Straight talk about why you shouldn’t apply

Things to think about, artists. The Roswell AIR program application page includes this note:

A word of caution:

Artists considering applying to the RAiR Program should think carefully about what is actually involved in a year-long residency.

Do not apply if:

1) You will have a number of exhibitions opening during the period of your residency.  Roswell is a long way from most places. Transportation to and from Roswell can be costly and time consuming.  Organizing exhibitions and shipping work can be difficult and expensive from Roswell.  Extended absences from the studio breaks up the creative process and undermines the rationale for the residency.

2) You find the idea of the residency a flattering notion.  The purpose of the residency is to provide time to immerse yourself in the creative process and not just to add another line to your resume.  Artists should actually need studio time to focus on their work.  Otherwise you might be supplanting an artist just as deserving, who could use the residency year productively.

3) Your spouse or partner is not committed to the residency.  The residency is located on the outskirts of a town of 50,000 people.  There are few  employment opportunities.  A year can be a long time in some career areas.  While the Roswell area has some decent schools, no special or ‘outstanding’ private schooling is available in this part of rural New Mexico. In addition there can be considerable challenges returning to one’s pre-residency life.

4) You have unusual heath issues or heavy debt.  Our goal is to support the artists’ creative process over a period of time.  We can not, however, solve all of the artists’ life problems.

5) You are uncomfortable living alone or often find yourself at odds with your neighbors or colleagues.  The residency is small.  As few as five other artists might share the residency with you at one time.  For some artists, but not all, this is an ideal situation.

6) If you have no means transportation.  While the residency itself is essentially self contained, the facility is three miles from the nearest retailers.  In the past some residents have managed with only a bicycle but keep in mind that this is the American West and conditions vary considerably.  A drivers license and an automobile are generally considered essential to everyday living.  Additionally, numerous destinations of interest can only be accessed by car.

7) You can not live without your dog for a whole year.

For many artists, recognizing the difference between tackling bigger challenges (good) and biting off more than you (and possibly your spouse or dog) can chew (bad) is an ongoing skill, but an important one for the sake of the community of AIRs and residency programs. Residencies should be a balance of productive activity and restoration; artists should be able to contend with the site, schedule, isolation, and community structure, and tap into the self-discipline it takes to stay productive.

I’ve seen cases where an artist accepted overlapping opportunities, and people were rightly scandalized that a beautiful studio sat empty and mostly unused while the artist took the stipend and hightailed it to the opposite coast. An ethical action is declining.

As much as artists want to take advantage of opportunities as they come our way, we should also sympathize with our fellows who are runners-up. To restate in RAiR’s statement:

you might be supplanting an artist just as deserving, who could use the residency year productively.

Art Competition Odds, Meta-Practice

Art Competition Oddities

Most of the time, I don’t give too much thought to the art competition application process, but a recent application presented two discrepancies that made me take notice.

First, the entry fee was published as $10, but the slide management content management system (CMS) charged $20. This wasn’t a deal-breaker for me, but price variations like that erode my trust a teensy bit.

Second, the application requirements asked for the names of references, with the condition that reference letters would only be requested on behalf of the artists who are selected for a residency. However, the CMS automatically sent requests for letters to the references during the application process.

The additional $10 is a cost I can bear, but I would have been much more sparing with the time, labor, and good will of my esteemed references.

I hope to minimize how much work I ask of these supporters. They are curators and administrators of small alternative arts organizations that are often stretched thin. I can’t imagine how many artists ask them for their time and labor to help them with these favors. I certainly would not want them to do any unnecessary work, especially over the holidays when they are getting much-deserved down time, as was this case. I was embarrassed to impose upon them, especially when I decided to complete the form shortly before the deadline. Had I known about an off-the-bat request, I would have weighed my decision to apply differently.

Online submissions beat hardcopies, however, user interface design and skills are still developing. I sent these notes to the organization; hopefully they’ll get it sorted for next year’s annual call.

Here’s a big cheer to those arts organizations who do it right — who mind their p’s and q’s as closely as they’d want applicants to.

And loads of gratitude to those unsung supporters who help artists and jurors turn open calls into real-life opportunities and experiences. Cheers to you!