The Five Pillars of a Healthy Residency

A Primer and Introduction
Lisa Funderburke
August 11, 2020

Authored by Lisa Funderburke

The Residency Self-Assessment Tool that ACA has developed and is currently refining is built on five pillars (Identity, Program Design, Operations, Resource Development, and Stewardship) through which to analyze what makes your organization’s climate exceptional or toxic. This tool will help you identify what is working extraordinarily well or getting in the way  of  creating safer spaces for artists, staff, and community members and pinpoint areas that need immediate attention in order to create structural change and sustainability. The assessment in its final form will be a rubric that provides an inventory of what you have as an organization so that you may design a comprehensive plan to get the resources you need to fulfill your mission and purpose.



Organizations must ground all their work in values and ethos. It’s important to create a culture where every stakeholder can be heard, respected, and actively participate in determining what the organization needs and how it will arrive there.

Consider: Why does this residency exist and why are we here? How are we known to the world? How do we function as a team and how do we execute our work?

Program Design:

Organizations must know who their core constituents are, what their roles are in your organization, and what activities support those individuals.

Consider: Who are your core constituents? What do they need to be successful? What activities does your organization offer to facilitate that success?


Plan your work and work your plan. This may seem easy but the premise of our work requires careful planning and scheduling. Grounded in the organization's values and ethos, work plans document processes and methods for getting work done while reinforcing policies and creating opportunities for staff to do their job well without heavy-handed oversight. Work plans also build discipline and help avoid mission drift. The plan should be developed with the team, not for the team, with all those responsible for executing the work. 

Consider: Who holds the power to achieve your organization’s purpose? Who can make decisions? And who cannot? Does every staff member’s job description align with their daily workload? Do the artists understand what is expected of them during their time in residence? Do you know what each artist needs to have a successful residency? How do your policies, processes, and practices reflect staff and artists needs?

Resource Development:

Organizations must have a clear understanding of their identity, their core constituents (who receives and who provides services), and how they’ll achieve organizational goals. Only then can organizations know the resources (time, money, skills, relationships, etc.) necessary to sustain their work.

Consider: In your organizational network, what are the interests and needs of each artist and staff member? Who within your internal and external network holds the resources to address these interests and needs? Is there alignment within the internal and external network and opportunities to partner and work equitably together? Who has expressed interest in the resources and services you provide?


Organizations must actively demonstrate care for artists, staff, partners, the land they steward, and the communities in which they exist in order to have climates where artists and staff can thrive. Care for organizations shows up in a multitude of ways, including thank you's; periods of rest and reflection; transparency and access to information; consistency in policy, process, and practice; and the fair and just treatment of people.

Consider: How does your organization show you care? How do you know your actions match your intent? How do you tend to the impact of your actions?

I developed this frame to contribute to the stability of residencies and to help them build their equitable capacity, meaning the ability of an individual or organization to be equitable in their work and begin to dismantle white body supremacy. Numerous residencies have spent countless dollars to hire consultants to either facilitate diversity, equity, and inclusion training or create a business model to monetize our work. There are no shortcuts for building your equitable capacity but there is a way to embed this in the DNA of your organization. The first step in reshaping the residency climate is to make safer spaces for artists, staff, and community while creating structural change and sustainability. Not every residency sees this as their next step but for those that do the AAC will be with you on your journey to create experiences where any artist, regardless of race, ability, gender, age, marital status, can thrive and your residency can thrive, too.


If your organization wants to be part of the ACA learning cohort for refining and using this tool, please contact: info [at]