What’s an artist residency?

As I mentioned in recent posts, I’ll be heading to the Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts in Saratoga, WY, in a few days to start an artist’s residency. Friends are asking a lot of questions: How did you hear about this? Where is it? How did you get this? What will you do there?  Will your husband come along? Will you be all alone? Where will you stay? Where will you eat? What the heck’s a residency anyway? Here are some answers:

An artist residency is an opportunity for serious creative people — e.g., painters, potters, sculptors, photographers, musicians,writers, dancers, etc. — to have uninterrupted time to do their work. That means you leave the bills, the cooking, the housecleaning and the news behind and just revel in making art. Heaven!

Typically, an organization that offers artist residencies is a non-profit that provides artists housing and meals for as little as a week or as long as several months. Artists find out about residencies from several sources. The best of these are the Alliance of Artist Communities and Res Artis, each of which lists hundreds of opportunities all over the world.  Other sources are the National Park Service, which offers residencies at dozens of national park units around the country, and state and local arts organizations. But, practically speaking, all an interested artist need do is Google “artist-in-residence programs” and an overwhelming amount of information will pop up.

Morning Breaking Over Edwards Island – colored pencil on paper, 18 x 24. Painting from artist residency at Isle Royale National Park, 1997. Private collection.

Residencies are highly competitive. Artists apply by sending samples of their work, a resume and a short essay on why they want a residency in such-and-such a place and what they plan to do there. In other words, the artist usually has a focus for the time he or she is in residence. My residency project is to finish my book on watercolor travel journaling that I’ve been nibbling away at ever since I started teaching that in workshops around the country.

Because a residency is a focused time free of interruptions, spouses and children are generally not allowed, and that is the case at Brush Creek. National park residencies, however, do allow spouses, and my husband Al was able to join me at my residencies at Isle Royale, Glacier and Everglades National Parks.

Everglades Dawn – watercolor on paper, 7 x 14. Painting from artist residency at Everglades National Park, 2012. Collection Everglades National Park.

Brush Creek is actually a historic working cattle ranch, first homesteaded in 1884. It features individual rooms with private bath and workspaces for eight artists. Meals include self-service breakfasts, bag lunches and family-style dinners. So, no, I won’t be by myself; seven other artists — two composers, a sculptor, three painting/mixed media artists and one other writer, from Vermont, Ohio, Washington, Arizona, Montana, New York and Pennsylvania, will be in residence at the same time.  

So, these are the practical details, but a residency can be so much more. Yes, I’ll be focusing on my book, but I’ll also be reflecting on my artwork, my teaching and my writing and where I’m heading with all three.  I’ll also be hiking on the ranch’s many trails and immersing myself in its stunning western scenery. I leave for Brush Creek February 27. Stay tuned for the next update — at the ranch!



  1. Marianne Patty says:

    Sounds heavenly! Enjoy! I look forward to your book.

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