A freelance career in the creative arts
A freelance career in the creative arts

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4.5 Artists in residence

An artist in residence programme is usually part of an organisation’s efforts to broaden its audience and show a different side to their work. The artist is invited to spend time in an environment that they may be unfamiliar with, using their creative skills to illustrate key elements of the organisation’s focus and activities.

Many organisations – including theatres, heritage properties, educational institutions, galleries, museums, parks and orchestras – run ‘artist in residence’ schemes. These schemes can also be found in more unusual locations including Brisbane airport and CERN – home of the Large Hadron Collider.

Although it might initially seem more like a job than a source of funding for your freelance business, an artist in residence opportunity usually lasts for a fixed, fairly short time period. Depending on the level of artistic freedom you are given, this could present you with an ideal opportunity to explore your creativity in an inspiring environment. You could see it as working for one client on a longer project or you may even have time to do other creative work alongside. You are also giving your work a wider audience than it might have otherwise had, perhaps leading to future commissions.

Such schemes vary widely in terms of what they offer and you should carefully consider whether they will meet your needs and progress your career before applying. A useful tip is to look at the kinds of artist who have participated in the residency before.

The artsACT Artists-in-Residence Toolkit (no date) lists the key reasons why artists choose to take up a residency. They include opportunities for:

  • education – learning new techniques, working with particular curators or in a specific location
  • production – making work for an exhibition or performance
  • sabbatical – taking time away, immersion in a new environment, creatively exploring new ideas
  • collaboration – building new networks, working in a group.

To qualify for most of these sources of funding, you’ll be required to undertake some form of application process. In the next section, you’ll look at two common financial applications in more detail.

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