What is an Artist Residency and How Do They Work? 

What is an Artist Residency and How Do They Work

Artist residency programs are deep and immersive explorations of the arts. How they work is influenced by several factors, including the type of art, features of a specific program, and levels of personal preference.

An artist residency program allows artists to live and work in new environments that are different from their studios or traditional workspaces. Artists are invited to live in a different setting/environment, usually with other like-minded creative types.

The idea is that by removing ourselves from society, we can reflect and see the world in different ways, with a more refined and honed focus. Art residencies can also amount to a 24/7 crash course study, where aspiring artists can learn in-depth information in a short period, either from an instructor or from an artistic community.

Residencies are often tailored to young career artists and can have a profound impact on their artistic development and the path they take as career artists. Artists in residence might use the opportunity to tackle new projects, develop ideas, or test new methods and techniques.

Resident artists may find increased productivity levels by freeing themselves from the distractions that surround them in daily life.

Residencies offer an enormously valuable opportunity to unplug from the world, reflect, learn and produce.

Art Residency Factors

Art residencies can vary from one another in significant ways, including in size, duration, and cost.

Creative practice is different for everyone, so when we weigh residency programs, there are a lot of internal and external factors to consider. Now more than ever, there is a greater variety of options, including virtual residency, artist exchange programs, and unique studio space designed to maximize convenience.

So, what is an artist residency? It sort of depends. Here are some influencing factors:

Area of Focus

Art residencies are not for everyone; they are deep, immersive studies designed to alter perceptions and hone skills. When trying to determine what an artist residency is, artistic style and specifications can go a long way towards helping to clarify.

Art can fall into many different categories ranging from drawing, painting, and sculpting, to music, dance, and film. There is a wide array of both visual and performance arts. Picking an area of focus can be a prerequisite to a lot of residencies, although some may be more general in nature. The artist’s work needs to be carefully evaluated.

To get the most out of a residency, we must determine what we want to get out of them. Ask yourself the following questions: What type of artist am I? What new skill am I hoping to learn or improve? What is my ultimate goal?

Once we have these answers figuring out what exactly the artist residency is and what it might look like becomes clearer.

Community Oriented

In some instances, artist residencies will focus on creating artist communities through the designation of a shared space. A community-based residency would likely include up to seven or eight fellow artists. By surrounding ourselves with like-minded creative types, there is a valuable opportunity to collaborate and bounce ideas off each other.

The level of interaction in this type of residency can vary quite a bit. While in some instances artists might live and work together, in other cases, they may find a bit more solitude with their own rooms and studio spaces.

Learning fresh perspectives can be a valuable part of the artistic process.  Artists can forge life-long connections with each other in a shared residency and gain influences that might drastically impact their work in the years to come.


Location can also play a significant role in many artist residencies. There are many unique opportunities for aspiring arts professionals, including getting the chance to see the world with study abroad programs that provide the opportunity to explore new settings and cultures.

Artist in residence programs can range from vibrant urban settings to remote wilderness. Programs can include different locations such as coastal towns, mountain peaks, city parks, or even just a basic city studio. Artist residencies can span a vast array of diverse landscapes and settings.

Ultimately the location is significant not just for accessibility or the art itself but also for establishing the mood and temperament.

Time and Cost

While artist residencies provide an escape, part of determining how they work is understanding different logistical scenarios. Some residences are expensive, some are free, and some will even pay artists.

The level of funding can also significantly impact the resources at hand, cost of living, and stipends. These details are essential to consider for young artists when weighing different residency programs and figuring out how they work.

The timeframe is another important consideration. Some residency programs may be as short as a week, while others could go on for months. Artists need to determine how much time they can (or want) to commit to a residency.

What Else Should Artists Consider?

Hopefully, now you have a good idea of answering the question, “what is an artist residency?” We have seen how they vary and how different residences might work.

While art residencies can vary in scope and substance, artists must approach them with the right mindset to get the most out of the experience.

Art professionals should come in with an open mind, ready to absorb information, take notes and ask questions. Art residencies are first and foremost about the learning process. Those eager and knowledgeable about the subject matter will have a leg up. It is also vital to approach some aspects of your residency with a blank slate to fully embrace the process.

Artist residencies are unique experiences that allow for discovery and personal growth. Residency programs should not be viewed solely through the lens of career advancement or resume boosters, as they are about so much more.

If a residency is not the right fit for you, consider applying for different types of art grants that may be more suitable.  Grants are a great way to get funding for your art career, and don’t necessarily require relocating like a residency might.

Picking the Right Artist Residency

Early career artists should weigh all of these things when they seek a residency and envision what it might look like.

There is no right and wrong approach to a residency. It is up to the artist to determine what they seek to get from the experience as they forge their own path.