Are you in search of your next art residency? Check out our simple guide on how to apply to an art residency: from finding the right program to getting the result.
Anyone who’s ever thought about applying to a residency program knows it can be a daunting task. Maybe you feel stressed, confused, overwhelmed, anxious, or everything all at once. You’re not alone – we’re right there with you!
How do you know where to begin, how to proceed, and once you’ve applied, where do you go from there? Our step-by-step guide is here to give you some insight into managing the process.
1. Find the right art residency for you
Another good way to find and learn about residency programs is to ask around to see which residencies other artists you know or admire have participated in. Or, visit artists’ websites to have a look at their CVs and find out where they started out in their careers and where they went from there.
Are you eligible to apply?
Before you get sucked into the application process, note the program’s eligibility requirements. Some have restrictions based on region, nationality, age, discipline or career level. Your time and effort are valuable – so don’t waste them!
Who has participated in the program?
Checking who the current and recent artists in residence are and the work they do could be a good way to find out where you stand.
Are there fees?
If there are fees, the residency should disclose what is included. Otherwise, if the details are kept vague or there is no such information available, it could be a red flag. That means, you might want to keep on looking. If you feel that the fee is reasonable but don’t have the budget for it, you could try getting outside funding.
Is the time frame doable?
Art residencies vary in duration. And many residency programs will require you to spend the majority of your time on site. This means you might also have to put other work engagements on hold during the residency period. So make sure it’s practical and worthwhile.
What kind of environment do you need to pursue your artistic goals?
We all have different ways of working. Do you need a quiet, distraction-free environment – maybe even a retreat? Or, do you require more guidance, interaction and communal activities? Maybe a little of both? What kind of studio, equipment and resources do you need? These are all important things to consider when determining which programs to apply for.
2. Research the program
Do your homework. Visit the website and check the program’s history. Does it have a particular concept or mission? What are the core values? What are the facilities like? Check out the surroundings, partnerships and local network, as well.
Think about why you want to participate in the program, the work that you can do there, and why you’d be a good fit. Connecting with the program is not only important for you, but also for your application.
3. Read the application closely
In many cases, incomplete applications that don’t follow the instructions are eliminated outright. That’s why you need to pay close attention to the application guidelines, questions, and requirements. Every application is different.
Check the format requirements
Some might provide clear word or character limits for artist statements, proposals and/or letters of motivation. Keep in mind that the word limit doesn’t always need to be reached, but be careful not to go over it.
There are also varying requirements for how many images, videos, writing samples, etc., can be included with your application and/or how large the file(s) should be.
Note the deadline
This is crucial: don’t forget to note the exact time and date of the deadline, including time zone. And of course, pay attention to where and how the application should be submitted. You don’t want to go through all of that work and effort only to miss it!
Remember: don’t be afraid to ask
If anything seems unclear, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Contact information for application-related questions is usually clearly accessible. Use it!
4. Prepare your materials
Update your online presence
Some art residency applications may ask for a link to your website. Even if they don’t, it’s a good idea to make sure it’s up to date, and that your images are well organized and in good quality.
The same goes for your social media channels. Anywhere you have an online presence, make it look good!
Build a strong portfolio
If you have to submit a portfolio, make sure you’re using quality images, video, audio, etc. – edit or create new files, if necessary. The selection and quality of work samples you provide are critical to your application’s success.
It’s not only important to select strong examples of your work, but also to make sure the selection is coherent. You should show some variation in your practice, but also be careful not to look like you’re all over the place.
Choose the right referrers
References or letters of recommendation are sometimes required. If it’s letters of recommendation you need, make sure you contact your recommenders early on in the process. Make sure you give them enough time to prepare the letter.
“Your referrer shouldn’t be that high-profile art critic you met at an opening once, choose someone who knows you.”
Choose your referrers wisely. They should be people that know you well or have worked with you before.
Residency programs want to know how well you work on your own and/or with others. So, don’t just choose that high-profile art critic you met at an opening that one time and exchanged contacts with.
5. Write a tailored application
Don’t be vague, repetitive or overly complicated in your explanations and description of your project or work. You want to capture your reader’s attention – and fast. The reviewers of your application will have many others to look over, so get right to the point!
But different applications have different procedures and requirements, and you should tailor your proposal to address the specific program or organization. Show that you are engaged and interested in the opportunity. It shouldn’t seem like you’re just spamming everyone.
Start with a brief summary
This summary should clearly and concisely describe the project you want to work on during the residency period.
Include background information
Give some background information on who you are and what you do. What work have you already carried out in this area?
Be clear about the aim of the project
State why this organization and residency program are relevant to you. For instance, why do this project at this particular place? Here’s where your research into the program comes in handy.
Outline your method
Include a clear plan and timeline. Clarify the resources, facilities, guidance, or collaborators you’ll need to work with in order to carry it out.
6. Get feedback
We’ve all experienced it: you spend countless hours staring at the same application; you’re exhausted, stressed, and at some point, everything stops making sense. Because of this, you might lack the distance needed to make sure your application is clear and cohesive for your readers.
Ask a couple of friends and colleagues you trust to have a look at your application materials. Multiple sets of eyes bring new perspectives. It will help you to find areas that need clarifying or tightening up.
7. Review and submit
Make sure to double-check and review all of your materials one final time. Is everything there? Have you followed the instructions? Are there any typos or inconsistencies?
Once everything is polished, it’s finally time to submit!
8. Check how results will be announced
Yay – you did it! This is already a big accomplishment. Because putting together an application gives you a chance to gather your thoughts about your own work. And above all, it allows you to organize and present them in a structured and effective way. That’s definitely a useful skill.
Now, don’t get too hung up on waiting around for the results. The application has been submitted; it’s time to move on.
Make a note of when and where you can find out about the results. Some programs don’t get in touch directly but will post a list of successful applicants online. So make sure you know to check!
9. Results are in. Now what?
If you’re selected
First of all, congratulations! Make sure to document your time there and the projects you work on. It’s not only important for your own reference, but sharing your experiences can also be helpful to others. It may also come in handy for future applications and opportunities.
If you’re rejected
Don’t be discouraged – it happens to everyone. Take the opportunity to learn how to improve your applications or find other programs that might be a better fit. And try again!
Many programs will state outright that they are unable to provide feedback on individual applications. Otherwise, get in touch and ask what you could have done differently. Maybe they can even recommend a different program that might be better suited to you.
Some programs will advise you to apply again next year, while others might make it clear that they’re looking for a different profile. Or, maybe they only consider an applicant or project once. Again, if you’re unsure, ask!
Why not also check out the profiles of those who were selected? Have a look at their bios and CVs, and see which programs they’ve participated in and where they’ve exhibited before. You shouldn’t necessarily just follow someone else’s path, but you can collect some insights and find your own way in the process.