“When we travel, a part of ourselves is freed because we’re no longer bound by our day-to-day lives,” explained Kerryn McMurdo, co-director of NES Artist Residency
in northwestern Iceland, and an artist whose work involves dance, performance, film, installation, theater, writing, and education. She recommends residencies as a way for artists to carve out time and space for reflection, research, developing new ideas, experimentation, and producing new work.
The application process may be intimidating, but McMurdo urges people not to be daunted. There are hundreds of artist residencies on offer around the world, catering to artists of all career stages, from aspiring to very established. Locations can range from rural villages to bustling cities, and the experience can be as unique and adventurous
as residing in a forest treehouse or a container onboard a commercial cargo ship. Rivet
and Res Artis
are good resources for researching residency programs and their requirements, including financial concerns like tuition and fees. (Although some residencies are free and offer stipends, many do not.)
Rebecca Howard, an urban landscape artist from the U.K., combined her residency with a family getaway. Her husband and two young daughters joined her for a short portion of her time at NES so they could explore northern Iceland together. “The girls had such an amazing time, and they actually really enjoyed interacting with the other artists,” Howard said.
The Korea-born, Canada-based artist Mihyun Maria Kim has completed residencies in Spain, France, and Germany, and noted that each one has offered something different that she would not be able to experience at home—“from access to museums and galleries to having group and solo shows; from interviewing locals to collaborating with artists from all around the world,” Kim said.
Residencies can also allow artists to become immersed in a new environment, culture, or community.
Irish photographer and writer Paul Scannell is drawn to moody northern landscapes. “I had to be somewhere that was remote, cold, and a challenge,” he said. That desire led him to the tiny Alaskan town of McCarthy (where the population is only 28 people) for a five-month residency. And more recently
, he spent two months at NES Artist Residency during the Icelandic winter.
During both residencies, his immersion in these remote communities had a significant impact on his work. With a background in architectural photography, Scannell was drawn to the abandoned buildings in both towns. In photographing and uncovering their histories, he produced works that were uniquely and deeply connected to those communities.