Saturday, May 24, 2008

Artist's Residencies - An Overview

I promised that I would write a little about artist's residencies and what they're all about.

There are many different kinds of artist's residencies, but basically a residency is a place where an artist can get away from "real life" and concentrate on his or her art for a specified period of time. The artist is usually given a studio space and living space in which to live and work, often sharing space with other artists of different disciplines.

Some common types of residencies:
Fees required -
For this type of residency, you will pay to work and stay at the facility. Often they will bring in a visiting artist (well known artist or writer) that the residents get to interact with. The Vermont Studio Center is an example of this type of residency. Some will offer scholarships that artists can apply for to help with travel or living expenses, but most artists who are there are paying to stay there.

The Atlantic Center for the Arts is another example.

No fees required -
This type of residency will let you stay and work for free, but you're responsible for your travel and meals. This is the type of residency that I'm doing. My friend Junanne clarified by saying that they're "giving me the gift of time" to do my work. I think that's a good way to put it. I'll be away in a beautiful setting with other artists and I won't have to worry about "everyday" types of things that keep me from doing art.

The Edward F. Albee Foundation is another example of this type of no-fee residency.

Stipend provided -
This is a "dream gig." An artist is given a free place to stay and work and is also given a stipend to help defray expenses for travel, etc.

Artpace in San Antonio is an example of this kind of residency.

Work required -
Some residencies will require you to give back in some way, either through teaching community or children's classes, being available to the public to talk about your work, create work for an exhibition at the end of the residency, or to donate a piece of work.

The national park service offers residencies of this type.

But many will not require you to do anything. You're completely on your own to create (or not create) anything you like.

Many universities and colleges will employ artist's in residence for 1 or 2 years. I've known several artists who took these types of positions directly out of graduate school. Some were offered full time positions as a result and some went on to teach full time at different schools.

"Alternative" residencies -
Most residencies will be offered by art centers, art foundations, etc. But every now and then you'll come across a residency opportunity that at first seems strange. One example I heard about recently is at the San Francisco Dump. This would be a dream gig for an artist who likes to use recycled materials.

The Exploratorium, also in San Francisco, offers an artist in residence program that would be great for an artist who is interested in science and working with kids.

Elsewhere Artist Collaborative offers residencies where artists create site-specific work in a former thrift store.

Within all those above categories, you'll find even more differences:
Settings and facilities -
You'll find residencies in cities, rural areas, and even international locations. The facilities will also differ from residency to residency. Some will provide meals, private rooms, etc. while others, especially the ones in the national parks, are more primitive.

Time frame -
You can spend as little as a week or two or up to 1 or 2 years at a residency.

Age and career point -
Some residencies are for artists in their early 20's or 30's, some for more "mature" artists, some for "emerging artists" in their first 10 years of their career.

Gender and ethnicity -
Some residencies focus on women and minorities.

Discipline -
Some residencies are only open to visual artists while others encourage artists of may disciplines to apply, including writers, composers, musicians, dancers, singers, etc. One I saw even encouraged chefs to apply. Sign me up for the month when the chef's there!

Things to consider when applying for a residency:
Cost -
Can you afford to be away? Can you afford the travel expenses, etc? Are you willing to donate time or artwork, if it is required?

Location and time of year -
Where do you want to go? What time of year do you want to be away? Some residencies offer only summer options, but others are year-round. Often winter is a better time to apply, as there are fewer applicants.

Personality and working style -
Do you enjoy interacting with other people? If not, you might try to find a more "solo" residency. If you enjoy working with children or with the public, then you might look for one that requires that you teach and lecture.

The Application Process:
Follow the rules!
All residencies are different, so my best advice is to follow their specific rules. Often if you don't include all of the information that they ask for, your application will be thrown out immediately. They won't call you and ask for you to resubmit - they get hundreds of applications and don't have time for that.

Reapply -
Most residencies have a panel of jurors that changes every year, so if you're rejected, check their guidelines to find out when you can apply again (some will only allow you to apply every 2 years).

Send your best work -
Many residencies are based solely on the work, so make sure that every image you send them is your best.

Application fee -
Some will require an application fee, usually around $25. Personally, I look for the ones that don't require fees. It's expensive enough to be an artist!

Here are some resources and clearinghouses for information on artist's residencies:
Alliance of Artists Communities
Wikipedia has a good explanation and a list of other resources

Additional funding:
Check with your local or state arts council to find out of they offer any residencies or offer grants for residencies.

If you apply, good luck! And I'll keep you updated on how my residency goes.


Anonymous said...

I stumbled upon your blog some time ago and really appreciate all the information you share. I know that many times I've been asked how to write artist's statements, prepare artist's packages, etc. as art school doesn't necessarily teach the "business of art" and am now thinking of taking some time for an artist's residency now that my children are growing, so this has been extremely helpful. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I comletely cosign with the last commenter. I am overwhelmed with all of the great information. I too have stumbled onto your blog, but only recently, and am greatful for the stuff that is not taught in art school. Thank you, and I hope that you have a womderful time during yor residency!

Tina Mammoser said...

Thanks for this, I think residencies are something misunderstood by many artists so your post is very clear but includes all sorts.

I found you through your book tour post for Alyson, stayed to read a half dozen more posts, then went back to ArtBizBlog and found another link to this post! :) Guess I have to subscribe now!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for an informative post. For the travel minded artist, don't forget to search internationally, too. A good site to begin looking is Res Artist at

Anonymous said...

We propose an artistic residency in Barcelona, on a short period, for emerging artists. The residency is located in the center of Barcelona and takes place in a loft shared with its owners, offering the artist a unique opportunity to be accompanied during its stay and to nurture its creation through an interesting cultural experience.
Olivier Collet