Visiting Artist’s Residencies

Artist-in-resident talks frankly about residencies. 

Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan shares the scoop on how to visit an artist’s colony, without being a resident. Along the way, she divulges the charms and annoyances of artist residency programs, including Djerassi, the Headlands, MacDowell, Yaddo, Ragdale, and the Studios at Key West.

Many artists don’t publish their thoughts about anyone who’s largesse they’ve benefitted from, either out of shyness, appreciation, or caginess. It’s a shame. There’s so much lack of transparency in the art world, and artists are just as guilty. Cheers to Tan.


2 thoughts on “Visiting Artist’s Residencies

  1. I love reading your blog, Christine. You bring up good points. Wanted to contribute: I’ve had two residency experiences. One was fabulous (I never wanted to leave), and the other was subpar in many ways, the biggest being that the residency program prioritized itself and its staff over the productiveness and comfort of the AIRs. This was even evident in their earnings report, in which 60% of revenue went to payroll, 30% of that 60% went to ED salary. I’ve never fully come out about this subpar experience, because when we AIRs were conversing over how to provide feedback, one, I was warned that “it’s a very small world”, meaning if I spoke negatively, it’d come back to me. Two, we collectively felt that the residency program made it clear to us that it wasn’t interested in hearing feedback or improving things for the artists. This came down to even the smallest of inconveniences, for example, the stoner kid running facilities who smoked pot in his quarters all day, acted inappropriately with AIRs and treated us with contempt, often refusing basic requests, like having a power drill, etc. Our Conclusion: by speaking out negatively, it could have repercussions for us as artists, who are, at many times, dependent on foundations for support, and, even the most carefully worded constructive criticism would fall on deaf ears. Why bother… leave it and move on, that was my attitude. I have, however warned many artists in private to avoid this particular residency. People are more than welcome to PM me if they are curious. If it’s such a “small world”, well the world of artists is pretty small too, and yes, we do talk to one another.

    • Great points, Narangkar! It’s commendable that you share your insight with friends and colleagues. I recently got an opportunity to apply to a program, and right away had questions about the actual experience of artists. I reached out to three people and two got back to me. They offered really helpful info—both negative and positive. Being honest is powerful!

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