Residency Reflection: The Wayfaring Band

*Let me begin by saying that this blog post will not be an accurate portrayal of how eye-opening, how earth-shaking, and how important this trip was to me, but if you wish to continue I would love for you to hear about my experience.*

The Wayfaring Band. A non-profit organization started by local advocates Andrea Moore and Pavel Reppo that seek to "create social experiences for our members to explore, connect, and engage with their communities through the lens of travel and adventure."

The Wayfaring Band: a group of incredible people who travel, experience life, and learn about each other over the course of a week. This organization is a neurodiverse group of travelers who are the most authentic, most upfront and honest, most positive-in-the-face-of-negativity minded band of people I have ever met. The staff is mind-blowingly good at their jobs and the band members are too perfect to even put into words.

Let me take a step back and walk you through my experience before this just turns into a gush-fest though. 

I first met Andrea Moore through an event I was a part of with New Genres Club based out of Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design. Once I heard about The Detached Garage (a residency she runs out of her backyard garage specifically designed for EMERGING ARTISTS) as well as The Wayfaring Band I was hooked and needed to know more about who she was as an individual. She just happened to be speaking at RMCAD a few weeks later, so after attending her lecture on The Wayfaring Band, we began talking about me being the potential artist in residence for the upcoming trip that was set to take on the Colorado Hot Springs Loop.

If you know nothing about me, know that I love a good bath, and a good hot spring is actually just a bath in the mountains, so of course I needed to attend this trip, as well as get my first art residency under my belt.

I agreed to be the Artist In Residence, and I dove headfirst into a week of discomfort, not knowing anyone, and traveling with a band of adults who experience cognitive disabilities, something I had never really been in contact with this closely before. 

My first day was a shock, trying to learn names, trying to think of everyone as complete equals who all experience something unique to their person (whether that is a cognitive disability or depression/oppression/privilege/etc.), and also trying to be my best self all the while. After a day of bus travel, hot springs, and poorly cooked angel hair pasta in a hotel room filled with 16 people, I figured I was already in the thick of it and had no place to go now but deeper into it.

The thing is: even while I was experiencing this craziness, I felt completely at home because everyone was so accepting. There was zero judgment, there were plenty of snacks, and everyone had a fun, or not-so-fun, story to tell about themselves. I could write a whole book on the week-long trip that I had, but I think three of the biggest things that happened to me will recap the trip well enough for the time being. 

**For sake of anonymity I will refer to the band members in these stories as Jill, Bill, and Phil**

Let me tell you about Jill. She was among the older of the band members was experiencing a lack of love in her life and mentioned numerous times her emotional desire to have a boyfriend, husband, or partner to share her life with. She ended up latching hard to a roadie (term used for the staff of the trip) as well as myself to temporarily fill that lack of love, always cuddling, hugging, and talking about us, well, more so the roadie than me, but I was a close second. 

Jill knew that I am gay, have a boyfriend, and am in no way sexually attracted to women, but still confessed to me a few days into the trip that she had a crush on me. I turned to her and started saying, "I am flattered, and I wish I could express the same feelings, but I just----" and she cut me off with, "I know." 

I have never before felt so understood, so thought about, and so considered than in that moment. Jill had this insane ability to pick up on people's emotions and inherently understand that person without even talking to them about what they are feeling. On numerous occasions, I walked into the same room in the morning as Jill and was instantly greeted with her asking me what was wrong or how was I doing. She could sense that something was off with me, having only known me a few days. Her sense of the human spectrum of emotions was something I had never seen before, and something I likely will never forget.


On the flipside, Bill was the exact opposite. The wonderful thing about The Wayfaring Band is that even though band members are experiencing different cognitive disabilities, the staff do not treat them ANY different than they would if they were neurotypical. More help is given to people if they need it, of course, but otherwise, no one is special, no one gets special treatment or opportunities, and everyone has to advocate for what they, as the individual, need. This leads me to the moment I blatantly called out Bill for making a homophobic comment one night during the trip. 

I am usually pretty tolerant of people, but after a few days of stubborn behavior, not realizing the help he was being given, and not giving help back, plus a homophobic comment about sleeping with another man, I had had it. Many words were used, but I went at this band member in the same fashion that I would have spoken to anyone else who was acting in this way, and the staff did not say anything to me because he was being him, I was being me, and ultimately, Bill was just being a dick. This was a hard night because Bill was also one of the sweetest band members, at moments watching out for other band members, being genuinely interested in what people were doing or thinking, but in this moment all of that faded away. 

Later in the trip, in a discussion about oppression, I brought up to him how making these sorts of comments in a space that was supposed to be judgement free made me feel very unsafe and like I don't belong, leading to more discussion about the topic and how it related to oppression and tears were shed and hugs were given and everyone got along once again. It was a moment where things needed to be aired out to get past them, and the rest of the trip went smooth between myself and Bill after it was brought up and talked about.

The simple fact that The Wayfaring Band is completely okay with calling someone experiencing a cognitive disability a dick is one of my favorite things about the organization. Guess what? Humans aren't always nice, humans are dicks sometimes, and just because you experience a developmental disability or autism or any other cognitive disability does not mean that you get to get away with being a dick to another human. Everyone was on a level playing field and it was amazing.

But the single most important thing that happened to me on this trip was getting to spend time in close proximity with Phil. Phil is non-verbal because of the severity of the disability he is experiencing, but this meant absolutely nothing in terms of how fluently or coherently he could communicate with everyone. Phil has a device that allows him to say basic words, but his tool of choice is usually a small laminated keyboard, in which with some help holding his hand up, he can type out words and hold a conversation with anyone. He had a particular way of communicating yes or no, showing you he was angry, frustrated, or extremely happy, and he had his own special way of being a dick (such as bringing you very close, face-to-face with him, and then poking your glasses, referring to the age-old insult of "Four-Eyes". He also likes to point at something so you turn away from his face, meanwhile, he will smack the rim of your backward hat and laugh uncontrollably about his prank).

Phil was this all-knowing central figure of the trip, helping us find hotels at night on dark roads by nudging a roadie seconds before we pass it, telling us all that we will be in a place with a bird feeder and bluebirds (four nights before we are in this cabin with bird feeders and bluebirds everywhere), and typing out poems that gave us insights into the mind of a human without capacity to verbalize his own thoughts. Phil is this amazing man who is essentially trapped within his own body and mind, the catch is that you just need to be willing to try and understand his language, rather than make him try to understand yours, to grasp even a sliver of his extraordinary brain-power.

Again, I could go on for days about each and every person on this trip, but I won't at this time.


This trip was equal in importance for me as an artist and as a human as my trip to Ireland was a few years ago. My mental capacity for understanding compassion has grown exponentially and I can not thank Andrea Moore enough for inviting me to be a part of this incredible trip. Now begins the art portion of this residency. The way that this non-profit runs the residency is that as the artist, you get to go on a trip with the band for no cost, and in exchange, within 90 days of returning from the residency you give back a piece of art in the form of an ode to the trip. I am currently working with digital collage and scans of my sketches and notes for this ode, but it is still highly in process.

If you have not clicked any of the above links I highly recommend it, or visit the ones below to find out more about The Wayfaring Band, New Genres Club, Andrea as an artist, and the shirts that Phil makes using his poems as inspiration. Donate to this group, learn more about them, and try to be involved in any way possible, they are an important group of people.

The Wayfaring Band

New Genres Club

Andrea Moore

Lopsided Hearts 

Why You Should Embrace the Frustration of an Art Block

Keep in mind that this opinion is coming from someone who is in a great art making groove currently, but I have begun to believe that art blocks are, in fact, a good thing.

*gasp* *eye roll*

I know, I get it, they absolutely suck, but now looking back at the major art block I had two years ago (it took me this long to be okay with it) I am seeing how beneficial it was. And I realized it today looking at this collage:

Let me go back a little bit.

Somewhere between 2015 and 2016 I was making a lot of work that revolved around the space we most commonly refer to as the bedroom. I was making work with bed frames

"we need to talk"

"we need to talk"

"you're so gorgeous"

"you're so gorgeous"

making work with pillows


and photographing myself sleeping, as well as taking photos with my bed.

"Unmade" series of digital photographs

"Unmade" series of digital photographs

Over 750 photographs of myself sleeping over the course of ~1 week installed for "Thoughts in Slumber" at the Dahl Gallery in Great Falls, MT (2016)

Over 750 photographs of myself sleeping over the course of ~1 week installed for "Thoughts in Slumber" at the Dahl Gallery in Great Falls, MT (2016)

It really all had to do with space, with sexuality (I came out of the closet Feb 2015, so it was fresh in my mind) and about sex. Intimacy, privacy, calm, peace, sex, romance, fucking, masturbating, sleeping, relaxing, reading, cleaning. It all took place in the bedroom and that interested me immensely, so I made a lot of art about it. But when I met my boyfriend Aaron I no longer became interested in the bedroom anymore, and in fact the last two pieces in this body of work are still in progress, and have been since a few months after I met this amazing man. Below are some works in progress to keep you interested as I continue on about how this relates to art blocks.

Work in progress from test in studio, 2016

Work in progress from test in studio, 2016

Work in progress video in collaboration with Garth Stevenson

After my interest faded I had no idea what to do. I was stuck, and when I'm stuck I turn to Béyonce and collage. Collage for me is something that very easily gets you in the mood to think visually. I think collage is an extremely hard medium to master, but I think it is quite easy to start and feel good about what you created, whereas sculpture or painting will just laugh in your face. So I started collaging a lot, and ended up with a few good ones....

Scan 104.jpeg

"I think collage is an extremely hard medium to master,

but I think it is quite easy to start"

Well, then everything changed with 'Lemonade' was released and the poetry of Warsan Shire was paired with the stunning art direction for Béyonce's visual album. I was struck by the words and began a personal project that paired collages with one sentence snippets from the poem that acted as titles. 

"You are terrifying... and strange and beautiful."

"You are terrifying... and strange and beautiful."

These are still collages I look back at, now not in an art block, and say "Well, shit, that's really good". 


The work from the collage that convinced me of the beauty in art blocks has led me in so many different directions. 

From hands

"Love Is Hard"

"Love Is Hard"

to stars, 

"It's a Beautiful Thing (detail)"

"It's a Beautiful Thing (detail)"

to direction

"Sticky Fingers #1)"

"Sticky Fingers #1)"

as well as color.

Studio work in progress, 2017

Studio work in progress, 2017

Everything I am doing now is in that collage. Everything I was thinking about subconsciously came out, and it has just taken me months and months of working through it to be able to realize. The kicker is, that I had this collage behind me in the studio every day, passing glances at it, but never stopping to look, and my subconscious brain must have found something in it to leech from every time I saw it.

I guess my point is that art blocks are natural, they are part of it, and everyone has them. Hell, The Jealous Curator has actually made a book about said blocks, also collage...... and I ended up picking up both books when I was stuck. I think that deep, deep, deep deepdeepdeep deep down what you make while in a block (which you should be doing to get past the block!) is actually what you are supposed to be making. Or at least something along the lines of what you will be making.

There is something there of significance. Take some time and hang up one thing you made that you like. Put it on a shelf, photograph it, scan it, whatever you need to do. Just look at it a little longer this time. Try and focus on what it is that makes it good, and then maybe go in that direction. Try it, you just never know. Art blocks are a time for you to pause and potentially reconsider your practice, or bring something new into it. Try a new material or find a new inspiration.

Enjoy the art block, because you will get out of it soon enough my friend, you will.