I am writing this article in the quiet comfort of a large air conditioned studio space. For the past week I have been attending an artist’s residency at the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts in Nebraska City, NE. For those of you who may not be familiar with an artist’s residency, it’s kind of like a working vacation. Most residencies provide artists with a studio space, housing and sometimes even meals in order to support uninterrupted studio practice. A residency is a great opportunity to clear out your head and focus on your work and yourself. In addition to making unconventional pet apparel, I am also a fine artist. This residency has been all about taking some time for my artwork and myself, away from the worries and stresses of my craft business. I have time to paint, read books, write, take a bath or whatever else strikes my fancy. While I do miss my husband, dogs and house, I find out a little bit more about myself every time I go off into the world alone.
The benefits of an artist’s residency are many. Residencies can provide you with extra space or a special facility for a large scale project. They also give you a focused period to achieve your goals and experiment. If you are feeling overwhelmed with your handmade business and are able to find a residency program that suits your life and budget, I encourage you to take the plunge. This is the first time I’ve put my Etsy shop on vacation longer than 48 hours in the three years since it opened. It’s worth the leap to remember what you love about what you do! My husband calls this time “hitting the reset button,” and that’s a great analogy for the impact it can have on your creative life.
Most residencies are filled with other creative people, and that creative energy is a great way to fuel a new body of work. The residency here at KHN is for writers, artists and composers and at the moment it is occupied with a poet, a sculptor, the author of a memoir and a short story writer. I attended a one month residency at Vermont Studio Center in 2006 and met lots of wonderful people I still keep in touch with and whose work I think of often. VSC includes fantastic meals in the cost of the residency along with housing and a studio space in the scenic small town of Johnson.
Artists with the need for jewelry making, papermaking, letterpress, kilns or other special facilities will find there are a wide range of media specific programs out there. Some residencies are at centers that also offer workshops, like Penland and Anderson Ranch Arts Center. You will find residencies in almost every region of the US and all over the world. Mesart provides a list of residencies by state.
Resartis also offers information about residencies worldwide.
The cost of a residency varies from paid to free to several thousand dollars. I washed dishes at one residency to help offset the cost of meals and have had others paid in full by applying for scholarships. Most residencies last between one and six weeks and many operate year round. Some can last for a year or more and many of these offer opportunities to teach classes or help maintain the facility in exchange for a monthly stipend. Longer programs are a great opportunity for people in between jobs or students just out of school.
Check out a residency program’s website to find out about their application requirements and deadlines. Most require images of your work and a statement about why you’d like to have the time and space. Some also request your resume and a few may require a list of references.
For some it can be difficult to think about spending time and money for a studio space far from home, and I know I would also love to be using this time to sunbathe poolside in some exotic locale. Most people who attend residencies are leaving behind their full time jobs, families and responsibilities in order to devote energy solely to their creative work. For many artists, residencies provide a much needed balance between all they love about their daily life and their love for their work.