If you’ve ever thought of applying for an artist residency before, and you need more excuses to do so, I urge you to read on for the numerous benefits.
1. Structured Travel
In general, part of the allure of a residency is that you are often traveling somewhere outside of where you live. This could be in the next city or across the world. If you love to travel, these art and writing opportunities are a great way to feel like you are doing something more than seeing the sights. A residency can allow you to absorb a visit elsewhere by giving you a connected purpose, such as creating your work.
2. Dedicated time
Time always seems to be an artist’s enemy. As in, there is never enough of it. Even if you are lucky to live without any outside-of-the-studio job, life still intervenes and distractions abound. Artists need more than just a specific quantity of time; they also need sustained time in order to follow a thread. Residencies give artists time to be “in the zone” and see what bubbles up. Knowing that you have nothing to do except think about and make your art is a welcome luxury.
3. Be Inspired By A New Landscape
It’s very useful to give your eyes something unique to feast on from time to time. When you are away with dedicated time to write or make art, you’re not just in a different location. Your whole body is in a different energy zone. Ideally, you have less daily care, as if being on vacation, and so how you see becomes connected to that state of mind.
Since many residencies are held in visually exceptional places, often in proximity to nature, there may be a lot of opportunity for walking. This can give you a chance to commune with the surroundings and also quiet down. Allowing different landscapes and locales to influence what and how you see will inform and stimulate your work. Walks through mountains, on dirt paths, and through forests have yielded many a great crop from artists and writers over the centuries.
4. Meet Artists and Writers From Around The World
One of the best by-products of going to a residency is meeting like-minded creators from all over the globe. The connections, mutual sharing, and respect that I have had for my fellow fellows are immense. The company and conversation at a residency are often stimulating and when you throw in a couple of bottles of wine, the nightly meal can extend for several hours. I have created meaningful and sustained connections with other artists this way. The atmosphere at a residency should be centered around generosity and a genuine level of respect.
It can also be the perfect combination of studio cave time and inspiration from other people’s stories or bits of interesting talk.
5. Be Privy To New Work
Creating is a private and solitary practice. There is an unspoken rule at residencies not to disturb someone’s studio unless specifically asked to do so. When you are invited to see paintings-in-progress or listen to a poem in its first stages, it feels like a privilege. A trust has been established. Someone is making themselves vulnerable to you from that place in their creative process that is unsure. This naturally leads you to reciprocate and genuine connections can be made.
6. Leave Your Comfort Zone
I have always believed that an artist should be able to make work anywhere. We can sometimes get way too comfortable in our own studios. Residencies help shake this up. If you normally work in a small space, how would being at a residency with a large studio change your work? Or the other way around? You also have to think about portability. You may need to adjust your materials by what you can fit in a suitcase. Allowing yourself to come up with different ways of working may start to shift your ideas. A residency can also provide time and space for that special project you’ve wanted to realize for years.
7. Be Pampered
While there are varying degrees of care given at each residency, you can rest assured that daily life will be easier than it is at home. Residencies are designed to give you uninterrupted time. Some take care of all the basics, like cooking, cleaning, and laundry. Some let you fend a bit more for yourself by providing kitchen space. One residency I attended left your lunch in a miner’s lunchbox outside your studio door. Bedrooms tend to be cozy and private. In general, residency facilities work hard to provide a contemplative vibe. Silence is a kind of pampering as well, and it can be very conducive to creative work.
8. Be Alone With Yourself
Since I am a true introvert, the solitude of a residency most certainly appeals to me. I am assuming if you are an artist, you want and require at least a fair amount of alone time. But even if you start to hyperventilate after all that solitude, a mealtime will come and you then can check in with your fellows about their discoveries that day. This is yet another way of being alone; you are placing yourself in a new situation. We all feel alone and tend to be more aware of ourselves when we are surrounded by people and surroundings we don’t know well. You may even begin to see different layers of your personality. All of this allows you to see in a different way and can filter into the studio.
9. Risk Rejection
Certainly no one likes to be rejected. But as all artists know, rejection is part of the deal. It’s a true test of courage to work through rejection. How dedicated are you to the work? How much do you believe in it? These are the skills that keep you going as an artist, and allow your work to develop. My career is littered with rejection, including rejections from residencies. But also a lot of acceptance as well. Point being, you can’t win if you don’t play. If you’re getting rejected, you are sharing your work. Isn’t that part of the process? Popularity be damned. Try for a residency.
10. You Deserve It
Being an artist is invigorating. Given the chance, most serious artists say they would rather be making art than doing anything else. But many of those rewards are intrinsic. Most of us do not have a lavish lifestyle resulting from the big bucks. On the contrary, artists spend a great deal of time wondering how to make ends meet, how to find a balance between life responsibilities and adhering to our studio time. This can be stressful and frustrating. A residency can make you feel recharged and remind you of your purpose. It is an affirming gift, that should be accepted and celebrated.
Here are some great resources to get you started (including residencies I have been lucky enough to participate in):
- Fundacion Valparaiso, Mojacar, Spain
- Virginia Center For Creative Arts, Amherst, VA
- Herekeke Arts Center, Lama, NM
- Le Moulin a Nef, Auvillar, France
- Worldwide list of residencies