FAQ: What’s the Deal with Artist Residencies?

FAQ: What’s the Deal with Artist Residencies?

Recently, 40 West Arts District put out a call for applications for its RMCAD Artist in Residence Program—a residency program specifically for current students.

Why is this opportunity so significant? Being an artist means committing to life-long learning, aspiring to grow your craft, and constantly stepping outside of your comfort zone. Applying for an artist residency checks all of those boxes.

If you’re new to the world of artist residencies, the idea of applying may feel daunting. However, there are steps you can take to prepare for the process (and make sure the opportunity is right for you).

Here are a few things to know about how to seek out artist residency openings, along with some tips for applying.

What is the purpose of an artist residency?

Artist in residence programs provide the opportunity for artists to have a designated time and space to create new work. For the organization hosting the residency, it’s an opportunity to bring in outside artists to engage with their community. For the artist, it’s a chance to focus on a specific set of work, network with people they might not otherwise meet, and ultimately grow as an artist.

What factors should be considered when applying for a residency?

Being an artist in residence is a lot of work. In some cases, it may require relocating for the duration of the residency. There are also generally stipulations around the work you are required to do, from putting together exhibitions of your work, to teaching community workshops and classes.

Some things to consider when deciding if a residency is for you include:

  • Community – What community will you be a part of during your residency, and how will your interaction with the community influence your work?
  • Expenses – Does the residency provide room and board? What costs are you expected to cover?
  • Environment – Do you want isolation to focus on your work, or an opportunity to interface with a community and engage socially?
  • Context – How does a residency specifically fit within your goals as an artist? Is there a new technique you’d like to learn? Is it located in a place that will inspire you? Who are you interested in collaborating with during the residency?

What makes for a good application?

If you find an opportunity you’re interested in, the next step is to apply. The process generally requires a portfolio of your work, along with a written component, including your artist statement and a project plan for your residency.

When assembling your portfolio, consider the following:

  • Presentation is key: Make sure you have high quality files of your work samples.
  • Ask for feedback: You’ll want to make sure you pick your strongest recent work for your portfolio. Ask a mentor or fellow artist for feedback on your selections.
  • Provide a coherent collection: While you might be tempted to show the variety of your work, it’s typically better to have a cohesive collection that tells a story and shows the direction you’d like to take your work.

The application is equally important to your portfolio submission:

  • Be specific: The written portion gives you an opportunity to explain why you want this residency. Be specific in your interest to what the residency provides and why you want to work with this organization and within their community.
  • Have a detailed plan: The importance of specificity extends to your project plan. Give as much detail and information as you can in the work you plan to create, as well as any other responsibilities you’ll be expected to uphold during your residency.
  • Choose the right references: Many applications require references or letters of recommendation. These are generally used to determine whether you will be able to work well within the environment and surrounding community of the residency. Choose individuals who know you well enough to speak to these topics.


Interested in applying for the 40 West Arts District residency program? Learn more here.