By Danielle Austen, Guest Blogger – Everglades National Park is a nature photographer’s dream. On my second visit, a park ranger told me about their artist-in-residence program. He opened my eyes to a whole world of artistic opportunity!
When photographers travel, it is often with family, friends or to attend a workshop. This limits where we go and how long we stay. Photographers must wait for that right moment. Friends and family rarely have that much patience! Imagine having an entire month to yourself in which to work freely without interruption. Artist-in-residence programs exist to provide artists, academicians, curators, and other creative people with just this kind of space and time.
Residencies remove us from our usual environment and daily obligations so we can focus on our work. They are a time for reflection, research, and heightened productivity. During a residency, individuals can explore their practice in a new community with different people, work with new materials while experiencing a unique environment or simply work alone.
There are Artist-in-Residence programs for anyone in a creative field, whether their level is emerging, mid-career or advanced. Painters, sculptors, potters, photographers, crafters, fiber artists, designers, jewelers, architects, curators, choreographers, performance artists, musicians, composers, filmmakers, writers, poets, scientists or teachers can all find residencies where their work will be welcomed. Hundreds of these opportunities exist throughout the world.
There is no set format for a residency. They are offered by a broad range of organizations including national parks, museums, universities, schools, galleries, studio spaces, theaters, artist-run spaces, municipalities, corporations, festivals – even Facebook! Each group has their own goals and interests.
Residencies can last from as little as a week to as long as a year. They may be seasonal, ongoing, or tied to a one-time event. They exist in urban spaces, rural villages, container ships and primitive natural areas. In some programs, you may be without access to phone, internet, or TV but – trust me – it’s worth it!
Residencies can help artists build a body of work. They can provide a unique opportunity for artists to focus on a specific project, experiment with new techniques or develop new ways to express their vision.
There is no single model for a residency and the requirements vary greatly. Programs may ask the artist to lecture to the public or local schools, give workshops or donate a piece of their work created from their residency experience.
Applications to residencies can be a challenge. There is no set model. Be prepared to submit a resume, an artist’s statement, a bio and a letter of intent. Also be ready to explain why you are choosing their residency, what you hope to accomplish during your stay, how your work will benefit their program and how their program will benefit you as an artist. Have ideas on tap for public or school presentations or workshops. You may be asked to submit as few as 4 or as many as 20 samples of your work. Choose your submissions carefully and send samples that define your unique style.
Residencies are very competitive. If you don’t get in the first time, apply again. The second or even third time can be the charm!
There is no standard cost for residencies. Most programs offer artists enough support to allow them a break from their working commitments for some period of time. This can range from the provision of a living space to a complete package of food, a studio, a small stipend and even travel expenses. (These are rare.) There are also programs where you pay for everything, which is great if you have the funds. You need to factor this in when choosing a program.
Choose a residency that fits your style of work. If you are a nature photographer, you may not want to work in a city environment. If you get energy from other artists, you may wish to work in a community of artists rather than being on your own. The choices abound. The Vermont Studio Center has 40 artists participating every month, while most national park residencies host one artist per month. No matter which program you choose, you are expected to be self-reliant. There is always a contact person, but in most cases they will check you in, answer your questions, then leave you to your work.
Ask yourself “What do I want to accomplish, where do I want to go, and what can I afford?” Then look for the artist’s residency that fits your needs.
Artist residencies are truly amazing opportunities. Don’t miss the chance to participate! Danielle’s website is http://www.danielleausten.com
For Further Information
National Park Service – http://www.nps.gov/subjects/arts/air.htm
Residency Unlimited – http://residencyunlimited.org/opportunities
Alliance of Artist Communities – www.comistcommunities.org/residencies