Arts Residencies – an ABC

A is for advanced planning: what will you spend each day? How will you get to the studios? What equipment and materials do they have, and what do you need to bring with you? How does that fit into your suitcase and the airline baggage allowance/train baggage storage area? What will you be doing, what will the weather be like, and how does that change which clothes you need? Will there be any ‘must see’ exhibitions on locally?  I booked lots of things on-line before I left Australia, which not only made the financial planning side of the trip easier, it also meant I wasn’t trying to make decisions about what to do with myself while also juggling a suitcase, a foreign language, limited funds and tiredness.  I’m really glad I did that, but of course, it may not suit you

B is for good beer, and Belgium, where I would dearly love to go to the Frans Masreel Centre, and for Brigitte, the West Coast painter and printmaker who was such good fun and a great cook in our shared apartment.  I did have some good beer in the UK (including a pub lunch with friends on the day I arrived – I swear it had no impact on the jet lag)

C is for the best coffee I’ve ever had in my whole life, at the Torrefazione Marchi, the only coffee shop in Venice still licensed to grind its own coffee, which they do each afternoon from huge sacks of beans in the front of the shop

D is for the discipline of a daily schedule, which I really needed. Arts residencies are a two-way street: you need somewhere to go and think/work, and the host organisation needs residents who think/work instead of drink/sight-see – it’s not cheap holiday accommodation, people!

E is for energy, and expecting to run out of it part way through. After all, I was a long way from home, the dog died, our friend died, we had money troubles, and I was trying too hard to make masterpieces… Once I calmed down and gave myself a bit of a breather, my energy levels returned 🙂

F is for fundraising, which I needed to get me there. I used Pozible, but depending on where you live there are other crowdfunding sites such as IndieGoGo and Kickstarter, which seem to work in similar ways

G is for getting out and about. Despite point D, above, it is worth seeing what is going on around you – just try to make that a smaller proportion of your time than actually working! For example, I would have been completely mad to ignore the Venice Biennale while I was actually in Venice, but I planned what I wanted to see, and tried to fit things in en route, while walking to the studio, so that once I got through the doors I could concentrate on work

H is for the hundred plus hours I spent head down and bum up in the Scuola’s Print Studios, as well as the silly happy feeling I experienced when I’d mastered Italian insouciance sufficiently for the pedlars to assume I was Italian, not a tourist, and leave me alone to enjoy dawn and dusk on my walks to and from the studio

I is for the Impact8 conference which kicked off my trip

J is for just being there, and not trying to be Leonardo da Vinci.  I realised before I left that I would sabotage the whole experience if I tried to set my ambitions too high, so I didn’t

K is for Katrin, the German woodcut artist with whom I also shared the apartment

L is for occasional loneliness, and for Lorenzo who organises the residencies at the Scuola

M is for Myrtilles (also known as Huckleberries or Bilberries), the small, wild blueberries that I found at the outdoor fruit market and made into jam, Michael, the West Coast artist who was our ‘token male’ in the apartment, and my family, who very generously let me go without being cranky about me leaving them for over a month

N is for networking. If you crowd-fund your residency the truth is that you’ll be raising money mainly from people who are already in your wider network.  While there are ‘angels’ out there who will donate money to your cause if you can persuade them, it is usually the people you already know who will support you. And of course, networking is vital while you’re away, too

O is for opportunities. As mentioned above, you’ll have a chance to network while you’re an artist in residence, so go prepared to make the most of the opportunity. Business cards? Check. Memory stick with lots of images of your work (so that if needed, you can give an impromptu illustrated talk about you and your work)? Check. Small pieces of work that you could leave at the studios for a quick exhibition once you’ve gone (and will be easy to post home to you if unsold)? Check. And against the odds, all of these things happened for me while I was in Venice!

P is for paper, which was hard to get hold of, mainly because I had very little money, but also because the best supplier was a lovely man who spoke no English at all, and I tried twice before I managed to locate his shop…

Q is for quality control, and the ruthlessness with which I culled my prints before bringing a scant half dozen home with me! Paper is heavy, people, see point A. So if you want to avoid excess baggage charges, be careful what you try to bring home

R is for arts residencies: periods of time spent somewhere else for the purposes of developing your arts practice and making new work. It is also for being a realist: gone on, how much work are you REALLY going to be able to do in two weeks…?

S is for the supporters who got me there, and for the Scuola Internazionale di Grafica in Venice where I was a resident

T is for technology, which made things run smoothly.  I used Skype to keep in touch with my family back home as well as the contacts and friends I saw on my travels.  I took an Australian  power board with me, so that I could plug all my Australian electronics (i.e. phone, laptop and yes, a hair dryer) into it, and then I just needed one European and one UK adaptor for the power board.  Genius, huh?!  I also bought myself a UK SIM card which made it possible for me to give European contacts and friends a UK mobile phone number, making it easier and cheaper for us all to keep in touch by phone while I was travelling.  And I took along two memory sticks with my conference presentations and visuals on them, plus my SkyDrive account, so that I had all bases covered if the technology failed

U is for underestimating how much time it would take me to settle in and settle down… With hindsight I should have stayed for at least a month!

V is for Venice

W is for working very hard, and feeling good about it

X is for Ximena, the Chilean artist in the apartment downstairs

Y is for why didn’t I do this sooner? And why I’m going to plan to do it all again (for longer) in a year or two 🙂

Z is for zonked out on the plane on the way home

2 thoughts on “Arts Residencies – an ABC

  1. Fabulous insights and I love the way you thought this through Sarah – great advice for any lucky enough or persistent enough to go get it!

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