DIY Residencies: a career in the arts on your own terms
Note from author: This article originally published April 2nd by The Guardian, a media outlet that serves primarily a UK-based audience. The sub headline read; 'From 24-hour plays to co-op leasing, US artists are ditching traditional residencies in favour of working on their own terms'. The article has been shared on social media channels over 1,000 times since publishing. Comment sentiments ranged from "these are great ideas, I want to try doing this on my own terms", to "duh - artists have been doing this forever". In following the social media conversations, other interesting approaches to DIY Residencies were shared. I included some of these examples as an addendum to the article below and invite the Fractured Atlas audience to share additional examples via the comments. - Lisa Niedermeyer
Last week, US rail company Amtrak officially began offering writing residencies on its trains after writers mounted a lively social media campaign sparked by an interview with author Alexander Chee, in which he floated the idea. The announcement attracted headlines around the world and put a mainstream spotlight like never before on the role that residency programs can play in fostering the development of both artists and their art.
At the same time, however, the fact that so many writers were clamouring for Amtrak to launch the programme underscored that formal residencies are often out of reach for many artists. They can be highly competitive and are often too lengthy or too far away to be affordable for the many artists who rely on day jobs to make ends meet.
It is not surprising then that more and more artists are taking matters into their own hands by organising do-it-yourself residencies. These pioneers are establishing new models for residencies by experimenting with alternative approaches to funding, space and time, while still creating an experience that allows them and other artists to break away from the daily grind in order to explore and develop ideas, collaborate and network with other artists, and make art. Some of the innovative ideas and solutions being tested include:
To avoid the huge financial outlay of owning a facility to host a residency, the Austin-based Rubber Repertory theatre used a co-op financial model to help cover the cost of the lease on a church space for their own long-term placement. It supplemented its costs by offering affordable short-term residencies ($50 for a week stay) to more than 80 artists from around the world over the course of a year.
Theatre company co-founder Josh Meyer recently told Fast Company that anyone could easily copy their model: "The artists don't need a lot from us. What we're really giving them is the time and the space. Anyone with a year to do this could probably start their own artist colony."
Crowdfunding sites such as IndieGoGo, RocketHub, and Kickstarter are powerful new tools that artists can use to both fundraise for a residency program and to engage a broad base of project supporters. In fact, Rubber Repertory raised over $9,000 via crowdfunding campaign to cover a portion of rent and utilities on the church space it used for its residency.
The Indy Convergence, founded by a trio of artist entrepreneurs, including an actor, dancer and designer, has also successfully used crowdfunding to fund its pop-up residency – a two-week summer gathering of professional artists from across the US who collaborate on cross-disciplinary projects.
The 24-hour residency
One way to make costs more manageable is to significantly limit the length of the traditional residency experience. There are many examples of creative professionals from diverse disciplines who have come together to collaborate and create an original artwork within a restricted timeframe, such as 24 Hour Plays, the 48 Hour Film Project and twenty-four magazine.
By limiting their lengths, these projects make it easier for more artists with day jobs to participate and, more importantly, maximise the potency and creative energy of the artists' time together. The accelerated creative process allows ideas to be explored and processed overnight, cultivates new creative relationships in real-time, and leaves participants with a renewed sense of motivation, self-confidence and purpose.
Detroit-based choreographer and dancer Kristi Faulkner worked out a deal to use under-utilised space at Michigan State University for her DIY residency. To cover the additional costs of a three-artist residency, she ran classes for the public to generate the needed funds. She invited two other collaborators from different disciplines – artists she wanted residency time to create new work with – which resulted in a larger audience for the classes by attracting people passionate about different artforms.
As a variation on the idea, artists could approach local schools or colleges, which are vacated during the summer, or a holiday resort or campsite, which tend to be under-used in the winter, and offer their artistic expertise as a service.
A month-long residency in a cabin in the woods with complete privacy to focus on creative work will never be accessible or feasible for most artists. Thankfully, more and more artists are reimagining the traditional residency for a new generation of independent artists who are building and sustaining careers in the arts on their own terms.
Other DIY residency approaches shared via twitter and article comments from original posting on The Guardian:
Artelier - Artists anywhere in the world can also make their own residencies by swapping studios and / or apartments on Artleier, a free service provided by Artquest with around 30 international partners.
The Reside Residency - A self-funded and self directed residency centered on the artist in his/her current environment. Inspired by the founders inability to find a suitable residency for an individual with familial and professional responsibilities.
Artist Admin Residencies - Blogger and playwright James Carter reimagines artists residencies as arts admin jobs that are 40% administrative duties and 60% creative activities.
Live Art Development Agency's DIY - Artists working in Live Art conceive and run unusual training and professional development projects for other artists, including conceiving DIY artist residencies.