Engineers, lawyers, doctors and other practical career-types love to dump on professional artists. Tensions run especially high around graduation when brave bohemians pursuing their B.F.A.’s are constantly pressured about their plans to support themselves financially. Even though SCAD’s art programs are renowned for helping students land full-time jobs at least nine months after commencement, another viable career path for those gypsy souls out there who don’t want to be tied down are artist residencies. If you’ve never heard of this opportunity, don’t sweat it; I was first introduced to it by my printmaking elective professor five months before finishing classes. Let’s just say that if you’re thinking of starting a game-changing freelance project after college, artist residencies are there to support your creative wanderlust even if no one else will.
What is an artist residency?
Artist-in-residence programs are sponsored excursions for all types of creative people to travel, research and work on a personal project. They are open to new and veteran artists and provide a space to hunker down in and work on a long-term art piece. There are niches for all mediums too including: painting, printmaking, sculpture, photography, new media, film, fashion, music, performance, writing and more. Residencies typically have a heavy focus on cultural immersion, but it’s not all a magic carpet ride; prices for materials, food, housing and travel vary between each one. These productive programs are usually hosted by museums, non-profits, universities, galleries, studios, theaters, government offices and festivals all around the world and can range anywhere from two weeks to over a year.
How do they help emerging artists?
Apart from providing time to focus on that dream project that’s been swimming in the back of your mind, artist residencies can be extremely beneficial for post-grads on the verge of making paper airplanes out of their degrees. Residencies are perfect for networking and often result in artists joining forces to work on a collaborative project after the program. Some residency packages also include materials or assistants to help with your project in addition to workshops and exhibitions to fine tune and showcase your craft. There are even opportunities to meet and study under well-known artists and writers. Perhaps the biggest incentive to apply for artist residencies though is the street-smart education and worldly inspiration for your artwork that you’re bound to receive; not to mention an amazing experience to flaunt at your next job interview.
How do you find the right one and apply?
There are plenty of artist residency search engines to comb through to find the right fit for you. CAFÉ or Call for Entry is an excellent online guidebook for American artist residencies suited for those not looking for world travel. This website filters through residencies for specific mediums and makes a note of deadlines and application fees. At the other end of the spectrum, Resartis and Dutch Culture | TransArtists showcase a variety of artist residencies around the world. Resartis divides their opportunities based on practical information like country, setting, accommodation and working language as opposed to medium. At first glance Dutch Culture | TransArtists may seem like a hub for Netherlands residencies only, but they also provide information for over 1400 worldwide programs along with firsthand artists’ experiences, research and advice. There’s also re-title.com, a well-developed, international blog that not only features artist residencies but job openings and open calls for art exhibitions.
According to a guest blogger on Artsy Shark, another important aspect to keep in mind is creating your “vision statement” or what you want to get out of the residency. It could be anything from teaching to travel to cultural experiences but it helps narrow your search and provide more direction. He also advises to those looking for artist residencies to keep in mind that, “residencies should not be considered vacations. They are hard work, with a high level of socializing thrown in.” The application process can include resumes/CVs, a portfolio of work and short essay questions detailing your purpose for applying. It’s also good to be explicit in your application about your reasons for wanting to go and how you think your project would best suit this opportunity. To stand out, try making a connection with the people or place of a specific residency to add a personal layer to your application.
For more information about artist residencies, talk to your professors or colleagues for advice and recommendations and remember; there is an alternative to a permanent desk job for artists in the real world.