What's the big deal about Artist Residencies?

Roswell Artist-in-Residence, Roswell, New Mexico

Artist Residencies are a big part of life as a contemporary artist. You'll see them on most artist CVs. They offer two of the three most important resources that artists say they need: time and space. (The last one is money, and some residencies even offer that.) Many—most?—working artists have at least one other job besides making their work. We figure out how to fit art-making into our busy lives in small bursts and we guard our studio days with territorial urgency. So a residency can bring much needed expanses of time empty of other obligations.

Here at OPP, we know that you'd rather spend your time in the studio, not researching ways to get more time in the studio. So we're kicking off a series of posts to get you started. Over the next six months, we'll highlight a variety of residencies, organizing them by type, including studio only, fully-funded, solitary retreats and media-specific residencies.

Keep in mind, this list is by no means exhaustive. It's really just the tip of the iceburg. So you need to develop your own methods for researching and applying to residencies. Here are a few tips:

1. Look at the CVs of artists you admire and who make work in the same vain you do, whether that is similar content or media. See where they have been in residence. Sometime you discover a lesser-known, but nonetheless exciting opportunity.

2. Get on the mailing lists of the residencies you are interested in to get reminders of upcoming deadlines and to see which artists are chosen.

3. Keep an active list of upcoming deadlines on your desktop along with a folder for each of your residency applications. Label these folders by year and residency name. Keeping all completed applications—even unsuccessful ones—in one accessible place can aid you when you apply to other residencies. You don't have to reinvent the wheel every time you apply. You can often repurpose language from previous applications.

4. Do continue to apply, even if you don't get in the first time. I've heard over and over again from artists at varying career levels that they often applied multiple times to prestigious residencies (and grants) before they were finally successful. Caveat: don't submit all the same images year after year. Panelists might remember your work and you want to show that you are continuing to make new work and evolve as an artist.

5. Excellent images make all the difference. In the age of iphone documentation, it's hard to justify paying an experienced photographer to document your work. But having sat on several juries, it is very clear that the quality of the images has THE BIGGEST impact on your success. I've seen mediocre work that was excellently photographed win out over superior work photographed in crappy lighting.

The Red Mill at Vermont Studio Center

In the upcoming posts, we'll be focusing on residencies in the United States (for no other reason than that we are based here.) But again, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Please visit these online resources, which are extensive databases of artist residencies across the world.