5 Reasons Why Artists Should Opt for Residencies
(First published in Open Road Review on November 29, 2017)
‘Is it a course?’ almost everyone asked me when I told them I was going to Ireland for the Burren College of Art’s residency program.
‘No, it’s not. I’ll be an artist-in-residence there,’ I replied.
This was followed with me trying to explain that as an artist-in-residence I would be getting the time, space and inspiration to work on my novel.
Of course, the explanation would always be cut short by a common question: ‘But you can do that at home too. Why go all the way to the middle of nowhere in Western Ireland?’
So, I take this opportunity to set the record straight once and for all. Here are 5 reasons why an artist and a residency program go together like cheese and wine:
1. Artists get the time to work on a project: I’ve been writing my first novel for a while now, and with a full-time job and other responsibilities, unfortunately the novel gets low priority. At the Burren College of Art, however, writing my novel was the main thing on my agenda. I got the time to be one with my characters — I was living their lives, I was living the story. Therefore, my output at the residency was much higher than what I usually manage to write at home during the weekends. Time is of essence, and a residency program provides time for an artist to be totally dedicated to a project.
2. Artists get access to useful facilities and an unconventional environment: I have a friend, a painter based in Mumbai, who doesn’t have the space in his apartment to keep his paintings. Another friend of mine, a filmmaker from Mumbai, needs to shoot a major part of his movie in a small eastern European town. Solving problems like these, most residencies provide a dedicated studio space to artists and are primarily located in isolated and picturesque locations. In my case, I needed to get out of the hustle of the big city (Mumbai) to some culture-filled serene place by the ocean, and Ballyvaughan, the small Western Irish village where Burren College of Art is located, gave me just that.
3. Artists get the opportunity to receive fresh feedback and exchange ideas: During my time at the college, one of my fellow artist-in-residents was a middle-aged American photographer who specialised in photographing international border walls and fences. In the studio to my left was a young French painter who was studying literature in Paris and was a waitress in a Parisian café during the weekends. Frank Golden, an acclaimed Irish poet and novelist, was the creative writing faculty at the college, and I would regularly bump into David Donohue, an applauded children’s author, at the local whiskey bar. Interacting with artists who had their own individual perspective on art and creativity, gave me the chance to think outside the box and provided me with valuable constructive criticism.
4. Artists get an avenue to make important contacts: Residencies provide artists with a great opportunity to expand their network. New relationships with like-minded artists from different parts of the world potentially bring new opportunities. During my residency, I made contacts that could help me get published internationally (fingers crossed).
5. Artists get the chance to experience a different culture/country: This one depends on the type of residency an artist chooses. Many residencies furnish a platform for artists to live in a new country so that they can immerse themselves in a different culture. This was applicable for me too. I submerged into the Irish culture by brushing up on literary works by Oscar Wilde, James Joyce and W. B. Yeats, by reading modern Irish authors like Ken Bruen and Neil Jordan, by listening to live Irish folk music, and by drinking a few extra pints of Guinness than required (insert tongue hanging out emoticon).
So, for all the artists out there — apply for your residency of choice now, and get ready for a life-changing experience.