Artists' Residencies

Article excerpt

At this time of global economic downturn, when governments across the world and especially in developed economies are committing vast sums of public money to prevent unemployment, some money is being earmarked to support artistic endeavour. This piece explores whether there is, or could be, a standard or model approach for engaging artists-in-residence.

Artists' residencies are not unique to the modern era. They were practised long before the development of the art market in recent centuries and the establishment of today's global trade in artworks as portable commodities with financial value. During the artistic Renaissance in the western world, for example, artists' incomes were derived chiefly from the execution of subject- and site-specific commissions dictated by high-networth patrons. Some such commissions involved a freelance contract between artist and patron, others involved a contract of employment: either way, artists worked at the patron's specified location and often took up residence there.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, such commissions were substantially reduced, and artists in the main became authors of self-generated works for sale. The turn of the 19th and 20th centuries saw the emergence of artists' residential colonies at, for example, Worpswede near Bremen in Germany (1889), the Woodstock area of New York State (1903) and Dartington in England (1925).

In 1935 the US government established the Federal Art Project (FAP), which was the visual element of the second of President Franklin D Roosevelt's New Deals aimed at tackling unemployment in the Depression era. Operating until 1943, FAP employed artists and paid them a basic wage to produce artworks (around 200,000 in all) for public institutions such as schools, libraries and hospitals, notably including Lee Krasner, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Willem de Kooning. The 1960s and 70s saw the development of further residency schemes: artists were engaged to work in public institutions (such as schools, hospitals, prisons, places of religious worship, universities, galleries and museums), though not always residentially, to produce artworks stimulated by or related to the institution.

Following economic globalisation and the facilitation of international travel and communications in recent times, a wide range of international artist-in-residence programmes have developed: some merely offer living and/or working space; others involve commissioning sitespecific works and/or subject matter. The long-standing and prestigious DAAD Artist-in-Berlin fellowships are the forerunners to all artists' residencies. However, as an example of a newly set-up residency programme, the UKbased online support service for artists, Artquest, has recently invited applications for a threemonth residency in Berlin offering a free live/work studio for 3 months, return air fare, a 600 [pounds sterling] bursary and 100 [pounds sterling] towards artists materials'. The artist is required to produce: 'three articles about their experiences for Artquest to disseminate on our website. This could include updates on work produced, galleries visited, or a general overview of life in Berlin.'

There are no national or international standard or model approaches to artists' residencies. Increasingly frequently, they are offered to authors and performers across all arts disciplines; though many continue to be art form-specific. Some require residence at a specific place or space for a defined period of time, which can range from a week or so to a year or two; others require attendance, not residence. The nature and extent of accommodation and facilities also vary, and may require rent to be paid by the artist or (more usually) are rent free. Artists may be paid a salary or wage as an employee, or be paid an overall project/residency fee as a freelance/sole trader. Artists are usually required to produce a work or body of works, to be exhibited on an ongoing basis throughout the residency or (more usually) as an exposition towards the end of the project; and they may be required to donate and/or sell work to the host organisation, and to teach/coach or give talks about their work. …