Montserrat alumni Mike Ryczek (’06) receives Mass Cultural Council Artist Fellowship!

Montserrat alumni Mike Ryczek (’06) of Dedham is among the recipients of this year’s Mass Cultural Council Artist Fellowships!

Ryczek was one 483 applicants for the MCC’s painting fellowships this year and now finds himself numbering among the winning Fellows. He took the time to talk to us a bit about the application process, his recent work, and his future plans.

“The MCC Fellowship is kind of a fixture in the Boston arts community,” says Ryczek. “I was already familiar with Mass Cultural Council through their connection with Mass MOCA’s excellent ‘Assets for Artists’ program and their tradition of awarding grants to local artists, which goes back about 50 years. If you’re a working artist in Massachusetts and plan to continue growing your art practice, there’s really no reason not to apply.”

The Fellowship’s funds are unrestricted, meaning they can be spent in whatever way the artist feels best supports their work. Ryczek is still figuring out exactly what that means for him beyond using it for studio improvements, new equipment and art supplies. There is one big idea:

“I’ve wanted to put together a sizable book featuring work from a series I’ve been developing since 2020, but have been hesitant to do so because of the publishing costs.”

That 2020 series came about in response to the COVID lockdowns of the same year. At that time, Ryczek had just come back from a stay in South Korea. His return to the states included a solo show, which ended a week before the first lockdown began.  Much of the world was stuck inside, and Ryczek chose a subject to reflect that:

“The series is based on video footage from a website that streams public IP cameras from around the world.  I discovered this site a few years ago and have been amassing screenshots of anything I find potentially interesting. I then organize everything into increasingly specific categories – in this case: types of imagery (cityscapes, waterways, etc.).

“I’ll usually go back to the source images and edit them in Photoshop, cutting and moving pieces and incorporating new imagery from alternate versions of the same scene or unrelated images found online.  There is an ongoing conversation between the digital and physical until it feels complete.

“I’m still creating new pieces for this and will be having a 2 person show in October at 13Forest Gallery in Arlington featuring work from the series.”

Ryczek says his Montserrat education helped free him from self-imposed constraints around his work. 
“The faculty were open to experimentation and I think that helped me to stop focusing on labels and just do what interested me.  Labels matter less now than they ever did for artists, and I think the ability to resist categorizing yourself by how you choose to express your creativity is an invaluable trait.”

You can follow along with Ryczek’s ongoing projects at his website and Instagram. And keep an eye out next October for a chance to see his work in person!