A Letter from TSKW resident artist, Paul R. Solomon

Michigan photographer and professor Paul Solomon has just wrapped up a two week residency at the Mango Tree House.  While he was here, he a conducted fantastic workshop which showed students effective tools for capturing their impressions of Key West in words and images, he showed an exhibition of his photographs in the main hall, and even managed to find a little time to work up some ideas for his own future projects.

Here’s a letter he shared with us upon his departure…

Dear TSKW staff,

My sojourn at TSKW was unlike any other residency or similar opportunity I’ve had. The Studios of Key West has found unique ways (and ones in synch with the vibe of Key West), to permit visiting artists to work in an exceptionally relaxed milieu and environment. Arriving as I did — just a couple days after the end of the academic year (and submitting final grades for 300 students), it took me a few days to decompress and appreciate my choices. While at TSKW I accomplished more than I anticipated — and succeeded in enjoying many of the blessings that a visit to Key West affords.

In my personal creative research time I accomplished a few things:

1) I conceptualized and began to plan a collaborative work with an extraordinary musician who I had met in Michigan only a couple weeks prior to leaving. She is based in NYC but travels the world as a pianist who also considers herself a multi-media artist. We anticipate meeting in NYC this week and furthering our plans to work together in early 2011.

2) I was able to take the time to re-read my first play, Aching to Go Home. Reading it in a new location and far removed from my usual surrounds gave me a new perspective on this work that is valuable.

3) I began a new series of photographs devoted to people having their hair colored and styled. I photographed at InfinityHair, Bobby’s Barbershop and with a private stylist Letty knows. I anticipate continuing this series when I return to Michigan.

Seeing the Jones Beach series mounted for the first time in some years was also valuable. I’m indebted to Alan Kennish. When I visited him with Suzie Savitch, he offered to scan one of my negatives and make me a large print on his new and very special printer. I hope I’ll then be able to raise funds to print an entire edition with his process.

This leads me to the Key West Sketchbook Workshop.  The five students and I were especially fortunate because we almost immediately bonded into an exceptionally collegial group. The small size of the group allowed me to work with each person on a very personal basis.   I very much enjoyed each person and value their spirited, enthusiastic and brave participation. All were willing to be pushed (either a little or a lot!) beyond their initial comfort zone and make new discoveries. In the days that followed the workshop I saw and spent time with (or heard from),  every person in the group and know that we’ve established the potential for lasting friendships.

Suzie Savitch’s project — in which she was facing the challenge of how to combine writing and photographic imagery for both an exhibition and a catalogue, about early Jewish immigrants to Key West, was unusually compelling for me. Because we had a small group I was able to work with her even though she was not participating in the drawing portion of the workshop. I ended up visiting the synagogue and visiting Alan Kennish with her. We may continue this work in the coming year.

In every regard, my time at TSKW was rewarding, productive — and fun. All but one day began with a morning bike ride to Fort Zach to swim — what a great way to start the day. I also enjoyed becoming  a habitue of all the best coffee vendors in town!

Warm regards,


A few images from Solomon’s workshop and exhibition at TSKW.

The Studios of Key West