called Residency Reimagined: Artist Residencies in the 21st Century. So as to not mis-represent, here was the event description verbatim:
In today's arts landscape, the term "artist residency" no longer has a single, static meaning. Different residency programs may offer funding, materials, training, work space, living space, or valuable partnerships and collaborative opportunities. A more diverse set of artists - visual and non-visual - are being invited to participate in residencies by nonprofit arts organizations as well as for-profit businesses.
What do these changes mean for artists in Philadelphia? What new residency models or trends are emerging around the globe, and how do our city's offerings fit into that larger picture? How might an organization interested in creating an artist residency program begin the process? Most importantly, how can local creatives of all types take advantage of these new opportunities? Our panelists will discuss these issues within the context of their own perspectives on and approach to residency programs, as well as answer your questions.
This topic excited me. As a semi-recent graduate from an MFA program, (GO OWLS?) the art careers of myself and seemingly all of my friends could not escape the gravitational pull of the artist residency nexus. Have you sent in your Whitney ISP application? Did you hear who got into Skowhegan? Etc. Etc. It is a consuming and predominately disheartening endurance lap for even the most talented of my peers. And frankly those who do manage to rock hop from residency to residency always seem fatigued, deadline stressed, and broke. So naturally a reimagining sounded like a prospect of the first order. To me, the artist residency system is that 1986 Volkswagen we inherited from our uncle; its here, we are going to use it, but we know it could work better. It was time to take a look under the hood. (And perhaps, just perhaps, it was time for a trade in) Unfortunately, that examination did not take place that night at City Hall because the reimagining was patently unimaginative.
First, I am constantly amazed how extremely creative people can produce the most brain-jellyingly manila presentations in the tone of: powerpoint slide DEFAULT TEMPLATE AQUAMARINE BUSINESS PROFESSIONAL. That night’s panel consisted of five representatives from local artist residencies, in what looked to be a promising lineup for fruitful discourse. All the panel members were successful, smart, and driven art professionals. Surely getting them together to talk about their bread and butter—their wheel house candy—would provide a conversation of worth.
Instead of a discussion, I witnessed something more akin to five artist residency websites auto-present themselves.
I wouldn’t be so upset if I didn’t feel this topic was of actual relevance and caliber—if the much needed conversation wasn’t so thoroughly eclipsed by a volley of high-fives. I get the sense that these functions serve more to facilitate a feeling of dynamic engagement within our art community rather than actual engagement which can be, like, you know, hard and stuff. A recent quote from Slavoj Žižek:
"Like when you buy an organic apple, you're doing it for ideological reasons, it makes you feel good: 'I'm doing something for Mother Earth,' and so on. But in what sense are we engaged? It's a false engagement. Paradoxically, we do these things to avoid really doing things. It makes you feel good. You recycle, you send £5 a month to some Somali orphan, and you did your duty." But really, we've been tricked into operating safety valves that allow the status quo to survive unchallenged? "Yes, exactly."
Maybe I missed the point. Maybe I expected too much. If the goal was to simply convey some basic information to an Eventbrite crowd—to show me that residencies exist and how to find them—to extol the virtues and statuses of local residencies—to give me the inside track on applying (How to get my CV noticed!) then I should be happy. But I am not happy. Probably because I know this wasn’t the event that needed to happen. And that sadly, most of the data conveyed can be found on the internet and if you don’t know how that thing works yet, then you as a contemporary artist or human being, should probably look into that.
So in this spirit I’m proposing a mulligan. Lets try this thing again. Reimagining Residency Reimagined: Artist Residencies in the 21st Century. Anyone who is interested in constructively and deconstructively discussing artist residencies in all their inescapable ineptitude and intrigue is invited to attend this event. Lets put our heads together and ferret out what works, what doesn’t, and where the momentum (and funding) should be heading in the future.
THURSDAY, JULY 19th
2419 Frankford Ave. ///
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19125