How to apply for an artist residency….

and why you should!

A fellow artist asked me the other day how one finds out about artist residencies.

Something that I have only tried once, but found so inspiring that I am already booked for another, with intentions to apply for several other opportunities.

The world is your oyster with a residency. A chance to meet with artists and cultures from all over the globe. To collaborate, experiment and develop.

image courtesy of Flickr commons Nasa archive

I attended a residency in Trelex, near Geneva in 2017 for three weeks. This particular residency was free, and there was no formal application process, so as a novice applicant it was an ideal first time residency. I went with no particular plans ( I am a photographer), as I prefer to respond to a new environment in what ever way I feel drawn to in the moment.

Being in a new place can spur work in new and unexpected directions…….

Unbearable Lightness © Caroline Fraser

Some residencies require you to detail your reasons for applying, and to outline a project plan. Do not be put off by this, as there are ways to write a plan without being too specific. You just need to show that you are committed to the place/opportunity, and have good reasons to support this. You will probably also have to present a digital portfolio and resume.

The key criterial for an artist residency are summarised by the organisation resartis ; it is not a coincidence that the number one criteria is ‘organised and sufficient time, space and resources‘. The gift of uninterrupted time, exclusively for oneself as an artist, is something that we rarely manage in our daily lives. So much can be achieved when away from the normal daily routine. Time to think as well as to create.

To go where the magic is……

Where to start?

First you need to choose your residency.

There are several websites that make a good starting point for exploring possibilities.

Firstly, Resartis

Resartis website helps you to find residencies all over the world. You can search by country, disciplines, fees, accomodation and more.

Secondly, a-n news , the news resource for artists.

Thirdly, Transartists artist in residence guide.

The search can be narrowed down by location, when you are available, and how much it will cost. Costs vary wildly, from free to hundreds of pounds. Facilities vary too, as does accomodation. Minimum stay also varies, from 2-3 weeks to several months. You need to do your homework……

If you like your home comforts, then living like a student again may not be for you. But the chance to live and work with people from all around the world more than makes up for this in my experience.

Trelex, Switzerland

There is no point applying for a residency in a remote Swiss village if your work does not relate in some way to the environment on offer. If the facilities that you require for your work are not transportable or offered at the location, then you are not going to get very far.

As a photographer, I can carry my cameras, but not my printer on my international travels. I was lucky that there was a printer available in Trelex; I just needed to provide my own paper.

working with water in Trelex

My next residency will be at Createspace Wales, near Cardigan. If I want to use a printer there I will need to take one with me. Or I may decide to work in a completely different and experimental way, which will be good for creativity and hopefully open up new avenues of work.

How to apply

The application process can feel onerous; forms to complete and portfolios/resumes to be prepared. But if you are really committed to a location then this is worth the effort, and may even help you to think about what directions you wish your work to take. Having to write a project proposal requires a bit of imaginative thinking and also reflection.

I find it helpful to write the application tasks into my notebook, and think about them for a while before starting to write.

application criteria for Banff artist residency

As one who normally works intuitively on location without defined outcomes, writing a proposal requires me to look at what I do normally in my work, and then to work this into an intention for my next project. Everyone knows that what one ends up doing may be impossible to predict. This is art, not science.

I normally make books, so part of my project proposal might be to make a new book. I normally walk in nature to create my work, so that will be part of any project proposal too. Planning a timetable for the residency can be challenging, but makes a tangible outcome more likely.

Giving good reasons for choosing that particular location can also be built into the proposal.

the studio in Trelex

bookmaking in progress

If your portfolio provides evidence that you have created work of a similar nature previously, then what you write will be credible and the portfolio will support your application. Showing that you have achieved a tangible outcome from previous opportunities will help your raise your credibility.

‘If I only had more time’ by Caroline Fraser; about being artist in residence in Trelex

Just as you would follow instructions carefully for open calls to exhibitions, take time to prepare exactly what has been asked of you.

The selectors have only your images and text to go by. They don’t know what a lovely person you are….

Be prepared for rejection, and don’t take it personally.

This can be a competitive process. You will not be the only one who fancies a few weeks in an exotic location in the cause of your art.

Trelex residency

But just as in all competitions, someone has to be a winner.

And that winner might just be you!

selfie with sunflower

Comments (2)

Thanks for this article Caroline, it is fascinating to read about your experience of a residency. It has inspired me to find out more.

1 year ago

Thank you Sarah. It is such a great opportunity….. I am pleased that the article was helpful.

1 year ago

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