Artist Residencies - Opening a World of Opportunity

At the moment we turn on the news and it is very heavy. So I thought this fortnight's blog should refer to something that can get us dreaming of a future opportunity when the world is calmer and open!

I recently posted on social media, reminiscing about a trip I did to the UK 10 years ago to research models of how different organisations were delivering Artist in Residence Programs. Tough job - but someone had to do it hey? Yes I had plenty of offers from people wanting to carry my luggage! It was part holiday, part work and all eye opening.

My little family and I (including being 18 weeks pregnant at the time) boarded a plane for England. Over 3 weeks we managed to fit in visiting a number of artist residencies. See if any of these tickle your fancy.

The first stop was Tintagel in Cornwall at Camelot Castle. We met with Artist in Residence Ted Stourton who is still in residence! His studio is in the basement of the castle and such a great space to explore. Who wouldn't be inspired by this landscape - albeit having to batten down your canvas in the high winds?! I am not sure if they are still offering spaces but at the time, the owners were encourage artists of all genres to visit and book a studio space.

Then we headed to Wales to Aberystwyth University to investigate their residency program (yes I luckily had a local to coach me on how to pronounce it properly). There is an Arts Centre at the university with a gallery and studio spaces for students. Unfortunately it seems the residency program wound up in 2016, so I was fortunate to see it in action. Artist in Residence would usually align themselves with a subject matter that was taught at the university and make use of their own on campus space and the studios. The space age-looking studio spaces were amazing!

One of my biggest learnings when looking at the various models was the reduced focus on outcomes and allowing artists time to simply explore their practice and push in new directions. Quite different to a lot of our funding models in Australia at the time.

In Derby we visited QUAD which is an independent theatre and gallery space. Their residency model was based primarily around projects resulting in exhibitions or performances with a heavy focus on education and engagement. The image on the right is from a recent digital residency with Soa J. Hwang.

In Leeds I met up with lecturers from the University who were at the time exploring residency models themselves. I then headed Manchester I met up with an independent artist who was opening up her home to visiting artists before heading off to Scotland to the Scottish Sculpture Workshop. This was my one of my favourite experiences.

"Scottish Sculpture Workshop is a site of possibility, where artists and communities have the tools, skills, opportunity, and networks to collectively imagine make and live in ways that are resistant and multiple." (Vision Statement of SSW)

We stayed in the Artist in Residence apartment along with other artists. The accommodation was across the road from the amazing studio spaces. As the name suggests, the focus is all on 3D forms. The site was donated for this purpose and with great philanthropic and government support, the studios were established in Lumsden in 1979. What a fantastic place to play and grow your practice!

In Belfast, we visited the Digital Arts Studios. Since 2003, they have hosted over 200 Artists in Residence, now including online and in-person residencies. You can access labs and audio-visual equipment and immerse yourself into the culture of Northern Ireland.

We then headed south to Dublin to the local government run Red Stables. This restored stables building in the grounds St Anne's Park. Just stunning! They have day studio spaces as well as an International Residential Studio. With living accommodation and a large studio space, the residency preferences artists who would engage with the historic parklands in some way and offer opportunities for the local community to engage.

The last stop was Gasworks in London. Their focus is more on contemporary visual arts and hybrid arts practices. They host regular residencies and are a driving force in the Triangle Network - a global network that focuses on supporting the professional development and cultural exchange between artists, curators and other arts professionals.

What an eye opening learning experience. We know that travel within Australia and internationally is opening up. Take some time to explore the amazing range of options out there to be an artist in residence yourself. The organisation Res Artis has hundreds of opportunities registered on their website. Get on google - you are sure to find a unique experience that suits your practice. If not - create your own adventure. I have created one with fellow artists at my local high school this Easter so we can access great facilities and equipment over 10 days! It is all possible and fundable.

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