Artist Residencies– FAQs

Yesterday, I posted about artist residencies, and several folks have asked for more info. I am happy to share.  I was surprised myself when I first discovered artists colonies–  at first I couldn’t believe that such an oasis existed, and then I couldn’t figure out how any struggling artist could afford to go.  So, here is a little FAQ list I whipped up a couple years ago:

Q: What is a residency?

A: A residency is basically an artists’ retreat.  Sometimes it will be called a colony. As opposed to a conference, you don’t have to do anything while you’re there.  You’re supposed to write, but nobody checks up on you.  If you want to you can spend the whole time napping and reading comic books.  Sometimes writers need the time to just decompress.  I write like mad when I am on a retreat, but I can understand those who just need to lie down and drink more water.

Q: Is it expensive? A: Most residencies receive outside funding.  Some, like Yaddo and MacDowell, require no contribution from the artists.  Others, like VCCA, ask that the writers chip in about $30 a day.  This is a fraction of the cost of the residency; outside sources provide the rest.  Usually, you can explain your financial situation and the residency will work with you. Often there are scholarships and grants. Please, do not let money keep you from applying.  Get in, then figure out the money situation.

Q: Do I have to be published to get in?

A: Nope.  Most residencies try to have a mix of artists at different stages of their careers.  You have to apply to be accepted and your work is looked at in terms of where you are in your career.  One of my most favoritest undergraduates went to Yaddo the year he finished college.. in the SUMMER.

Q: Who is going to be there?

A: Most of the residencies I have attended have been open to all artists, not just writers. Composers, poets, sculptors, dancers, painters, you name it.  But other than that, you can also expect to meet a lot of sort of middle- to upper-middle class artists.  Even if the residency is free, you have to be able to take time off from work, which suggests a certain leisure.  However, some residencies offer a little grant to help you with your expenses at home while you are away.

Q: Ummm.. I am not white.  Will I be The Only One?

A: Probably.  But it’s okay.  The environment is usually pretty welcoming. I’ve only had one or two bad experiences and they have been pretty mild.  A few hair questions, but whatevs.

Q: How long do you have to stay?

A: Most last from two weeks to two months. I suggest applying for the whole two months, but then you see what you are offered and see how much time you are available to take.  No one gets mad if you have to reduce, as long as you do it in advance so another writer can take advantage of the opening.

Q: Are the accommodations nice?

A: Some residencies are swanker than others.  Yaddo and MacDowell are the dreamiest.  But they are clean and you basically have what you need.  Here are my photos from MacDowell from a couple years ago.

Q: What about the food? A: In my experience, yummy. And even more yummy because I didn’t have to cook or pay for it.  Some places give you three squares, but almost all give you a sit down dinner.  The ones that don’t provide lunch usually have lunch fixings in the kitchen, but you have to assemble it yourself.

Q: Why should I go?  I write at home. A: If you can write well at home, stay there.  I choose the go to colonies because I find it very helpful to be away from the demands of my life.  I find that people who can’t respect the fact that I am busy writing, so don’t call me, can somehow understand that I am away at a colony.  Also, it’s just lovely to be in the company of other creative folks.

Here’s a great website to help you find a residency that’s right for you.

About TayariJones

Author of SILVER SPARROW, LEAVING ATLANTA, and THE UNTELLING.
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