A lot of artist residency application deadlines have either recently passed or will soon pass. I’ve been getting frequent emails from friends asking how I narrowed down my application choices for the residency I completed in July, 2014 at Jentel Artists Residency (a few of my favorite pics above). when viewing the lists of available artist residencies, the overwhelming choice can seem daunting if you have no idea what you want. For me, the top four most important criteria were money, time, location and expectations and the list continues from there. I’ll explain how i figured out which residencies would be best for me to apply to based on my list and it may be helpful for others to use my list as a barometer.
The top most important thing on my list was that I didn’t have to pay to participate in the residency. Believe it or not, there are many prestigious residencies that ask artists to pay a hefty price to be there. It may very well be worth it for some to pay for a residency, there are certainly some wonderful ‘pay for’ programs out there. Some do offer fellowships or other alternative ways to offset the cost and if i came across a to-die-for program that offered those opportunities, I did consider applying-but they were relegated to the bottom of my list. Besides, I knew there were plenty of other fabulous residencies available that were not only free, but that may also offer a stipend to the artist and those were first on my list.
Also, extremely important is time, both how long do you want to be there and is the residency available when you are. For those of us who teach, there is a very limited window of time as to when we can commit to a residency. I also wanted one that was at least two weeks up to six weeks in length. I know that I need time to acclimate to a new place and I know I need time to do my work, so a week long residency wasn’t going to cut it for me. I also knew i couldn’t commit to a lengthy residency of more than 6 weeks (although it would be awesome if I could!)
The next thing was location. For my first residency experience, I wanted to keep in simple and stay in the USA. Next, I’m inspired by landscape-especially the landscapes of Utah, Colorado, Arizona and the Pacific Northwestern states, so I looked for opportunities in those areas. I live in the northeast and wanted to be inspired by something different than what i normally see, so heading westward was my first choice. Considering the amazing landscape in upstate New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine and that it is so different from Southeastern Pennsylvania, I added those states to my list of considerations. It was also important that the location was rural and away from distractions. I know I need quiet, but I still like being fairly close to commerce, so I made sure a town of some sort was within driving distance.
The fourth very important criteria was the expectation of the residency program-what did they want from me as a participant. Some of them like the artist to be open to the community 24/7 and this was of no interest to me. Some want just a lecture, others want a workshop or both, others want a finished piece for their collection, etc. So what they expected from me was important as i wanted to limit the distractions that could possibly get in the way of my studio practice. I didn’t want the community coming into my studio unless it was only once or twice on a scheduled day and I didn’t want to be available even weekly to anyone. I also didn’t want to work collaboratively or on any set project, I just wanted time and space to focus on my work.
Once i narrowed the list down to location, money, time and residency expectations, my other questions were–did they actually offer me a stipend–which is always a plus. What were the studio spaces like? Did i have to share a space? Is there special equipment available to me to try? How many others will be there at the time of my residency? Will the others there also be visual artists? Or writers? Musicians? Dancers? What are the living quarters like? Do i have to share a room, bathroom? Do they offer meals? Transportation? Are there interesting places to hike within walking distance? I may stand out as being particularly particular and i know this, which is why i really thought things out before applying. I wanted something that would work for me on many levels so that i could be the most productive artist i could be.
There are two great web sites that offer comprehensive listings of artist residencies of all kinds, Alliance of Artist Communities and Resartis. a third listing to consider is the National Park Residencies, which I have heard are wonderful opportunities.
Other than writing your list of important criteria, i will leave you with a few more tips. One, is to read the mission statement of the residency and is it consistent with what you want. Two, is to know who you are and what you really want. Be honest with yourself-imagine yourself there and can you truly produce in that environment. Third, is to create a spread sheet with all of your top residencies listed, along with check boxes under your most important criteria. Highlight the ones you are most interested in applying for, along with their application deadlines. This is so helpful in order to keep them all straight as this process can get overwhelming! Fourth, is to be prepared to be rejected. As an artist (of any kind), most of us are quite used to rejection, but it never gets easier. Especially difficult is when you think you’ve found the perfect residency program, filled out the perfect application and you are still rejected. If you are a teaching artist and only have that very limited amount of time available, you can bet that there are hundreds seeking that same window. But don’t dismay! There are many, many opportunities out there and if i can find one, anyone can!
good luck to you!