Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Is an Art Residency Right for You?
Carolyn Edlund ArtsyShark

Have you ever considered applying for an Art Residency?

This type of opportunity can be a great experience – or not. Guest Blogger Joseph Cavalieri has been working in glass as a fine art form since 1997. Collected and exhibited worldwide, his work can also be seen on TV in The Simpsons 20th Anniversary Special and in two issues of the Corning Museum’s New Glass Review. His MTA Arts in Transit public art commission is located at the Philipse Manor Metro North Station. To see more work visit:

Within the last 2 years I’ve had three residencies in Australia, India and Scotland. Each arrangement was different and resulted in different outcomes. I’d like to share what I have learned artist-to-artist of how to make an art residency work best for you. If done the right way they can be inspiring, productive and a great boost for your creative career. If the wrong choices are made they make you feel secluded and empty your pockets of cash.


Residencies originated as organizations that supported artists one-hundred percent. They gave room, board, living expenses, and introductions, among other perks. Often the host was a private or non-profit organization, and received grants for supporting art. In return for their “support of the arts”, they improved the local community, added to their collection, and create a long-lasting relationship.

The term “residency” has changed over time. Now each are extremely different and offer varied arrangements. Some you may need to pay for the accommodations, travel and bring your own supplies. Read the fine print before spending the time on the application.


Before you even start to research residencies you should have answers to very big questions about your work. What you are searching for as an artist, how you define success. These come under what we call a “Vision Statement”. It is the basic reasoning behind why you do your art. If a residency is in your vision statement, list what you want to get out of it before starting your search.

My “vision statement” includes teaching, inspiring other artists, and traveling. These are not first on the list, but they are an important element of my vision of being an artist. You may want a residency to be inspired by new surroundings and people, or a retreat to quietly continue your current work, or even to make contacts for future shows. Be honest and clear with what you want.

Think about if you can survive financially and mentally away from your studio for a month or two. Time spent at a residencies can result in you producing less work. It takes time to adjust and set up a new work space in a new environment. You may need to bring supplies or figure out how to buy them in a foreign country. These are all things you need to consider before applying. Remember, residencies should not be considered vacations. They are hard work, with a high level of socializing thrown in.

The Search

With the “vision statement” in hand you can now start your search. To save time, I have a list of residency deadlines listed by month, so if I am not accepted this year, I know when to apply next year. Apply about a month in advance, so you are showing recent work, but not working the night before. My top three web sites for searching include residencies are Wooloo, Café, and TransArtists .

A shortcut for searching residencies is to read CV’s of fellow artists in your field. Here you will find residencies they did in the past. You can also contact them for questions and advice.

Once you find a potential residency, search their site for the application form. If this does not exist, send them a short e-mail asking for the “guidelines for submitting an art-in-residency proposal.” No need to tell them about you or your work. Remember most of these organizations are non-profit and the staff has limited time.

If Residency Is Not Offered

If you can’t take a full month off or is an organization does not offer a residency, you have options. A local college may be open to having you stop by as a visiting artist, even if they don’t have a formal residency program. Once you find the correct contact persons, send a clearly written proposal. Include the project, supplies, timing, and how you want to be reimbursed. Be creative – they may be much more open for a two day visit instead of two months.


Follow all steps as exactly as possible, and write your ideas out as clearly as possible. If this is not done they will trash the application. When asked for images of your work, I prefer to send a couple of close-up shots to show details. Consider how your work is best understood. To show scale and context you can show one photo including a frame or two pieces hung side by side.

I highly recommend incorporating community interaction into your project. Think about the host, having different artists come and go every year. If you have a connection with local people, it keeps a bond between them and the host, which is something the host may be wanting. Be creative with the proposals you are offering them. Write as clearly as possible – remember they are reading huge amounts of applications.


Once you are accepted, you need to do research and make as many contacts as possible before you physically arrive, so when you arrive you will have a group of people to work with, socialize with and (most importantly) ask questions of. Ask for any contacts your host has. Do a Google search or find local artist organizations and contact their members. E-mail a “letter of introduction” and simply invite them to meet you during your stay. I offer to share techniques. In turn, these professionals can help you find supplies, make gallery connections, help you get around, and even loan equipment. I never ask this in my initial email, it just naturally comes up after you get to know each other. This is one of the big reasons for a residency – to connect with the locals. Staff can help, especially if you want to meet instructors at a local art university.

Does the staff have contacts at local galleries and museums, or do they have contacts at schools and universities? You may want to do a demonstration or lectures at different organizations during your residency. If you want to do a lecture for, say a local college, try to get your host involved, so the students not only learn about you and your work, but see how this residency works and learns about the hosting organization.

Once you get to know your host well, ask if they have collectors who may be interested in meeting you and seeing your work. Don’t forget the press. Search out newspapers, websites and blogs before you arrive and send a press release on your project asking to have it covered.


If you have extra time during your residency, you can propose a permanent instillation. This is a fine way to have your work remembered, seen by future visitors, and is good listing on your CV.
The types of residencies available are varied and numerous, depending on your area of expertise. It takes research and asking the right questions, while organizing your steps carefully. Once you get this done, you can have a stress-free time to create the project you set out to do without complications.

  © Blogger template Brownium by 2009

Back to TOP