So you’ve applied for and have been rejected from a few residency programs, you’ve weighed the pros and cons regarding creating your own (Read Part 1 of this series, Self-Made Artist Residency: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly) and decided to be a rebel and do it! But where to begin? The following is a step by step checklist of important decisions to make before taking the plunge and of course, I offer examples of some of the things I thought about and actually did.
These considerations all work together, one is not separate from any of the others. You might not be able to check all your boxes, but having all considerations all in one list, plus all of the questions I ask may help you prioritize what is most important to you. It might also help to refer to Residencies: The Artist Kind, a blog post I wrote about choosing and applying for a residency program. Read to the end of this article for photos of my funky cabin and funky cabin art.
- When and How Long For most, carving out time away is the biggest hurdle so this must be your first consideration. I’m a bit of a hermit in the winter months, especially in the months of January through March, so I usually leave that time unscheduled in order to focus on my studio work. I had wanted to schedule my residency for all three months, but I had a rare workshop scheduled for mid-February. That left six weeks starting in January, a good amount of time to acclimate to my surroundings and get some work done.
- Location Where in the world is most inspiring to you? What kind of climate/landscape do you need to feel inspired? Do you need a city near you, lots of people, civilization? Or are more isolated areas better for you? Do you want to be in the US or is international travel important for you? As I mentioned above, I needed to get out of winter in Philadelphia so being somewhere sunny and warm(ish) was my top priority. Hiking is part of my studio research, so an interesting landscape with parks and/or hiking trails is where I focused on the map. Also, my budget didn’t support international travel, so I focused on the south, southeastern and southwestern US.
- Cost You will be solely responsible for all costs, so you must make a budget that includes travel, food, accommodations, art supplies, entertainment, etc. Once you arrive at a budget, double it(!) as there are incidentals that come up that you may not have considered. For example, most of the state parks I’ve been to here in PA are free while most of the parks I visited in FL had a charge. I went to a new park every other day while there and realized I should just purchase a Parks Pass which eventually paid for itself.
- Accommodations How much room do you need to make your work? Do you like to cook, do you need a kitchen? Do you need outdoor space? Do you usually make a big mess when you work? Working with encaustic needs too many special considerations so I knew I was only bringing water media and this restriction freed up my options. I don’t need a lot of room to make my work and I’m not especially messy when I work. Part of my embarking on this residency was to get away from my life, to think and be alone so I didn’t want a lot of distractions-being in a rural environment was okay with me. I also like a patio space or space outside of my living space to read, write, draw, etc. I don’t cook and really only need a microwave and small fridge for meals. Having all of this info combined with my timeframe, location and budget worked out.
- What’s Next I then went to Airbnb (also checked Sublet.com, HomeAway, Vrbo) and searched the states I was most interested in visiting-CA, UT, NM, AR, CO, FL, GA, SC. I also checked the extended forecast and found that I would be most comfortable in FL. I couldn’t afford anything in the vacation spots most snowbirds frequent in January, so I settled on a small fishing cabin on the St. John’s River in Northern FL that checked most of my boxes. (Pictured above) It had two small bedrooms, a sunroom, a full kitchen, a small bathroom, laundry on premises and it was right on the edge of a National Forest. It was also 90 minutes from two cities that had galleries and museums so that I could satisfy my art cravings. Not perfect..and by no means was it luxury…but it was within my budget, drivable within two days from home and I could be comfortable there for an extended period. I knew I would be in a rural environment, but this place was very isolated with the closest food store at least 30 miles away. It was weird at first, but I acclimated well and by the third week I learned to plan my hiking trips so that I could also do errands along the way.
The best thing about doing this on my own was realizing I could do it and that I didn’t have to rely on the almighty residency programs out there to tell me where, when and how high I could jump. Everyone will be different, but I hope this offers some inspiration and at least gets the wheels turning for you. Stay tuned for my next post outlining how I carved a creative space out of a fishing cabin, supplies I took with me, supplies I wish I took with me and what kind of work I made while on my residency.