First, just a quick look at a little more work in the works.
My wife and I have started looking at residency opportunities for this coming summer. One clear benefit of having the type of jobs we do is that our summer schedule is almost completely negotiable, so if we want to go live somewhere else for a few weeks or even months, it’s possible (inside a certain budget of course). Now, there are “residencies” and there are residencies, and so I have to really decide what my aim of getting one is. As I see it, there are really only a few possibilities which can overlap to varying degrees.
First: simply having time and space just to work. No other commitments or real responsibilities. It is a retreat where one can re-energize and refresh, as well as just put your head down and make work sans-distractions.
Second: new surroundings equal new inspiration. Anytime you’re in a new setting, especially when you’re there long enough to really settle in, it is going to allow to you see in a new way. New experiences, new world views or life situations surround you, and speak into how to view the world and make work, hypothetically.
Third: connecting with other creatives. Community is huge and I think most artists go through long dry spells that stem largely from isolation. A lot of the time I need isolation to make work, but to evaluate it I need community, so the two have to coexist to some extent.
Fourth: a resume booster. There is certainly a value to participating in a project or residency which some future employer would recognize.
There may be other possible categories, but these are the ones sifting through my head at the moment. As a resume booster, in the past that was a huge motivator. It led both my wife and I to apply for Fulbrights. And while we were excited for the projects we proposed, the real goal was always to increase hireablility. However, the downside is that those residencies are highly competitive, so after all the work of applying, your chances of actually getting it are slim to none. And after my last year of sending out applications, I’m starting to seriously doubt how much of a resume actually gets read.
So, in effect, the real potential hireability benefit can come not from the resumed boost, but rather from the new connections that are made with a new art community. This removes the value of the residency name and replaces it with a value on the form. There are spaces available for seclusion, but you are cutting yourself out of the community. The connection and newer perspective on your work are tough to quantify since it may take time for their effect to be seen. But community is what I can most easily identify as absent from my practice right now, so maybe that needs to be a primary criteria. In relation to that, I’ve thought that it would be great to make a residency a little artist retreat with one or two of my good friends whose work I know and opinions I respect. It wouldn’t have to be collaborative in nature, but I don’t think it would be that big of a jump to make that happen either. The only downside to that is that if I bring my own community along, it will undoubtedly limit the amount of new connections that are made.
Using a new surrounding as a way to stimulate inspiration doesn’t really seem to be where I’m at right now in my work. Don’t get me wrong, I would have preferences about the setting I’m in just because some things are more refreshing to me than others, but I don’t see much inspiration coming from there at this point. However, different studio setups can make a world of difference, and the tools that they offer will vastly effect the work I make. For example, if I had a month to work in a darkroom, I could probably clock more hours in that time than I have in the rest of my life combined, hopefully resulting in some strong work that I couldn’t have made if I just stayed home.
And lastly, there is the value of time. Time away from real life and distractions, where I know my only duty is to produce some work and to break some new ground. I was talking with a friend of mine last week and both of us were saying just how frustrating it is that life so often gets in the way of making work. Jobs, bills, grocery shopping… it’s all time and they all seem to trump studio time too often. So it seems like the highest value of any residency is time to have one’s primary identity be ARTIST.
Well, I’ve got a few possibilities that I’m researching, hopefully for this coming summer. Wish me luck and give me any suggestions you’ve got.