In December of 2012, I had the pleasure of participating in the Thematic Residency Program at Artscape Gibraltor Point on the Toronto Islands. My experience in this inspiring environment changed my perspective of nearly everything. In the end, I walked away from this residency better off for having attended.
I cannot stress to you enough how beneficial an art residency can be to your practice. Here is a list of a few reasons a residency could benefit you.
It allows you an opportunity to concentrate. Residencies allow you to retreat from the conventions of your life. It provides a period of time in which the production of art becomes the primary (and only) feature of what you are doing. This rich atmosphere of concentration can help entrench the significance of understanding yourself as an artist.
It provides time to think. Often, the demands of our circumstances give shape to our lives. Typically, a residency provides plenty of time for contemplation and self-reflection. This time helps you to reflect on your life, your priorities and your work. This will only serve to enrich both your life and your work.
It broadens your mind. Residencies attract a diversity of participants. They bring together artists, curators, critics and other members of the arts community with a variety of perspectives, practices, thoughts and concerns. In so doing, it facilitates a dialogue and interchange that can open up new ways of viewing, practicing, and thinking about both art and the world. Mind-expanding experiences like that cannot help but develop you and the work that you make.
It enriches your practice. A thematic residency brings together members of the arts community whose practices are associated around a given topic. Being around others who have given themselves to the same issues of concern as you can provide a form of collegiality and fellowship that affirms what you are doing as it deepens your understanding of it.
It brings you into new geographic spaces. Typically, residencies are located in highly picturesque and secluded areas of the country and world. This change in geography will provide an element to your experience that will inspire and nurture your soul. This will provide a good atmosphere for the work that you produce there.
It affirms you. Being selected for a residency program of any type is a significant accomplishment. Most programs have an adjudication process for application. If you are selected to participate in a residency, it means that members of the art community recognize the validity, importance, and significance of the work that you are making and your art practice in general. For some people, this is a crucial factor in developing their identity as a “legitimate” artist. For others, this further entrenches their established identity as an artist. Regardless of all this, being selected for a residency is a form of professional endorsement.
It will take you in new directions. Being around other artists in the residency exposes you to other art practices. This will spark your imagination about new mediums, new practices, and new perceptions that may take your art in interesting directions. Some residencies will have workshops that demand your engagement with things you would never have actually considered. All this will aid you in your art practice.
It focuses your attention. Starting with the adjudicating process and throughout the residency, you are being asked to explain your work and your process to others. Having to articulate yourself in this way gives structure and order to your understanding of your work and can help to give it a sharper and more distinct focus.
Ross Melanson will be leading a Thematic Residency at Artscape Gibraltar Point on the Toronto Islands in November of 2014. You can find more information about that residency here.
Ross Melanson received a Travel Grant from the Saskatchewan Arts Board to attend his residency at Artscape Gibraltar Point. You can find out more information about the Saskatchewan Arts Board here.