A Small Salute to Artist Residencies
I avoid the term “bucket list. ” It’s just too hackneyed and the word bucket is not visually compelling enough for me. But I am an inveterate list maker. I keep To Do lists. To Be lists. To Go lists. To Read lists. Painting Title lists. Quote lists. Good Song Title lists. Potential Dog Name lists. To Fix lists (this one encompasses the spiritual and the mechanical.) And the Artist Residency list.
Attending a residency is still years away, but we host our own writer’s residency with Aspen Words. We don’t have extra studio space to accommodate fine artists, but since writers’ needs are more streamlined, we provide space for a handful of writers every year. We turned a former rental apartment into a writing retreat, and the writers-in-residence stay in a bucolic setting in Colorado. Aspen Words handles all administration, such as the selection process, the parameters for applicants and all other quotidian details. Our job is much easier. From May to November, a published author, poet or playwright with a looming deadline arrives to a full refrigerator and works in solitude for a month. Every now and then a dog will stop by for a visit or the resident will come up for air and join us for dinner. But they are guaranteed peace and quiet, and they get it.
Despite their popularity, the notion of — and need for — artist residencies is still a fugitive concept to many outside of the creative realm or to those who support more mainstream philanthropy. Space and solitude are essential ingredients to creative process. Artist residencies provide this opportunity to work and retreat from the constant tug of the outside world. At least temporarily. There have been many benefits to our own venture, not the least of which is meeting so many dynamic, wonderful and engaged writers. We are more passionate than ever about artist residencies and the need for them in this increasingly frantic world.
The variety is endless – there are the established and famous residencies like Yaddo; the McDowell Colony; Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture; the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown or Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts. The competition is fierce for these alpha residencies (and those are just a few), but there are many others, including the quieter and more obscure ones (like ours) that serve one artist at a time and are not year round. Many of these can be found in a comprehensive list for all disciplines at the Alliance for Artist Communities. Their mission: “The Alliance gives a collective voice on behalf of its members, small and large, that leverages support for the field as a whole; promotes successful practices in the field; and advocates for creative environments that support the work of today’s artists.”
Their website: http://www.artistcommunities.org