The life of an artist is one for constantly broadening their horizons, reaching out to new people, settings, and perspectives. A process of opening themselves to the world in a way others can’t. It’s about finding that next big project and finding means to execute it. Most artists represent an open mind, knowledgeable and appreciative of the world around them. So how do these artists just suddenly take off to different cultural spots on the planet and work on new art pieces? How do they showcase their work in international galleries? Where do they gain sufficient funding to produce their exhibitions? Art residencies come in, to lend a helping hand in these matters.
If one should guess what an art residency is, the old dictionary definition from 1930s Wisconsin might come in handy. It states an artist-in-residence is ‘an artist attached to a university, college, community, etc., usually for a specific period’. As true as this definition is, it’s way too generalized, brief and outdated to fully understand what it means in the modern art world.
Residencies were first recognized at the beginning of the 20th Century in the US and UK. Back then, it was merely offering artists a place to work. It was widely seen as a new type of romantic patronage. Over a century later, its meaning is a lot more difficult to define. The art scene recognizes the field of art residencies is forever evolving due to a new age of fast-paced globalization and innovation. It has changed greatly over time and will continue to develop and grow. Therefore, it’s too broad to entirely commit to a definitive concept for the term. It should be left open and fluid to new developments, contexts and times, whilst retaining its previous core principles. Art residencies undoubtedly play a hugely important role in the career of the modern artist. As long as they continue providing these opportunities for the individual, these institutions will be highly sought after by artists.
Each art residency has a different program and a unique approach to their relationship with the artist. In short, each program would be expected to provide a temporary space for an artist to live and work in. They would have access to various facilities, networks, and audiences at the location for practice and promotion of their work. Every art residency has a different financial budget, set of rules and procedures to carry out. Some specialize in one discipline, others are open to various disciplines. There is a whole catalog of things to consider for an artist when applying for residencies. If thoroughly researched to match one’s needs and aspirations, the residency placement usually becomes a mutual success.
Due to the sheer scale of difference between artist-in-residence profiles and the number of available options, the clearest distinction to make falls into two categories; residencies that offer time and space with no condition, and residencies who expect the presence of a final project at the end of the stay. Depending on the artist’s goals and intentions, they must decide on an agreement between the personal and the collective. This is why finding a suitable arrangement between artist and residency becomes complicated. As a general division, this becomes a barrier for adjustment. Models can thrive for giving an individual platform to the artist away from social obligation. Or alternatively, involve them in a collaboration or project in partnership with a long-term connection via an institution. Artist X is an example of somebody who participates at artist-in-residencies funding projects. Artist Y uses studio spaces for their own personal works. The residencies offer priceless opportunities for the artist to extend their network.
Art residencies must always follow a set of core principles if they want to be a success. First and foremost, the residencies are enablers of the creative process. They provide for the artists to settle and work as they wish in their residence. As their host, everything they have arranged from the application process should be ready and be waiting. They are the instigators in creative production and networking. Residencies should be reflective of their lexical meaning as ‘an act of dwelling in a place’ and connect the local to the global. The conditions need to be ideal for the artist to produce their specific type of artwork. They must also give the artist an opportunity to connect culturally with their new home. Residencies act as tools for intercultural understanding and capacity building. They must play an active role in immersing an a ‘foreign’ artist into the local art scene. Their role is crucial to the arts ecosystem as they allow the free movement and trade of the art business. They are bridging mechanisms between different arts disciplines and non-arts sectors. It provides artists with the life experiences they desire away from their everyday cultures and lifestyles.
Many residency programs are incorporated into larger institutions to aid the process between different parties. Residencies can be a part of galleries, museums, theatres, universities, municipalities, governmental offices, festivals, studio spaces, and other institutions. This offers a strong and previously built network that can be of great assistance to the artist. Not all residencies have an open application process and may be secluded to invitation only. Special partnerships with other funding bodies and organizations may also offer a suitable package. Residencies tend to differ in their financial budgets and regulations. Some residencies can offer a financial package supporting the artist, but others expect the artist to find their own funding.
The relationship between the artist and the art residency is something that helps build and expand the artist’s career. Residencies play a huge role in the art world but despite times changing, they will continue to provide for the artist. Artists will come and go after becoming part of the residency’s trusted network. Unfinished projects, new collaborations and invitations to join panels, workshops, and exhibitions will become available in the time after the residency.
Some sources for information on art residencies include: