Shifting artist-in-residence Strategies

Shifting artist-in-residence Strategies

Artist-in-Residence is a changing phenomenon. Hosts and guests develop new strategies, or they reinvent the ways they operate, because of shifting economic, political, and cultural circumstances.

The seminar brought artist-in-residence programs together from the Netherlands, Europe, and Russia, to share the latest insights in artist-in-residence strategies. Some opt for interdisciplinary research, others for integrating artistic goals with commercial activities. Some focus on the specificity of their location, others try to connect to the needs of other parties.

  • Which new artist-in-residence strategies are developed?
  • What are the consequences for collaboration, programming, funding?
  • How can networks, cultural organizations, funds, and governments connect to these developments?


Key speeches launched the seminar, by Georgi Nikich, director of the Moscow Union of Exhibitions Halls, and Janwillem Schrofer, organizational sociologist, former president Rijksakademie Amsterdam (1982-2010).

Georgi Nikich: no artist-in-residence fetish!

Georgi Nikich offered a challenging view on the artist-in-residence concept. The  residency concept is more than an artistic concept, he said, artist-in-residence shouldn't become a fetish. Nikich's aim is to broaden the perspective. What kind of culture, he asks, do residence opportunities generate, not only in relation with other artistic environments as museums, galeries, academies, biennales, but also in relation with other sites of cultural production, for instance universities, libraries , schools? 

Nikich has travelled throughout Russia these last years and advised around 50 upcoming residency initiatives. In general his impression is that for implementing the residency concept in Russia a wider scope is needed.

A residence is, according to him, a zone or a space of encounter, which opens the environment to other and different people, ideas, interests, connections. Each situation for each residency asks for different ways of applying the concept.

Georgi Nikich, director Moscow Union of Exhibition Halls

In Russia residency initiatives are far apart geographically. Each has  to function in very different circumstances, adjusting to the local needs and chances. This asks for an effective use and collaboration with different fields of culture and different institutions, not only artistic ones.

As director of a new network - the Moscow Union of Exhibition Halls - Nikich tries to apply the residency concept in this open way. The Union unites cultural centers, located in the suburbs of Moscow. Each of these cultural centers might apply the residency concept, but not as a fetish, but in order to match with the local situation.

Jan-Willem Schrofer: bottom-up residencies under pressure

Jan-Willem Schrofer presented his view on the future of artist-in-residence programs. He predicted the following. In the upcoming decade developmental residencies will be under pressure, and maybe decrease in number. Commissioned residencies however will stabilize or grow in number. Schrofer came to this prediction on the basis of his  years long research and experience visiting and analyzing artist-in-residence programs worldwide.

Let's not loose ourselves in details, Schrofer said, let's focus on one basic distinction we can make in the motivations and operations of artist-in-residence opportunities: bottom-up or top-down.

  • bottom-up residencies in general are developmental.
  • bottom-up residencies are focused on facilitating, so the guest may use what is offered in his or her own way.
  • top-down residences in general are commissioned.
  • top-down residencies are focused on programming, according to which the guest must relate in his or her own way. 

Bottom-up or top-down: one is not better than the other.
It is about gaining insight, not about judging.
It is about knowing what you want, as a host and as a user of residencies.
It is about choosing between different directions.







The multiplication of AiR's around the globe has resulted into a hunt for artists, for money, for connections, etc. In these circumstances top-down, commissioned residencies are likely to thrive more than bottom-up, developmental ones. Programming and commissioning produces visibility of results and concrete outcomes. Facilitating and  leaving time and space for development don't show off. That is why, according Schrofer, bottom-up residencies will be under pressure.

Explorations Shifting artist-in-residence Strategies

The afternoon of the seminar offered three workshop-explorations:

AiR and means of existence

What if your artist-in-residence program suddenly would be without any financial support: what are you still capable of? 
With this question this exploration group aimed to open a discussino on the realization that artist-in-residence initiatives live from much, much more than only financial resources: hosts, guests, personel, volunteers, building, location, community, audience, etc. During the workshop an inventory was made of all kinds of non-financial "means of existence", which the participants regarded as necessary to run their program and still available, even when there would be no financial resources. Moderator: Erik Hagoort.

Evgeniya Nikitina, Cultural Transit. Anton Mariasov, Gridchin Hall (middle). Mikhael Khudorozhkov, Guslitsa

AiR and combining fields of interest
Cultural heritage, research, tourism, culture
Broadening the scope of the artist-in-residence concept was at the center of this exploration. Participants discussed the fruitful exchange of cultural heritage, tourism, theater, environment and the arts, as a way to open up the potential of artist-in-residence. How to manage the mix of different functions? With: Holger Nickisch, Kunstfort Vijfhuizen - Maud Aarts, Buitenwerkplaats - Yana Klichuk, PRO ARTE/ Kronstadt residence, St. Petersburg - Georgi Nikich & Olga Gartman, Zvizchi residence - Henry Alles, P.A.I.R.
Moderator: Heidi Vogels

AiR and collections

What do you do with the results of your AiR program (objects or knowledge)? This exploration addressed the recent development among artist-in-residence programs: to regard and explore the function of artist-in-residence as a location for the accumulation of knowledge and experience.
With: Leontine Meijer van Mensch (lecturer of heritage theory and professional ethics Reinwardt Academy HKA, Amsterdam) - Satellietgroep,  The Hague - M4 residence, Amsterdam .
Moderator: Jacqueline Heerema.

Left: Leontine Meijer van Mensch, lecturer of heritage theory and professional ethics at the Reinwardt Academy, Amsterdam. 

Right: Jacqueline Heerema (Satellite Group/ Badgast residency, The Hague)




Moderator of the day was Floor van Spaendonck, manager Platform of The New Institute.
There were intriguing special contributions by artists Kosta Tonev, Anna Moreno, Anne Breure.

SHIFTING artist-in-residence STRATEGIES took place in the framework of CreArt, network of cities for artistic creation, and Mutual Impulse Netherlands-Russia, phase 4.

Download the seminar program here (pdf).

Have a look at some more pictures of the day here (external link to Facebook).