It is a place for artists to go to, and work on their art with no interruption from their daily life. Often that place is somewhat far away from their home; it could be another town or another state or another country or even another continent.
There are no set rules to an Artist Residency: some specialize in a certain art form (sculpture, or printmaking, or painting, or writing, etc) while others offer access to a variety of techniques; some are designed for several simultaneous artists to come stay, while others can host only one artist at a time; they may be located in urban or rural areas; some are made possible by the generosity of a single wealthy benefactor’s foundation, while others are privately owned; some are run by a large staff and others have no employees.
But no matter what shape each Artist Residency takes, they all have one thing in common: they exist because the people who run them share a passion for artists and their creative process.
A couple of years ago, the Alliance of Artist Communities had their yearly conference in Seattle, and I decided to go for a day. The artist that I am was hiding behind the “Sev Shoon owner” front, and as such, I met all of the people who run the residencies that I would like to apply to, and am a bit intimidated by. It seems to me that the main point of the conference was for artist residencies’ directors to meet and develop personal relationships. To achieve that goal, we alternated between sitting in small groups, and mingling with everybody. I often find it a little difficult to meet people at conferences, but this particular one left me feeling warm and happy! The people who were there were not merely “staff”, they were deeply committed to artists and their process; they all talked about how hard it is to send rejection letters, how they wish they could forego the application fees, and were practically obsessed with wanting to make everything better and easier for the artists they serve. This was not the “administration” I had imagined for years: I suddenly realized that those were “real people” with a passion for people like me (the one wearing the artist hat)!
I have had the good fortune of having done several Artist Residencies and in the weeks to come, I will share my experiences as well as that of some of my friends who have gone to awesome places.