Art Demystified: How Do Artist Residencies Work?

Why do artists participate in residencies?

The Swiss Institute offers residencies in this picturesque Roman villa. Photo: Istituto Svizzero via Facebook.

Artist-in-residence programs give artists the opportunity to live and work outside of their usual environments, providing them with time to reflect, research, or produce work.

During a residency, artists can explore new locations, different cultures, and experiment with different materials. Much like study abroad programs, residencies are often aimed at young artists and can end up having a long term impact on their life and work.

For example, the New Museum in New York hosts a residency for emerging Chinese artists, the National Parks Arts Foundation offers a residency on a deserted island off the coast of Florida, and the European Organization for Nuclear research even offers a residency at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider.

In an interview with artnet News, the Swiss-Brazilian emerging artist Pedro Wirz described how the stress-free environment at his recent residency at the Swiss Institute in Rome influenced his practice and helped him adopt a more solitary approach to working.

“The residence I’m doing right now at the Swiss Institute [in Rome] also has a lot to do with it because there I have all the support to only be in the studio,” he explained. “There is a chef cooking every day for the artists, you have a beautiful room to live in, and you have this fantastic studio—it’s ridiculous. I’m so happy.”

AA Bronson. Photo: Piotr Perobski, courtesy of the artist.

AA Bronson. Photo: Piotr Perobski, courtesy of the artist.

Similarly, artist AA Bronson told artnet News that a residency in Berlin influenced him so profoundly that he decided to move to the German capital permanently. “I originally moved here for a one-year residency with the DAAD, the Berliner Kunstklub program which has been going for more than 50 years now,” he explained. “That program alone has brought an amazing number of artists, I think usually they bring in 12 a year and as many as half of them will probably stay permanently. Over the years its really altered the texture of the whole Berlin art world. And that’s what happened to us. We’d been here for 9 months and we thought, why go back?”

The funding for a residency, its conditions, and the criteria for being selected vary greatly between different host art centers. Applications typically require artists to submit a project proposal, résumé, and letter of motivation or similar documentation.

And whilst some host centers impose restrictions or conditions on the work produced over the course of the residency, others give participating artists free reign to produce what they like. Similarly, the duration of a residency can vary greatly, although they typically span from several months to a year.


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