katya Grokhovsky will serve as the next Padnos Distinguished Artist-in-Residence.
Image credit - Courtesy UC Davis

The artist set to be the next Padnos Distinguished Artist-in-Residence saw an opportunity at Grand Valley to meld two passions – travel and working in an academic setting – to help advance the growth of GVSU's aspiring professional artists as well as her own work.

Katya Grokhovsky is starting the residency in August. The special role in the Department of Visual and Media Arts is designed to help students understand the business side and marketplace of the art world.

"I really like the idea of educators and artists together," said Grokhovsky, who noted how her frequent travel also benefits her work. "I'm really curious about the country and this is a way to be embedded much longer and really get to know people. It's exciting to me and invigorating and refreshing. It feels like my practice moves forward every time."

As a Brooklyn-based artist and native of Ukraine, Grokhovsky has welcomed the opportunities to research different states, each of which has "its own aura." She is excited about the possibilities in Michigan, a large state with a deep history, prominent water resources and other elements to explore.

Grokhovsky is an interdisciplinary artist whose work includes installations, drawing, sculpture, performance and more. She said her research interests include industry, labor and migration. 

Renee Zettle-Sterling, department co-chair, called Grokhovsky's artwork and research "profound and essential" and said she brings important insight to this role as an immigrant artist.

"She addresses urgent issues of displacement, collective trauma, and deeply investigates the meanings within everyday materials," Zettle-Sterling said. "Katya's work, through including these perhaps challenging ideas, is a reminder that art holds the capacity to open hearts and minds to the complicated. This position within the department brings the opportunity to understand better what it means to be a maker, live a creative life and encourage thinking deeply about our world and our place in it and what responsibilities that brings."

A strructure with a roof and slim pillars contains covers of a fur-like material in colors of gold, purple and orange. The words "Is there a place" are in the background.
Katya Grokhovsky, Is There a Place?, 2024
Image credit - Image credit: Alex Dotulong, courtesy of UAFS
People wearing furry coats of pink, gold and green and wearing masks of green, blue and pink use their hands to gesture while standing in front of a green, furry sphere.
Katya Grokhovsky, Bad Woman, 2024. Performers: Katya Grokhovsky, Kelsey Werkheiser and Sierra Fancher
Image credit - Image credit: Jeffrey Burrell, courtesy of Bucknell University

Grokhovsky is currently working on a project titled "Common Language" that touches upon shared spaces, the process of building a community and how we communicate with each other. As she continues that work in West Michigan, one idea Grokhovsky is mulling is collaborating with someone to construct a furniture piece while using her background working with fabrics to learn more about upholstering. Such a piece would be a first for her and, crucially, an opportunity to learn something new.

"I'm thinking about as part of my exhibition at Grand Valley, possibly creating a piece that can be functional, that people can sit on and talk," Grokhovsky said.

As for helping students with the business aspect of being an artist, Grokhovsky said her experience of professional loss during the pandemic reinforced the need to establish early systems of support and to always have a bank of ideas to help with a rough patch.

"You still have your work. You always have something to give," she said. "Economically, we're in a time and place where you can't wait for anything. You have to get out there and create what you can, and that really propels you forward."

With Grokhovsky's planned arrival, the tenure of Kate Levy, who is currently in the residency role, is winding down.

Levy's place-based artistic research was centered on the historical impacts of the multinational conglomerate, Gulf and Western, including recent work with the Douglas Historical Society regarding an industrial site there connected to Gulf and Western, said Dulcee Boehm, curator of visual resources.

"Regardless of form, Kate weaves together intentionally disparate-seeming histories to reveal relationships between land use, labor rights, corporate history and the ways these intersect with literal bodies in place," Boehm said. "Kate is a generous teacher, a keen researcher and has demonstrated for students the rich breadth of form that artistic research can take."

An exhibition of Levy's work is planned for September; details are pending.


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