The Allure of an Artistic Residency


img_6807Currently, I’m taking a break from studying anatomy for massage school and pausing before getting ready to go into work in a couple of hours. It makes me ponder that break, that pause. I could go for a week-long pause to write and reflect. Hell, I could go for a three-month pause, but a week-long pause or long-weekend-long pause sounds ideal about right now. It makes me dream about an artistic residency.

The general idea of a residency is to give an artist, established or emerging, the space and time to be able to create. Sometimes, the change of scenery can be helpful to inspire the artist. Also, time away from the everyday at home provides perspective, and freedom from normal daily duties. A residency can be about giving an artist an opportunity to work or focus on a specific piece. The idea sounds lovely, doesn’t it?

A good friend of mine here in Albuquerque is a visual artist and a writer. She seems to always be creating. She keeps a small studio space, away from her home and she balances her creative work with a job doing outreach and education. A veteran of a few residencies herself, I asked her about them and how she found them. She sent me a couple of links to online databases for artistic residencies and I have been perusing listings on and off for a year or so, but I have never applied. I am not quite ready, or not quite brave enough, I guess.

I think about my writing. I’ve been a closet writer my entire life. I started this blog a little over seven years ago to have a place to write, to strengthen my practice and to start writing regularly. I started submitting writing for publication about six years ago. I have had a few things published over the years and have a column (somewhat irregular in timing) with the Community Works Journal, where I explore the ideas of teaching and learning.

Four years ago, I applied for a writer’s retreat (a bit different than a residency, but that can be explored in another blog entry) and then needed to delay it because I didn’t have the money to pay for it. A year later, the writer who offered the writing retreat offered me a scholarship to attend the retreat. Nearly, three years ago, I attended the writing retreat. I had about four days to stay and write and have scheduled meetings with an experienced writer who also provided some critical feedback to my writing. That writing retreat happened to come at the perfect time, in the month between my moving from Colorado and getting situated in Albuquerque. It was the first time in my life that I had ever really spent a concentrated period of time in pursuit of a largely personal goal (even marathon training comes in small snippets of time gathered throughout the day and week). It didn’t seem like it at the time, but that writing retreat helped me to consider my relationship with writing. I realized it was something I wanted to pursue. I realized it would be part of my life, and part of my dream in reconfiguring my life from a 40-hour job to a multi-hyphenate career pursuing passions, service, dreams (and renumeration). That four-day retreat helped me to articulate and commit to a lifelong relationship with writing. Maybe it’s like the period right before the engagement, when someone needs to realize their commitment to the other person in the pair?

About the time that I returned from my retreat and then got settled in Albuquerque, I realized that I was leaving behind a perfect retreat situation when I left for work every day. I had created a happy and colorful and functional and creative home: lots of art on the walls, multiple places to curl up and dream, multiple places to plug in a computer or tablet to write, many spots to write away with a notebook and a pen, plenty of light and a beautiful pine tree view out my windows, a well-stocked pantry and refrigerator, and WiFi that wasn’t being used during the day. When I realized I had created a beautiful retreat space, I sent an e-mail to a friend who I knew was in transition and in pursuit of a huge creative goal, saying that I had the space and he could come and stay and write and dream. He ended up pursuing graduate studies, but I was glad that I had extended the invitation.

Still, the idea of a writing residency lingers and beckons. My massage therapy classes will begin to wind down in a couple of months. I can imagine taking off a few days, even a long weekend, for a residency or a retreat. I skim through the database and imagine myself in a new location. Maybe the coast of Oregon, maybe a national park in Arizona or Alaska, maybe an artists’ community in southern Minnesota.

Residencies are competitive and I wonder about the possibility of actually being accepted. I worry that my work isn’t good enough or broad enough or artistic enough. I realize, though, that that is the point. It’s to expand and try and see what I can do and perhaps to go beyond my own self-imposed boundaries and limitations.

I also love the idea of a safety net. What if I don’t get accepted into a residency? What if I can’t find one that fits my time and budgetary constraints? I realize that I can create a residency experience. I can combine that idea of expanding my artistic boundaries with personal goals of relaxing and renewing. I am vowing to sit down a couple of evenings this week to apply and meet the deadlines of a couple of residencies. I am also planning for my writing residency safety net (or maybe just an additional experience). I am looking at late September or early October and a few days’ stay in Truth or Consequences, NM. There are multiple cheap and kitschy motels and a plethora of hot springs to soak in, as part of the retreat and inspirstion.

I comb through the archives of my writing. I select the “best” and draft answers to application questions. I peruse listings and look at the calendar. I articulate goals and come home to myself. I find the bravery to call myself an artist. In the interest of a safety net, I ask a friend who recently traveled to T or C about cheap lodging and economical soaking options. One of the reasons I love writing is its simplicity. All it really takes is a notebook and a pencil or pen. I can pack my laptop and journal and enjoy a few days of residency, relaxation, retreat, and artistic expansion.

I seek. I try. I set goals. I declare myself an artist. I go for something bigger. I look for a community. I seek residency.

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7 comments

  1. Go for it, Kary! Good luck to you! By the way, I love what’s underneath your computer on the picture. Is it a blanket? Beautiful colors/pattern!

      • Yes, I decided to take it down. And my Twitter account as well. I suddenly felt a strong urge to do some simplifying in my life. It felt good, really. Think I might have become quite a minimalist, if I had been living alone. But I intend to keep following your blog, if it’s okay. Maybe I start a new blog of my own later. I am about to retire, so I would expect to have more time for hobbies then. Hope you’re having a fine summer, Kary 🙂

      • That makes sense!! Hope you’re enjoying the simplification. Of course you’re welcome to keep following my blog. Thank you. I appreciate that you read and comment and I enjoy our blog friendship. Take care, Jan, and enjoy your summer as well. 🙂

  2. That retreat had a salutary effect upon you. You have created a” happy, colorful, functional, and creative” home. Keep-up the good writing you have always produced.

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