Basics of residencies

A residency can play a vital role in developing your work, and wider understandings of it, but it’s important to manage your expectations and make the most of the opportunity – residencies vary in style and you may need to participate in a couple before you decide which type suits you.

Ask detailed questions of the residency provider: remember, you are making the residency your home for maybe a month or more, so you must feel safe, comfortable and able to work.

Prepare in advance. Look at regional and national exhibition and festival schedules; arrange transportation beforehand to save on cost and use your networks to find friends or colleagues you could visit while you’re there.

Contact galleries, curators and arts centres to arrange meetings and studio visits. Offer your services: workshop leading or teaching, and as a means to earning a bit of money while you’re there. Find out about gallery openings when you first arrive – this will help immerse you into the local art community.

Relationships made during a residency can be invaluable. Nurture them once you’ve left – friendships and unexpected opportunities may arise as a result.

You should ask about:

Studio and accommodation

  • Ask for images/floor plans of the accommodation and studio – what is the square footage?
  • Are there basics: running water, electricity, adequate heating/air conditioning, suitable lighting?
  • What are studio/workshop access hours – can you work at the weekends and in the evening?
  • If you require specialised technical support, is there an onsite technician?
  • Is there other practical and pastoral support?
  • Is specific equipment available and when can you use it?
  • Is there Wi-Fi or high-speed broadband?

Where are you going?

  • What is the regional/national public transport like and do you have access to a car if you wish to explore further afield?
  • What is the cost of living and exchange rate? A stipend may seem reasonable in pounds, but in Japan, for example, it may not go very far.
  • Are there cultural attitudes and differences you should be aware of?
  • Research national health provision and ensure you have good medical and travel insurance.
  • Inform your bank that you will be abroad; confirm you can use debit/credit cards whilst away.
  • If away for a prolonged period of time, you may require a visa. Check visiting and working regulations for the country you are visiting. The Foreign & Commonwealth Office have a useful website with information and advice on this.
  • If travelling with expensive equipment, check your insurance cover.

How long has the programme been established – has it been successful?

  • Research the reputation of the residency and its staff.
  • Contact past residents for personal accounts – anecdotal experience is very useful.

Finally, don’t be disappointed if the residency doesn’t live up your your expectations. Infiltrate the local artistic community and seek support elsewhere to make sure you have a productive stay.  However, if you feel you have been misinformed by the website or residency literature, discuss this with the organisers and make a complaint if necessary.

Treat a residency like a job, particularly if it is paid – it is a reciprocal relationship.

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