Peter Cusack, who has a degree from Syracuse University and studied arts in France, made a living as an illustrator in NYC for 12 years and lived in DUMBO, Brooklyn for 26 years. Having spent many weekends in Cornwall since he was 10 years old, Peter painted a number of local landscapes over the years. Then, two and a half years ago, something changed in him.
“I didn’t want to be an illustrator anymore and there was a gravity about things at that time, and the timing was right”, says Peter. “Patti Smith (as in the singer-songwriter) once told me that ‘Artists go somewhere cheap so go somewhere and do what you want to do.’ I was looking for serenity and wanted to slow things down a bit.”
So Peter moved to Cornwall full-time and started visiting available spaces, eventually settling for a storefront in Torrington as his studio and sometime exhibition space. There he put together a first retrospective for Steve Malkin, another local artist who he felt deserved a significant show. COCOA (The Journal of Cornwall Contemporary Art) came about somewhere in the midst of all this: a serious quarterly journal dedicated to contemplation of and educating about the contemporary arts, as well as giving medium to local artists to express their thoughts and talk about their work. “There is a lot of artistic spirit here and the town is an artistic colony,” says Peter. He wants to create an exhibition space in town to stimulate that creativity in addition to publishing COCOA.
Peter’s motives are pure if not lofty. “I want to create a discourse between the artists here and the rest of the world, inject energy as to what we could do to level up the artists. You don’t need to drive to MASS MoCA to experience top contemporary arts.” COCOA, Peter says, is all about readers. With curatorial rigor, Peter focuses on reader’s experience rather than promoting specific artists. The issues are immersive and scholarly, discussing a Les Nabis exhibit at the Philips Collection in D.C. in one issue, and regularly featuring thoughtful and intimate writings from local artists like Jim Jasper, Peter Kirkiles, and Bruno Nadalin. It is a visually beautiful publication with striking images of arts and the journal asks its readers to learn and think about, not merely appreciate the visual arts.
So far, nine writers have contributed to the journal and Peter is looking for more. The future is not certain, but Peter is looking to expand readership and for support from the community. The print version of COCOA can be found at The Local in West Cornwall and an on-line subscription is available thru www.cocoa.foundation.
We wish Peter much success in the New Year!
— Jiwon Lee