Artist residencies are so cool, but are they really designed for the real-life everyday artist? And spoiler alert, they don’t suck like the title of this post implies, but artist residencies are not set up for artists who have the responsibilities of balancing a family, kids, 9-5 job, or other responsibilities. Although I have written blog posts about residencies in the past to help those attending, this post discusses why they are not practical for the modern artist.
While the dream of a residency is something all of us would love to do, its nearly impossible to fit in a residency between real life unless you’re a teacher who can pre-plan summers, a full-time freelance artist, a professor taking a sabbatical, you find yourself unemployed, you’re young and between schooling and a real job or you’re retired. Okay enough reasons, but seriously, the artist residency (alongside some other artist-based opportunities) are really not set up for the real artist.
1. Many residencies need a community component or presentation
Sometimes artists just need some quiet creative time to work out our thoughts and ideas. Forcing a project or end result can already alter the work and put unforeseen pressure on the artist. It can already change the work that hasn’t begun. Sometimes the work is not community-based and is more of a personal exploration or narrative which doesn’t really translate to a community presentation in some cases.
2. Residencies can be expensive
You can be sure to fork out some money during your residency. While some have scholarships and stipends there can be fees for the application fee, travel, food, and supplies before or during the residency. If you come up with an oversized project, you may need to pay for special shipping to get it back home or to your studio. You also need to factor in paying your normal monthly rent and bills while you are away.
3. You need to plan ahead, sometimes a year in advance
Many residencies are booked a year in advance. You are lucky if you can find one that is within 6 months or less. This can be both a positive and a negative. When planning in advance you can do your best to prevent any scheduling conflicts and make the appropriate decisions to plan ahead for your residency. But planning so far in advance can also make it difficult to see some issues or unforeseen events happening along the way that may alter your ultimate plans. On the contrary, if you happen upon unemployment, are transitioning between jobs, or have again an unforeseen event happen in your life that frees up some time, planning a last-minute residency probably won’t be in your future.
4. Most residencies usually start around 2 weeks minimum
If you’re looking to sneak in a residency during your work vacation, it can be difficult as many residencies start at a minimum of 2 weeks and some can last up to a year. As much as it would be great to escape the responsibilities of the world and just make art, most careers have a hard time allowing 2 weeks of vacation in a row.
If you have found how to balance a residency with real work and your life responsibilities, by all means, go for it! Residencies are a great way to deepen your profession, experience a new setting, allow for exploration and build networking and connections. I recommend that all artists somehow blast through these 4 tough hurdles and do an artist residency at some point in their career.
Got tips on how you managed to fit in a residency while balancing work, life, and a creative career? Comment below!