Artist residency: finding the right one

Abstract artist, Claire Desjardins, painting in her studio.

I have only been to a handful of artist residencies over the years, but I have often been asked my opinion on them, and I thought I'd share my ideas with you. Here are my thoughts:

Do your homework and research the right residency for you. There are residencies everywhere. Do you feel like you need a total change in scenery for some inspiration or to reach a new audience? You can find it! Do you prefer to start out closer to home? No sweat. Some places are better than others, like with anything, and they are all different from one another.

Abstract painter Claire Desjardins working in her studio at an artist residency.

Finding the right residency

A great resource for learning about available artist residencies is They have searchable lists of artist residencies, with links and photos. Anyone can post there, so buyer beware: there's good and bad, and it's important that you do your job and perform your due diligence on the locations that interest you.

Get references

Time to go sleuthing! Try to speak to former artist residents. Finding them should be fairly simple, given that we live in a digital age. Check mutual followers on Instagram, look at tagged photos; the world is your oyster. Ask about their experiences at the residency, including qualifying questions like

  • Did you enjoy it?
  • How were living conditions?
  • What was their studio like?
  • How was their time structured? What was a typical day like?
  • Would they recommend it to other artists? 
  • Any special tips or advice to future resident artists?
Claire Desjardins at Vermont Studio Center
One thing I love about being an artist is the sense of community and solidarity many of us have, most folks are more than happy to share. Definitely don’t be shy, ask all your questions before you go! It’s a big commitment and this beginning stage is a good opportunity to see if it would be a good fit for you. 

Here are a few questions to ask the residency itself:

  • Does the residency help to pay for the cost of travel or not? 
  • Are art materials provided or subsidized in any way?
  • What happens to the artworks you create there? Some residencies may require that you leave behind some of the work you create while there, and others let you take it all with you when you leave. 
  • Are studio spaces shared or private?
  • What are living spaces like? Are they private or shared? 
  • Is there somewhere safe to store valuables, such as passports, money, etc?
  • Is the residency artist run? Private? Other?

The artist studio of abstract painter Claire Desjardins, during her 2013 artist residency in China.

Considerations before you travel:

  • Will you require a travel visa to go? 
  • How will you travel back with artworks? Ship it? Carry it with you on a plane? Other?
  • Will you travel with art supplies? How will you pack them?

Good luck to you... There's a whole world out there, ready to explore. Go get inspired, and have fun with it!


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