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A Guide to Applying for Artist Residencies


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Once you have done your research and worked out what you want to get from a residency by following my guide for choosing the right residency for you, it will be time to put together a strong application. Artist residency programs are competitive – especially the ones with bursaries and good reputations. It is essential that your application stands out so I have put together a second guide to help you with this process.  


General requirements for an application vary from residency to residency. They commonly include: an artist CV, artist bio, artist statement, a portfolio, a specific reason for applying for this opportunity and a proposal for what you intend to do over the period of the residency. Sometimes you also have to include details about financial support and a budget to show that you can carry out the appointment if you are selected.


What Makes a Strong Application?


Many of the top residency programs are inundated with applications, especially those that have broad open calls. If you want to be in the running for the opportunity here are some key dos and don’ts for you to consider:  

 

Dos


-       Research the awarding body - Know who they are, why they are creating this opportunity, what their mission statements are, who funds them, what is their creative leaning and motivation for the art program? If you can, find out who is on the awarding panel judging the proposals.


-       Compile a unique application - It is obvious when you send a generic application that isn’t specific to the opportunity. In this respect, it is very much like applying for a job – copy and paste applications won’t cut it.


-       Remember this is a two-way opportunity - Show that you understand that both parties want to gain from this post being appointed. The awarding organization wants to tick their boxes (meet their funding requirements, offer a program of activities for the public and bring in visitors to their space, to reflect their creative vision, to promote their site). As an artist you also want to gain from this experience. Make sure your application shows you understand that this is a two-way professional relationship.

 

-       Show your experience fits the requirements - Be clear on what you can offer and back up with examples of your experience. For example, if one of their requirements is to do a public artist talk to visitors, give examples of past talks you have given within your artist CV and refer to relevant ones in your application. If you don’t have experience in running workshops and this is one of their requirements I would suggest gaining this experience before applying.   

 

Don’ts


-       Don’t make assumptions - You may assume that the panel assessing the proposals will know references you make within your application (these may be historical, cultural or thematic) but as you would with a job application be clear and have a balanced approach to writing. You want to sound like you know what you’re talking about but you don’t want to sound so academic and complex that you leave people that don’t have an art history Ph.D. totally confused and unable to follow your thread. This also goes for poetic fluff writing.


-       Don’t forget to check all requirements - There will be the requirements attached to the opportunity that are requested by the awarding body, but there will also be other requirements connected specifically to you. If the opportunity is in another country you may need a working visa. You will also need to make sure you can cover additional funding requirements such as flights, transportation, accommodation and additional fees such as insurance if you have to run workshops and are not covered by the organization.


How to Make your Proposal Stand Out


Once you have put together all of the required documents, reassess how the entire application gels. They want to get a clear overview of who you are as an artist, what your creative identity is and how your practice fits within their requisites.

 

1)    Portfolio - Good quality documentation of your work that feeds in well to the narrative of your proposal is essential.

 

2)    Tick the boxes - Go back over the requirements once you think you have finished. Make sure you have included every essential element and shown that you understand the requirements and expectations.


3)    Proofread - Applications with spelling and grammatical errors are very off-putting. Make sure you have someone else that can be trusted to check through the application for errors. This doesn’t need to be someone with an art background, in fact it may be better if they don’t so you can be sure that the application is readable to all.

 

Do you have any other tips to add about applying for residencies? Or do you want to share your experiences on a residency application process? Please comment below…

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