The World of Artist Residencies

In summer I think about artist residencies – ones that I’ve participated in, in the past and those on my bucket list.

My first introduction to an art residency was up at the Atlin Art Centre, in Atlin, B.C., just 30km south of Whitehorse, in 1998.  I was enrolled in a three week course called “Idea and the Creative Process”.  The art centre was run by a quirky and exceptionally self-motivated Austrian man named Gernot.  I stayed in a wall tent set partway up Monarch Mountain, with two other artists with chipmunks as regular guests.  We had to get all our water from a little trickle of a stream just up the path from our tent and showered from a shower bag which we filled with this trickle, then laid in the sun to warm up.  The deck in front of our tent had a stunning view of Theresa Island, a large island in the middle of glacier fed, Atlin Lake.  We painted most of the days and then took days off to hike on glaciers and dormant volcanoes.   Daily group critiques helped give us guidance.   Looking back, it was one of the best and most life-changing experiences of my life.

I’ve also been to the Tony Onley Artists Project at Wells, where in a short five days I made lasting friends.  I had a memorable couple weeks at a solo residency in the Leighton Studios at Banff, where I drove my old Subaru, with leaking coolant and no air conditioning in 30 degrees (I actually had to turn the heat on up hills to keep the car cool), 5 months pregnant.  I’ve also been to a couple of weekend art residencies in Powell River, with people I met at the Tony Onley Project, and slept in a real tree house.

The days, weeks and in some cases, months that an artist residency affords you to focus on art, meet other artists and have new experences, changes and enlivens your art practise.  Actually I’ve seen many artists go through the entire process of death (extreme uncertainty and fear) and rebirth (finding a new direction, or working through a problem) during a residency.

There are many other places I’d still like to go in the future; some will have to wait til my son is older:  here’s some places on my list:  Dawson City, Pouch Cove, Newfoundland; Emma Lake in North Saskatchewan and San Miguel de Allende in Mexico.

These are just the tip of the iceberg of artist residencies, once you do some research, you will be able to find one that will fit in with your budget or time restraints.
Have you participated in an artist residency and have an experience to share?

Photo:  Artists (sitting facing viewer L-R: David Alexander, Peter Spohn and Megan Hildebrand) having lunch at 2009 Retreat in Powell River; sitting in front of Megan Hildebrand’s amazing paintings

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17. July 2013 by Tracy Kobus
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