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Fantasy coffin-maker chosen as Thurbur Park artist in residency

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MADISON, Wis. - The city of Madison named Eric Adjetey Anang, a third-generation fantasy coffin-maker, as Thurbur Park's first artist in residency.

The Thurbur Park artist in residency is a joint program between the Madison Arts Commission and the Bubbler at Madison Public Library. The artist receives studio space for one year and a stipend and will create a piece of public art for the city of Madison.

"The intention is that every year, the artist in this residency is creating a piece of public art for the city," Madison Arts Program Administrator Karin Wolf said. "It will be different every year, and it's going to be exciting to have someone adding these projects, having a platform for us to come and see that in process."

Adjetey Anang is from Ghana, where he learned from his grandfather and father how to build creative coffins.

"He never liked the idea of me building coffins because he thinks it's just like a normal coffin-maker, like a carpenter," Adjetey Anang said about his father. "I said to him, 'Hey man, I mean, there is a lot to do making this stuff, rather than limiting yourself to just working with a hammer and chisels and stuff.'"

Many of Adjetey Anang's coffins were featured at a public studio visit Saturday, including a shoe, a chili pepper and a bee. He uses materials such as knotty pine, foam and satin.

Adjetey Anang traveled to the United States to share the story of fantasy coffins. He applied for the residency for studio space, where he can continue his work while in Madison.

"It's interesting because there is nothing else quite like it," said Trent Miller, head bubblerarian for the Bubbler.

Miller said this will expand the art community to neighborhoods within Madison.

"This shows that this is possible to take an old building and turn it into something, into a residency, so I think if someone else is looking to do this, there is now kind of a model that would show how this works," Miller said.