Rant 99: the Unfunded Residency

Rant 99: the Unfunded Residency Image courtesy of Rosemary Hogarth

Is there any point in applying for a residency that offers no financial support? Rosemary Hogarth wants to know

After finishing art school, young artists begin considering how to approach their practices in the ‘real world’. Talking to artists who are already established, asking the advice of gallerists or other cultural workers, or looking at CVs normally leads to the conclusion that international residencies are an essential part of an artist’s activities.

The benefits of international residencies are clear: the chance to meet and exchange ideas with artists from different backgrounds, a period of time to focus solely on developing one project, a new environment to inspire work and sometimes even the opportunity to exhibit to a new audience. Most residencies have these things in common. What they don’t always have is financial support.

The artist-in-residence model was introduced at the end of the 19th century – the artist Lydia Shakleton, for example, undertook the first residency at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Dublin in 1884 – and this was considered a modern form of patronage, meaning the artist was fully supported.

As the style of residencies has developed from funded to, more often than not, unfunded, the importance of taking part in such programmes has inexplicably increased. Where participation in a residency programme might once have been primarily about the artist’s professional development, it is now, more often than not, about augmenting the CV.

Fully funded artist-in-residence programmes are a huge advantage to any artist but what about the smaller, unfunded options where the artist is offered a space to rent and not much else? How helpful are these types of residencies?

Is the outcome worth the financial strain of living elsewhere? What effect does ‘XYZ residency, Berlin’ have on an artist’s practice when ‘XYZ residency’ costs 750€ a month and is based in the spare room of a Neuköln flat? Maybe it’s time to reconsider who really benefits from these unfunded residencies.

Contributed by Rosemary Hogarth, February 2014

Rosemary Hogarth is an artist based in Berlin. 

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