Nur tote Fische schwimmen mit dem Strom.
So what's a Cassilhaus?
Cassilhaus is a home, a singular piece of architecture, a lifelong arts project, and a love-filled partnership between Ellen Cassilly and Frank Konhaus. Ellen is an architect and community activist and Frank is an AV System Designer, Director of the Cassilhaus Artist in Residence and Exhibition Programs, and arts entrepreneur.
After a five-year land search and a three-year design process, Cassilhaus was born as dream home/art gallery/artist studio and residency in the woods between Durham and Chapel Hill, NC and has grown into an exciting nexus for arts activity and community in the Triangle region. Cassilhaus hosts a diverse exhibition program and a multi-disciplinary residency program which bring extraordinary artists from our region and around the world to pollinate and stimulate our little corner of the art world. Cassilhaus was designed by the team at Ellen Cassilly Architect.
Jaco and Joni
Abandoned and rescued from a trailer park six years ago, they don't appreciate how great a gig they have at Cassilhaus. And yes, they are aware of how beautiful they are.
Pictured: Jaco is in the box, and Joni is on top.
Co-founder, Co-designer, and the haus of Cassilhaus
Frank is a serial entrepreneur who started his first business at age 12. He studied chemistry and industrial design and is the founder of KONTEK Systems, a commercial AV integration company – hence the logical transition to running an artist residency and exhibition program at Cassilhaus. Frank serves on the Collections Committee at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University and the executive committee of the annual Click! Photography Festival. He fell into photography trying to impress an old girlfriend. He got photography and not the girlfriend. He and Ellen are both very happy about that.
Jaco or Joni: Couldn’t ever choose. Both melt my heart.
First photograph: While I don't remember my first photo, I do remember the first time I understood that a photograph could be more than a straight document. I was living in an older apartment complex that was undergoing renovation; they had gutted one of the buildings and all of the porcelain toilets from these units were sitting out randomly in the courtyard. Some vandals sprayed black spray paint graffiti on them and that night we had a huge snowstorm. I was taking a black and white darkroom course and I shot photos of the scene and it was pure magic – funny, beautiful, and other-worldly. I was hooked.
An artist whose work you are inspired by: Artists are my heroes. So many artists inspire me: Ippy Patterson, Sally Mann, Georges Rousse, Zanele Muholi, Gabriel Garcia Roman, and Nancy Rexroth, to name a few.
Co-founder, Co-designer, and the Cassil of Cassilhaus
Ellen has been the principal of Ellen Cassilly Architect since 1999. She received her Bachelor's of Environmental Design degree from Texas A&M University and a Master of Architecture degree from the University of Pennsylvania. In 2017 she was inducted into the Fellows of the American Institute of Architects (FAIA). Throughout her career, Ellen has collaborated with architects, artists and clients to design and build single- and multi-family homes, commercial, religious and educational buildings.
First interests in art: I have always preferred doing over watching, be that in sports or in art. I grew up taking art classes of all sorts. In college I had classes in art and architectural history. Art and the appreciation of art was always in my midst without being over bearing. My mother had a strong personal style and my father was an avid, amateur photographer. It is a pity that he and Frank never met. It would have been a geek lovefest.
Jaco or Joni: I love cuddling with Joni in the evenings and Jaco in the mornings.
Favorite piece in the Cassilhaus collection: Elliot Erwitt's Valencia, Spain. I love the intimacy of the image, and the backstory of Elliot Erwitt and Robert Frank traveling together in Spain.
An artist whose work you are inspired by: Ann Hamilton
Originally from Philadelphia, Jessina Leonard came to Durham by way of Chicago to complete a Masters' degree in art and theology at Duke Divinity School. She worked at Cassilhaus from 2015-2018 and is now completing her MFA in Photography at Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, Rhode Island – but she is still a part of the Cassilhaus team from afar!
Jaco or Joni: Joni
First Photograph: My first memory of taking photographs was at the Moscow circus when I was probably five or six years old – but, honestly, I was most excited about arranging and sequencing the images in a scrapbook when I got home.
An artist whose work you are inspired by: Graciela Iturbide
From Nevada to North Carolina to Texas to Missouri, Christina has recently made her way to Durham, NC after completing her M.A. in Art History at the University of Missouri. Prior to her studies at Mizzou, she double majored in Art History and French at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington with a focus in Medieval and Northern Renaissance art, interned with the Philadelphia Museum of Art and chased some life-changing exhibitions around Europe. Her research interests now lie in the art market and patterns of collecting in Europe and the United States throughout the 20th century, specifically post-war displacement and movement of medieval and other objects.
Favorite piece in the Cassilhaus collection: Currently Rimma Gerlovina and Valeriy Gerlovin’s Birth of Aphrodite.
Jaco or Joni: Jaco… only because of his Houdini-like escape skills.
First interests in art: In 3rd grade my art teacher taught us about Vincent van Gogh. While we painted our own versions of Starry Night, she played Don McLean’s song Vincent and that has stuck with me ever since. I have that painting somewhere, with my addition of a flying dragon wearing a Santa hat in the swirling sky.
An artist whose work you are inspired by: As an art historian, I am inspired by both artists (like Hieronymus Bosch and Kehinde Wiley) and scholars (like Caroline Walker Bynum and Linda Nochlin) to think outside the box, ask the weird questions and look at art in new and exciting ways.
Cassandra is a current Master of Fine Arts candidate in Duke University’s Experimental and Documentary Arts program. Her photographic thesis (in progress!) focuses on visualizations of belief as seen through Southern folklore.
A New Englander at heart, she grew up in the woods of New Hampshire and lived in Boston for eight years before moving down South. She is a practicing artist and her work has been exhibited in Switzerland, South Africa, Nigeria, and across the United States. Her work has also been published in TIME, National Geographic, Wired, and Bloomberg Businessweek. Outside of photography, you’ll find her tending to her succulent plant collection or watching science fiction movies.
Favorite piece in the Cassilhaus collection: I love a good story. So maybe Petah Coyne and Kathy Grove’s The Real Guerillas: The Early Years, AKA Elisabeth Louise Vigee Le Brun
Jaco or Joni: Bonnie and Clyde, Mulder and Scully, peanut butter and jelly… you just can’t have one without the other!
First interest in art: In second grade my teacher, Ms. Westland, had us paint butterflies. Because we were also learning about the life cycle of Monarchs in science class, I decided to meticulously copy the coloration of the Monarch in my painting. It was the first piece of artwork that I was proud of and made me realize that this might be something I could do!
An artist whose work you are inspired by: Rachel Perry for her meticulousness and somewhat obsessive (in a good way) practice!