I’m still reeling from my summer. My life was very good, but it was very busy. On top of a trip to South Korea, an internship at the American Philosophical Society, and a family wedding (!!!), I completed my very first artist residency.
At risk of repeating what others have said before me — here are a few good reasons why YOU should apply to residencies.
- It can inspire you in ways you never imagined before. I’m totally serious. Laurie Anderson credited her stint as the first artist in residence at NASA (and maybe the last?) as one of the only reasons why she still lived in the United States at the time. The residency paid off in more ways than one: it was the first performance piece referencing 9/11 I saw that was poignant, beautiful, and had people sobbing in their seats.
- It can lead to collaborations that you never would have thought of before. While technically a commissioned piece, the work done by painter Maxfield Parrish and Louis Comfort Tiffany (of Tiffany Studios) has been called one of the major artistic collaborations in early 20th century America. If you ever find yourself in Philadelphia, I highly recommend a visit. It isn’t called Dream Garden for nothing. Seemingly unlikely pairings like this can and do happen all the time in artist residencies.
- It can offer access to communities of people that were previously unaccessable to you. While at my two-week residency in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania I was asked to present to a group of homeless youth in the nearby Braddock township. While I was initially skeptical that anyone would be interested in what I had to say — I was making thaumatropes at the time — it was a hit! Not only did these kids stay parked in their seats for two whole hours, they made amazing work! It blew my mind…and when would I have ever found myself in that situation if weren’t for participating in that residency?
- Finally — and this is for you current grad students or recent graduates–residencies are just like grad school. Only shorter. It’s a magical time when you can just…make…work. Many residencies don’t even require that “finished” work be produced. It’s a place, and one of the very few, where people understand that the artistic process can look very different from person to person and medium to medium.
Although the application process can be daunting–just do it. Start a Google calendar that reminds you of deadlines a month in advance. Hang every denial form-letter you get like a trophy on the wall and apply to three more programs. Make good work and send it out into the world. GO!