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The Impact of Artist Residencies

Alliance of Artists Communities

ABOUT THE PROJECT

THE ARTISTS' VOICES

TOOLS + MODELS

The Alliance of Artists Communities was founded in recognition of “the supreme importance of nurturing the process of creation that is common to all artists… at a time when it is important to reaffirm the essential freedom that is necessary for all creative accomplishment.” So said Adel Simmons, then-President of The MacArthur Foundation, which provided the seed money in 1991 for the 18 founding organizations to establish an association to represent the field of artist residencies.

There are now more than 500 residency programs for artists in the U.S. and over 1500 worldwide, supporting tens of thousands of artists-in-residence each year and incubating some of the most promising creative work today. While the field includes a wide variety of approaches and organizational models, these programs share a common purpose: To offer inspiration and support to artists at a time when outcomes are especially uncertain and when ideas are often most fragile – in the private moments of creative daring when first the pen is put to paper, or brush to canvas, or fingers to keyboard.

Collectively as a field, we strive for a society that celebrates creative people and process, that values experimentation and the exploration of new ideas, and that recognizes the role artists and the creative process can have in achieving this vision. The “essential freedom that is necessary for all creative accomplishment” is more important now than ever – freedom to develop without expectations of outcome, freedom to challenge assumptions, freedom to take bold turns toward new directions that will shape our world in years to come. But supporting artists and their creative development is risky business. It is not easily measured by tickets sold or tourism generated, by test scores or tax returns. The tangible results – the plays and dances, books and music, and other creative works – often emerge months or years after the first creative spark. And many times the greatest impacts – on the individual artists themselves, on their communities and audiences, and on all the lives they touch – are not tangible at all.

Michael Chabon

“Every moment is an opportunity to get work done, even when you’re not actually working at all in an apparent way.... For that kind of sustained focus and to keep the level of engagement so high on an unconscious level as well as a conscious level, a residency is an incredible gift to me.” 

- Michael Chabon, author

This project started with one critical question: How do we assess the impact of artist residencies? The question is more than simply an academic one. Residency programs want to ensure they are providing services most conducive to artists’ creative practices. Funders want to be able to evaluate the quality and efficacy of the organizations they support. And as a field that is often invisible to the general public, articulating the impact we have is essential for encouraging greater investment in opportunities for artists to develop new work. But the nature of artist residencies – time and space for artists to develop new work and transform one’s creative practice – eludes traditional metrics for assessing or demonstrating impact.

The Alliance of Artists Communities surveyed more than 200 artist residency programs, interviewed dozens of artists and funders, gathered assessment frameworks from 32 organizations, and conducted conference sessions and workshops over 3 years, addressing this question of impact.

eteam

“Even though we spent a lot of concentrated time working on the project we had planned to accomplish, we still had enough energy, inspiration, and fun to experiment with new thoughts and ideas. Only after we had returned to New York did we realize that these ventures... had become an important part of our project - almost the piece itself.”

- eteam (Hajoe Moderegger and Franziska Lamprecht)

Our goals for this project are three-fold:

1) to provide residency programs with a range of tools to better assess and demonstrate their impacts

2) to offer recommendations to funders in evaluating residencies through standards appropriate and meaningful to our field

3) to increase awareness of and visibility for the artist residency field and the impact it has on artists and society

We invite you to explore how different residency programs are approaching impact, hear from artists how they have been transformed by residencies, and share with us your stories, challenges, and models.

Baltimore Clayworks

“Can we measure joy? Yes we can. And by knowing where and how to look for it, how to document what we see and hear, and how to communicate that, [we] can create opportunities for more joy more often.”

- Deborah Bedwell, Executive Director, Baltimore Clayworks 

This project is funded in part by support from The Rockefeller Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.