A room of one’s own is a must for the artist to create.
Luckily, that’s why artist residencies exist. For a few weeks or a few months, time and space is all yours to conquer, as you escape from daily drudgery to work on whatever it is you need to do, be it composing music, writing, photography, painting, etc.
There are a surprising number of artist residencies that offer completely free room and board, and maybe even a stipend for travel–but the hard part is getting accepted. Some artist residencies may seem to be as competitive as getting into an Ivy League school. For most applications, you’ll need strong recommendations, an artist statement, a project proposal, and last but not least — your very best work sample to impress the judges.
Artist residencies vary widely in how they are set up and in what they will provide for you. You could spend a month living with a handful of artists in log cabins in rural Wyoming or spend six months in a studio apartment smack dab in the middle of Beijing. Be sure to do your research and ask lots of questions about the residency before confirming an acceptance. Try to get in touch with a previous resident to ask about his or her experience, or find out what people are saying about the residency online.
Although some residencies offer grants, scholarships or even stipends, you’ll also need to factor in the cost of traveling to and from the residency. You may find a free or cheap residency abroad, but the ticket to get there may be pricey.
If you have been wanting to travel abroad anyways, applying for an artist residency in an attractive destination could be a great way to save money on accommodation—and to meet other artists from all over the world.
One such international residency was started by Scottish poet Margaret McAuslan who left her native country to find peace and inspiration in Bulgaria. Her previous experience of spending almost two years in an artist community in rural Scotland led her to establish her own artist residency, UFO Studios, on the property where she now lives in the village of Ivancha, Bulgaria.
McAuslan expresses what is usually true of artist residencies no matter where they are located: “UFO Studios is an inexpensive and non-demanding retreat for artists where individuals are free to explore their creativity at their own pace. There are no rules, other than showing courtesy towards other people and respect for the space, we ask very little of our guests. Mostly, the artists are individuals who simply want a quiet, rural location to develop ideas and create. As a writer, I appreciate that sometimes a peaceful environment is needed for thinking, imagining and researching ideas for new work.”
UFO Studios aims to keep costs at a minimum, with a charge of 50 euro per week without food (you can opt to cook for yourself), or 80 euro per week with food. Utilities, laundry and wifi are inclusive and there are many books and some musical instruments, including a piano, as well as a movie library. “Sometimes we have small gatherings with music, or we project a film outdoors,” she adds. Instead of scholarships, UFO Studios also accepts artists who can volunteer 25 hours a week of help around the property.
Although there is flexibility, the preference at UFO Studios is for people to come for a minimum of 2 weeks and a maximum of 12. “We expect artists to respond to the shared space with respect and a willingness to engage in community living. Privacy is, of course, essential to most people. But eating meals or spending a few hours socializing with others is also desirable. Sharing thoughts and discussing ideas with other artists is rewarding and often leads to creative collaboration,” McAuslan explains.
Before you apply or confirm your acceptance to any artist residency, just remember that there are plenty of things to consider, including:
—What kind of lodging will be provided?
—How many other artists will you be sharing the lodging space and studio with?
—What kind of equipment, materials and studio space will you have access to?
—Will all meals be provided?
—Can they accommodate food allergies/restrictions?
—Are you required to give a final presentation or exhibition during or after the residency period?
—Do they provide transport to and from the airport or bus/train station? (Because some residencies are located in the middle of nowhere!)
—If it’s located abroad, do you need any kind of visa to be a guest at this residency?
Whether you are seeking to travel within the country or venture abroad, here are some great resources to jump start your search for the perfect artist residency to suit your needs:
Alliance for Artist Communities
National Park Residencies
Rate My Artist Residency