How Residencies Change an Artist’s Practice / Art21

“Artist in Residence.” Image via

In a perfect world, every artist would have an opportunity to take time off and wander into that space outside of reality where creativity blossoms. Few artists make a living off of their work alone, and even so it’s difficult to constantly feel inspired and motivated to make work in your hometown and studio. This is where artist residencies come in. Residencies present a faction of a creative reality. They may be utopic, time-based experiences, romantic getaways to woodsy surroundings, or isolating and culturally revealing situations that an artist must adapt to with aplomb. But the fundamental purpose remains the same: to position the artist outside of their everyday life, and allow them to make work inspired by and reflecting their temporary surroundings.

More often than not, an artist’s work changes significantly after a residency experience. It also brings up many questions, some of which cannot be answered immediately. For example, how does this sort of experience alter an artist’s perception of their creative practice, both inside the studio and out in the art world proper? How are creative relationships between artists—which naturally occur in art school or through local, community gatherings—expedited through the residency experience? How can a sense of isolation resulting from a residency in a foreign country inspire an artist to travel inward, mining their own creative depths?

For my Art21 Blog series on how residencies change an artist’s practice, I will speak with eight American artists whose work has changed through a residency experience either abroad, in their hometown, on a reality television show, or through a short-term excursion to an idyllic landscape. Artists profiled in this series include Peregrine Honig, Christopher Meerdo, Julie Lequin, Young Sun Han, Aspen Mays, Carrie Schneider, Meg Leary and Stacia Yeapanis. The series is divided into four distinct mini-sections, each featuring one to three artists.

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