Artist residencies come in an incredibly diverse range of models, but there is one common thread: The offering of time and space. If attending an established residency is not an option, why not be an artist-in-residence on your own terms? Here are the elements of a typical residency, translated into a DIY model:
Find the Time: It can be a challenge to make room in your schedule without an external obligation, but if you were offered the residency opportunity of a lifetime, would you make the time for it? Of course you would! You’d clear your calendar and make it happen. The advantage of a DIY Residency is that it’s extremely flexible. It could be a long weekend, a series of consecutive weekends, a chunk of time over a holiday break, during the slow time of your business, etc. Put it on the calendar and mark yourself busy.
Prepare for Departure: If you are staying home for your residency, plan as if you were leaving town: What would you need to get done? Get the everyday stuff out of the way – clean, do the laundry, pay bills – in short, clear your to-do list. Get a partner, friend, or sitter to watch the kids or pets, if possible. Tell friends and family you’re on a stay-cation… that doesn’t include them. Again, imagine you finally got the residency opportunity of your dreams – it’s a time you’re allowed to be selfish!
Plan Meals: Many residencies offer meals because grocery shopping and cooking are time consuming. Cook up a freezable-meal storm and portion out meals for the length of your residency. Or, plan quick, easy meals – sandwiches, frozen dinners, take-out – that you can grab and get back to work.
Power Off: Get the Netflix and Facebook out of your system beforehand. Put an away message on your email or online shop. Limit your work-related and social/entertainment-based use of technology as much as possible. If you do want to document your DIY Residency for your followers, consider having a consistent daily timeframe and time limit planned ahead of time.
Location, Location, Location: The easiest and most budget-friendly option is to be in residence at home, but you may also consider finding an Airbnb in an inspiring location, camping out, staying with friends or family, or hitting the road to change up the scenery.
Studio Space: If you have a studio space that typically serves as your place of work (i.e., you create work to sell), clear out everything work related. The same advice goes if your studio doubles as a home office, laundry room, or junk storage unit – find a temporary home for distractions. If you don’t have a dedicated studio, set up a workspace – no matter the size – that is void of your everyday life. Add things that help it feel new, separate, and peaceful, such as artwork, room dividers, hanging sheets, lighting, music, etc. If you’re leaving home, make sure you consider where you will work and what you need to bring with you.
Materials & Equipment: Even if you don’t have an exact plan, think about what you may be interested in working on. Find, collect, buy, borrow, or rent the materials and equipment you need and have them ready and waiting for you on the first day of your DIY Residency.
Plan Ahead, or Don’t: Some artists like to go into a residency with a clear idea of a body of work they’ve been wanting to get to for years, and others come completely open to experimentation and whim. It’s up to you and how you operate best, but it’s a good idea to allow for both structure and exploration.
Funding: Your DIY Residency’s “stipend” can come from a variety of sources: application-based grants, sponsorship from a gallery, crowdsourcing, sales of all varieties (art, yard, bake, etc.), cashing in spare change, or your own bank account. But just because you don’t have a big wad of cash doesn’t mean you can’t conduct meaningful research and experimentation, or even create complete works, with free or low-cost materials.
Studio Assistance: Some residencies offer studio assistance, but providing your own can be tricky. Unless you already have a studio assistant (or a reliable and talented friend open to bribery), you likely won’t want to spend the time (or money) training someone new. Consider avenues for outsourcing – laser or plasma cutting, 2D or 3D printing, CNC routing, fabrication services, or handwork by local tradespeople.
Residency Community: Interaction with fellow residents is often an impactful component of a residency. Unless you have a guest bedroom and a big studio you’re willing to share, you’ll need to get creative with this one. Challenge artist friends or colleagues to do their own DIY Residency concurrently, or find people willing to stop by for a crit. Set up meeting times throughout – in person or digitally – to discuss your research and progress.
Local Research: Many artists find inspiration in the physical location of a residency. If you do, plan trips to local museums, libraries, cultural centers, neighborhoods, or nature parks to conduct research. Depending on your practice, this may be integral to your work time or may occur beforehand. If you’re staying home, take time to notice your neighborhood and surroundings with fresh eyes – walk, talk, sketch, collect, and think as if you’re there for the first time. If traveling, have a list of places you may want to check out.
Other Research: Gather reading materials online, at a local library, or via interlibrary loan so that you have everything on hand to start research prior to or during your DIY Residency.
Community Outreach: Many artists find community outreach to be an important aspect of their time at a residency. Will your work go further with community connections? If so, plan any meetings or outreach programs in advance with local organizations and individuals.
Just Do It: If this guide is overwhelming to the point that it keeps you from starting, read it once and toss it! It’s not a required checklist; it’s a jumping off point. Do what works for you!