Station to Station #1     “Dirty talks — money.

  1. Introduction
  2. GIF (1)
  3. Interview with Boshko Boskovic, Residency Unlimited
  4. Conversation between Nina Elder, SFAI; Marie Fol, DutchCulturelTransArtists and Kira Simon-Kennedy, China Residencies
  5. GIF (2)
  6. Interview with Lizaveta Matveeva, LUDA Gallery
  7. GIF (3)
  8. The long read — "Residencies: Practices and paradoxes" by Susan Jones
  9. GIF (4)
  10. "The green line(s)" by Marie Le Sourd, On the Move
  11. Interview with Keke Vilabelda
  12. GIF (5)
  13. Colophon

Introduction by Bojana Panevska

In the ever changing economy, where more and more governments are withdrawing funding for art everywhere, the question of how and why should the arts and culture be funded is as relevant as ever. Residencies, being an important part of the scene, are the starting point for further reflection and research on the topic Dirty talks: Money. This magazine came into being with the idea to give framework to the different social an political discourses; make a comparison between the differences in the field and trying to appropriate the ‘best lessons learned’ into a different context. Therefore, in the first issue of Station to Station we compiled contributions from different corners of the world, but all with the same mission - to be able to give place, time and money to artists, while at the same time to be able to sustain its existence as an organisation. Many questions came out during all the talks - what is the main difference between private and public funding? Are we only to rely on the whims and tastes of one wealthy patron, either public or private? How can a residency, an artist or an organisation survive on minimal budget with maximum of results?

“What is optimism? “asked Cacambo. “Alas!” replied Candide: “it is the mania for maintaining that all is right when everything is wrong;” (Candide by Voltaire, Chapter 19, What befell the two travelers at Surinam, and how Candide became acquainted with Martin)

We started the discussion with Lizaveta Matveeva, curator from Luda gallery, while she was in Amsterdam as part of the visitors program from our organisation DutchCulture. We talked about the differences in funding towards independent spaces in St. Petersburg and Amsterdam, how does that affect the work of these places and the choice of art that will be on display. Boshko Boskovic from Residency Unlimited, NY argues that is much better to receive funding from few different organisations and/or individuals, which will enable you to be less dependant on one source of income, while Keke Vilabelda talks about his experience as artist in residence in Campos de Gutiérrez, Colombia and how he managed to secure additional funding for staying and working there.

Talking about alternative ways of survival, Marie Le Sourd from On the Move, writes about Bumi Pemuda Rahayu, residency in Indonesia and how they deal with choosing who their sponsors will be, as well as what kind of activities are they organising to generate extra income. For the section ‘Long Read’ of the magazine, Susan Jones wrote an essay in which you can read about the artists’ pay (or the lack thereof) and how has that been developing in UK in the last 30 years.

Having perspectives from different corners of the world was not an easy task to complete; it was a challenge on its own to organise the conversation between Marie Fol, DutchCulture|TransArtists; Nina Elder, SFAI and Kira Simon-Kennedy, China Residencies, who at that time were respectively in France, Alaska and China. In the end we managed to have an interesting conversation in three different time zones, where some of the topics touched upon were how do residencies deal with corporate sponsorships and how can residency organisers create transparent application process.

With all these different contributors, we could agree on one thing - even though there might never be enough money, this deficiency is substituted with the enormous amount of enthusiasm, optimism and is primarily done for the nurturing of the art scene from the people involved.

36. Aedh wishes for the Cloths of Heaven

HAD I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

(The Wind Among the Reeds by W.B. Yeats, 1899)

Between dreaminess and reality, this issue offers concrete examples of successful practices for survival in the art world, with or without funding. Parallel with this, there is a different visual narrative in the publication - you will notice that each text has highlighted words, and once you click on them an image will appear. This feature is directly connected with Google images and what you will see depends on your browsers’ search history. With using this feature, we want to pinpoint the importance of free online information and how is that curated (or not) by the choices we make. While reading and using the dirty talks we collected as a backdrop, prepare to face your own, free and visual (hi)story.

Interview with Boshko Boskovic

(Bojana Panevska) Let’s start with introducing RU, and what you are doing, because you are so much more than a residency.

(Boshko Boskovic) At the core we are basically a residency program. We’ve been in existence 7 years and we work with about 50 artists a year and some curators as well. There are three components of the program, one of them being production support. This means we have a staff member who can help if, for example, an artist wants to do a photoshoot or a video, editing, basic animation, or something like that. We also assist with research, so it’s not only about physical production. We have an artist right now who wanted to get access to the transgender community in NYC. Although we didn’t know much about it, we started doing research, contacted people from academic backgrounds, activism, art etc. Then we also do network support through our guest visitors’ programme, where we invite one curator per week and usually invite a mix of commercial galleries, critics, institutional and freelance curators, and non-profit institutions. NYC is not one monolithic art world; there are many art worlds, and it depends on where you want to strategically position yourself as an artist. That is what we are looking at as well, because different artists are in different stages of their careers. The third part is the public program towards the end of the residency – which manifests itself either in group exhibitions, screenings, performances or artist talks.

(BP) Which brings me to the dirty question: how do you manage to do all this; what is your survival strategy in terms of money?

(BB) I think it is important being aware of where the money comes from, who funds it and why are they funding it; we cannot be immune to that. At times there are situations, where you have to understand those dynamics and be upfront about it. Is it a foundation, government body, private gallery, a collector? Those are all different arms of the octopus and one will fund one thing, while the other will fund something else. Our portfolio is diverse: we receive support from private foundations, galleries, private collectors, and also from individuals who give 25 dollars a year. It’s good not to rely on one big chunk of money, because maybe that chunk of money is not going to exist anymore next year. It seems in certain countries, from what I understand from my colleagues in Europe who run art organisations, you only need to write two or three applications for big grants per year. With those grants they can cover the salaries and the operating costs, and sometimes there is money left for projects. To us that looks like a luxury; but we are in a different position, and we have to operate differently.

(BP) Have you encountered a situation where no matter how much or how hard you tried to secure funding for the artist or curator, it simply came to a dead end?

(BB) Sometimes I’ve been corresponding with artists literally for several years. I think it’s ok, as long as you try all the possibilities and resources that you or the artists could have thought of. At least you know you tried to tap into all the resources, and at the end it simply did not work out. It’s important to try everything with the hope that it comes to fruition, but sometimes it just does not happen and that is OK.

(BP) And sometimes it can get really frustrating for all the sides involved.

(BB) Absolutely! There is a very big imbalance when you think which countries can come and how long they can come in a context of artist residency program. In certain countries there is simply no infrastructure, and you have to be smart in thinking where to find money where funding does not exist. It is really sad to see sometimes. I’m going to use Eastern Europeans as an example, partly because that is where I’m from, and I know that context very well. We started working on a program with 10 different Eastern European countries to give out every year the Young Visual Artist Award. We can only do that because it’s sponsored by an American foundation, which is funding this entire program.

(BP) That is one amazing aspect of the art and cultural world, knowing that certain projects will happen regardless of funding, just because of the enthusiasm of everyone involved and willingness to invest their time either for free or for a symbolical amount of money.

(BB) That is a very good point. In order for things to function well, you really need to have trust and create a good working relationship with your partners, whether it is sponsors, foundations or private individuals. With this program in Eastern Europe we basically partner with 10 non-profits in 10 different countries, and the funding is different from country to country, but some really do it on a practically voluntary base. If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be able to do this project. For example, they do the open call in their country, deal with the applications, select a jury, prepare the exhibition of the finalists, etc. They are a very important part of the chain, and though they might not be financial sponsors, they do this for the love of their own contemporary art scene which they nurture. It’s these kind of people that make the difference in the bigger cultural landscape.

(BP) Apart from this solidarity, there is also the dark side of art, where it is normal to expect the artist will do things for free. Talking about the food chain in the art world, artists are, most of the time, at the bottom of it. As it happens very often, the artist gets invited to make an exhibition or a performance, while being told there is no budget or a very minimal one for that project.

(BB) This is a big problem in the art world, where artists are being taken advantage of at times. I don’t know how it is in other places, but in NYC it can be very pronounced. It is true there are many places to show and many artists who want to be part of the club. They know if somebody says no, there is someone else waiting in line. To a certain extent you have to do it, while you are at the beginning of your career and being young in your 20’s, you have to suck it up. You may eat ramen noodles for the rest of the month if you had to put the money into producing a piece where there was no budget. But if you’ve been doing this for 10-15 years, something is wrong. On the other hand, there is art that is being sold for an exuberant amount of money, so you end up having this big gap between these two ends of the spectrum of the art world. It’s all about negotiating, and trying to get what you think is worth your time and your practice. But this is an unspoken thing, I have heard stories from friends where big-name artists were having issues with big museum institutions about budgets for a minor thing like framing because there was not enough money in the budget, and we are talking about institutions with multi-million dollar operating budgets. It is unfortunate, and to go back to the dirty money talks, in the American context, this mixing of commerce, art, and interests becomes very blurry, because institutions at times will go to big galleries and work with their artists since they know the gallery will be able to cover the bill for production. This is very well-known in the biennial circles as well, that the big galleries will pay for the production for whatever biennial, so that their artists are in it. I’m not saying it is always the case, but very often it’s a reality that artists need to know. And again to come back to the beginning of the conversation, you have to be aware where the money comes from; all these decisions need to be put in perspective.

(BP) And this attitude also reflects how the artistic position is viewed in society. One would never dare to ask a plumber, for example, to fix a problem in the kitchen, while saying my budget is 50 dollars and please fix everything.

(BB) They say no is a powerful word, so you need to walk away sometimes. I had an interesting conversation with a young artist, who is interning with us, and is interested to learn more about art administration. We started talking about her artistic practice, and I was wondering what her plans are for the coming year. She said that she’s not really interested in the group exhibition circuit, she thinks it’s a waste of time and energy. She prefers to do projects where she can invest her time in one particular project and do it thoroughly. It is a very personal choice; I’m not saying this is the way to go, it is one option that someone I know is exploring at this very moment.

Conversation between Nina Elder, Marie Fol and Kira Simon-Kennedy

(Marie Fol) Let’s start with introducing your residency program

(Nina Elder) Santa Fe Art Institute is an artist in residence program in Santa Fe, New Mexico and for a long time it was a traditional residency program. But in the past three years we’ve really taken the turn to be more of a social justice organization with a lot of focus on under served communities and equality. We are doing that through a thematic structure, hosting about 60 artists per year, half of them international – it is quite a competitive process now. The first theme was on food justice, the next theme was immigration and emigration, and right now we are dealing with the theme of water rights. The focus is of great local importance, but also has national and international impact. To speak about funding a little bit, we have around 4000 dollars per month per resident costs, and we underwrite 3000 dollars from that through fundraising and various grants. We do ask for a monthly fee of 1000 dollars towards that and that covers the apartment, the studio space, basic food items and access to our community partner facilities.

(MF) You are currently subsidising 3/4 of the artist costs and that is done mostly through private foundations?

(NE) In the US there is a small amount of public funding coming from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) but primarily it’s from private foundations and all the residency programs here are competing against each other for a pool of private foundation money. We have a very modest endowment, but for the rest it is mostly private fundraising. The biggest strategy that I’m a huge fan of is partnership building, and creating partnerships between larger and smaller organisations. We do have a partnership with the Canadian Council for the Arts, the Rasmuson foundation in Alaska, the Ministry of Culture in Taiwan, we are doing a program with the Greek Fulbright institute, and we do offer fully funded fellowships through these partnerships.

(MF) Talking about partnership building, this is something that China Residencies has been doing a lot as well.

(Kira Simon-Kennedy) China Residencies is a three-and-half year old non profit, started by my friend Crystal Ruth Bell and I. We used to run a residency in China and we realised that many artists didn’t have the additional resources on how to navigate the visa procedure, finding funding, or even the landscape of what was available in China. At the moment we have 38 partners all over China and Hong Kong listed in our directory. We helped a lot of these residencies to set up partnerships with different organisations all over the world, most recently with the Africa Centre in South Africa and also are in conversation with organisations in Poland and Tanzania. We work very closely with embassies and cultural institutes to recommend different residencies for their artists. As for funding, we get donations, but we are so tiny, our annual budget is not even 20.000 US dollars. Most of the income is project-based, and we have other jobs to sustain ourselves.

(NE) Are your clients, the organisations that are included in your website, and that you are promoting, are they functioning as separate clients, that you promote separately or are there consortiums between them?

(KSK) Originally when we started, a lot of residencies didn't know about each other, even in the same city. All the residencies we work with are included in the China Residencies directory and we don’t charge the residencies at this stage, if only because China is in an even worse situation for arts funding than the US. There really isn’t any equivalent to the NEA that has an open call, that is transparent or accessible to arts organisations. For example - some of the residencies that are fully funded are corporate sponsored, there are couple of companies that are supporting them. Some are sponsored by galleries or private foundations, while others are funded by the Goethe Institute and similar organisations from Europe. And others are reliant on one very wealthy individual who is turning a portion of their private museum into a residency.

(NE) I’ve noticed a trend - very often, small organisations when they try to formalise a program for example for visiting artists or scholars, they start calling it a residency program, and that is often creating a more diverse field, but is not giving necessarily the experience to the artist of going to an organisation and being hosted, having the time and space to make a work. There are all these different models of residencies nowadays, called visiting faculty at universities residency program, at least that is the trend in the US. I’m wondering if internationally that is what makes the field more competitive, because it seems the number of residency places, or what is considered a residency place, is increasing every year. How is that affecting you?

(KSK) I think it is great that there is an explosion of residencies, and the term has gone on to cover everyone from chefs to bands, almost anyone can do a residency. I’m not particularly opposed to that, but there are so many different terms - it’s a film lab, a writers retreat, an artist residency. All of these things are really the same, they are providing some form of time and space and support for people to work on a creative project and I think it is really exciting to have this experimentation around with the term and the format. But that has definitely increased the need for transparency and has set up certain expectations. As long as everyone knows what they are getting into and the organisers are clear about what they are offering upfront, especially around the finances, logistics, facilities and the amount of staff support and time, the terms don’t matter as much.

(NE) Another point of confusion that I find very interesting in the US, when you become a doctor you need to complete your residency in a hospital before you become a certified medical doctor. So working in the craft disciplinary field, many people have questions if by doing an artist residency you come out with a certification or a new skill set. I think that is a very interesting thing that could become a part of a working definition for certain residencies which impart skills or new knowledge. I’m curious to hear from you Kira about the corporate sponsored residency programs that you worked with. I know that some of the programs I worked with, they’ve done a great job in masking their corporate sponsors, and ending up feeling as not being transparent, I’m curious if in China this is made obvious?

(KSK) I’ll start with the silliest example, which is the Swatch Art Peace Hotel, run by the Swatch watch company, where they rent the entire hotel in a very touristic area in Shanghai. They have studios for up to 18 artists at a time. The facilities are fantastic, it’s a beautiful space, but I’ve heard time and time again that there is not a lot of on-site support, and the artists are left to their own devices to make connections in Shanghai. The team in Switzerland that coordinates the residency makes claims that the jury includes the Swatch CEO and George Clooney. Nobody really understands what is going on, or why they are doing it, or who is running it, or who gains from running it.

(NE) Really, George Clooney is making the selection?

(KSK) Kira: It says so on their website, and he really has come to some of the art openings. We have already done many interviews with artists that were there, yet whenever we reach out to the staff for an interview, we don’t get a thorough response. At the end of the day, there doesn’t seem to be greater connection with the local art scene in Shanghai. I think this says a lot about corporations running a residency, it’s really a missed opportunity for them to create a really fantastic residency by partnering with local non-profit organisations and institutions, for example, since there are several in Shanghai that are already doing a great job at providing these services and hosting artists.

(NE) The flip side of this situation is the one of the McColl Centre for Arts + Innovation in North Carolina, which is fully funded by the Bank of America, but nowhere does it say that in their literature, it is not talked about very openly. I’ve talked to a lot of artists that have done that program and they feel like there is so much programming and so much momentum, they can’t keep up with doing individual art sometimes. It is such a huge, well-funded, well-oiled machine, that meeting artists and their ideas can keep its momentum going. I’m curious what would it be like for them if they would be more transparent that they have very deep pockets, because of their engagement with the Bank of America, instead of making it more like a community-run, community-oriented program.

(KSK) The US is on a different level with corporate art-washing, and they are very sophisticated in terms of understanding branding and synergies within the art world, especially when you see companies like Vice, Vans and Converse who support a lot of musicians. I think it has come to a point in US where the lines are very blurred, while what I’m seeing in China is that if it is corporate, it is very obvious that is corporate. There is also the cigar company Davidoff that sponsors a residency for Caribbean artist to go elsewhere, and for artists around the world to go the Caribbean. And they do not shy away from it, they also work with existing residency programs. From artists who participated in this program it seems that is working pretty well, and for artist who don't want to promote a cigar company, they can simply choose to not apply. There is also a residency in Beijing for French artists that is funded by the Rothschild family, I think through the wine portion of their fortune; it’s not masked where the money is from. From their branding perspective they are looking for the kind of artists that are represented in art fairs and similar, it is a very strategic placement. In all of these cases, its up to the artist to decide where the money comes from, and whether they need to pay their rent or not, it is not always a moral question.

(NE) I went to a meeting with Americans for the Arts a while ago and they function as the largest lobbying group for the arts. They were pointing out that only 6% of the funding for the arts in US comes from corporate entities and more than half of the corporations they surveyed say that they would support the arts if only someone would ask. So there is this desire to fund, but there is obviously resistance from the art organisations to ask. I’m really curious as to what that would look like, to help corporations without doing the art-washing and with the utmost transparency.

(MF) In this regard, there is also Amtrak that had a writer in residence last year. What I find quite problematic with their open call is that they would use an excerpt from any applicant in their PR material. You had to read very carefully the application form to find this out. From my perspective the corporations that are using this kind of PR definitely need to have more transparency.

(KSK) As a big company you have more leverage, money and power, while as a small art organisation or as an individual artist there might be a limit to how much can you negotiate a contract, especially when you are applying to a residency. How much room is there for artists to say: “I think your marketing terms are exploitative?”. How can we get that protocol in place where artists and organisations can address these issues to funders?

(NE) And how responsible does an organisation need to be to make sure there are equal opportunities for different people. In our last conversation with Bojana we were talking about the role of fellowships and that very often they are along very specific demographic lines. In some ways it is great, but in other ways it’s creating division for what a fundable project is. This is a conversation I heard from so many artists, especially in the southwest of US, where there is a lot delineation between traditional native art practices and contemporary native art practices, and who's being offered what support. It is really a fascinating problem that has to do with the iconic cultural style in the American southwest. I think artist in residence programs have a huge role to help with dismantling that and to encourage people, regardless they are native or not, to take new risks in their art practices.

(KSK) That is one of the things we are also thinking about when we read applications. Our open call is worldwide and we give 1000 dollars for two months funded residency. We would like to give this residency to artists who wouldn’t be able to do it otherwise, and it is tricky since we don't ask for demographic information, and we try to refine that by asking: “Do you have access to similar opportunities? Is this a project for which you could find funding on your own?”. We are trying to find an equitable way how to allocate these very scarce resources without having people disclosing their bank accounts and tax returns.

(NE) At SFAI we ask for tax returns, we go straight into their taxable income. There are people who are willing to take a huge a risk around their art practice and with their income, and I want to be able to see that. If it’s not US tax situation, then we ask for a formal documentation from a last year of income. Also asking the artist to reveal something about themselves has to do with transparency, and for us, being a financially tiny organisation, it turns into collaborative relationship with that artist.

(KSK) Recently there have been a couple situations where residencies feel almost entitled to a portion of the proceeds of a company that an artist would go on to create, especially around new media artists, because there are (slim) chances that a startup goes on to become huge, maybe more so than the work of an individual artist. There is a lot of pressure in the US, though I’m not sure how it is in Europe, for arts organisation to act more like corporations and to take some of that lingo and strategies about diversifying their income and long term investments. It will be interesting to see how that will develop.

(MF) In the Netherlands it is definitely going this way: it has become normal for public funding not to cover all the costs of a project – usually around 10% of the total needs to be fundraised separately. You can say it’s still very advantageous compared to other places, but it means developing new strategies for many artists and organisations. And there is very big administrative burden to receive public funding, which I consider fair on some level, but at the same time you need to promote the funding you got. Earlier this year there was a study from the Dutch council for culture and the socio-economical council stating that artists earned 1/3 less than the average income, and something needs to be done to address this situation. The government is slowly reacting on this data, but the reality is that this situation is the outcome of changes in the funding structure that took place years ago. Small scale organisations and freelancers especially have to go much more into new business models that are not yet being implemented in Europe. It is definitely challenging for residencies because they are not recognized as a specific type of organisation to receive funding. But regardless of the funding, one of the biggest complaints we receive from artists is that if something goes wrong, they don’t know their way out.

(KSK) We definitely have agreements with artists that we work with just to lay everything out, so everybody knows what we are providing and what the residency is providing. We also have a lot of orientation material and handbooks with resources to make sure they have all the tools they need. There is an organisation in the US called WAGE, Working Artists and the Greater Economy, and they’ve been doing a lot of data collection around artist fees, contracts and such. We always try to make sure that our stipends cover the cost of living and that we never end up paying anyone that is below the living wage, even our interns. These are very good tools that we can share in our field, that can help establish what amount is fair for a stipend and how you can calculate that amount. Those are things that some other people in the field have figured out already and we can help each other by sharing.

(NE) Something that I would love to see happen more broadly is to use residency programs as a measuring stick of equity in the whole art world or arts industry, however you want to call it. Because I think artists' needs are met in residency programs more than in any other arts programming.

Interview with Lizaveta Matveeva

(Bojana Panevska) How did the Luda gallery started?

(Lizaveta Matveeva) The Luda gallery is an artist-run space and a non-profit gallery in St.Petersburg started by Pieter Belyi. We don’t sell art; we are more like an experimental lab where we can make exhibitions. Being non-profit is good and bad at the same time, because we are the only people who make the decisions. At the same time, we always have to keep in mind that we cannot bring a group of artists from another country. For example, when we work with European countries, we look for extra funding from foundations and institutions in that country. In Russia, however, there are no foundations that support art for projects, although there are stipends for young artists and a program for public artists in Moscow by V-A-C Foundation. Still, there are no options for a small institution like the Luda gallery. We do have private support from another artist, and also we received huge support from the woman who owns the space - for two years she only charged the electricity, while we could use the space for free. That changed now, and for the next year we will be paying rent. In case we need screens or projectors we can always ask our colleagues from other spaces - it’s good because there is a small network of support, where we try to help each other as much as possible.

(BP) While you were in Amsterdam, we touched upon the topic of independent organisations, and how they function in Holland and Russia. Can you draw a comparison from your experience?

(LM) In Russia self-organised institutions are mostly sponsored by the funders themselves. I think that people want to be in a group with others, and build collectively their own structure of the organisation, create something interesting that cannot be done in traditional spaces like museums or commercial galleries. Almost everyone has another job from which they are earning money. Of course, most of them work with local artists, because they do not have the possibilities to bring artists from abroad. It’s more realistic to explore the art scene in their own city, which is also good. This is one difference between Russia and some countries in Europe or the States. When I was in Amsterdam, I noticed that a lot of the self-organised spaces have existed for 30-40 years, while in Russia if the space exists for 10 years that is already a lot, because you are never sure if your space will work tomorrow. You always need to improvise and be prepared for changes.

(BP) Which brings me to the residencies in St.Petersburg. Let’s talk a bit: what is there on the scene and how are they organised?

(LM) In St. Petersburg there are three residencies and they are all different. One of them is the state residency for international artists (NCCA), which is situated outside of the city in Kronstadt. Beautiful place, but a bit abandoned. I think it is a nice place for artists to develop a project; there is a lot of history in that place that can be interesting for research. The other residency is on Pushkinskaya 10, one of the oldest squats in St. Petersburg, or it used to be a squat: in the 90’s the government gave this building to the artists. The third is CEC ArtsLink Back Apartment Residency, where I also work. We work mostly with US artists; artists from other countries are also welcome, but they need to secure their own funding. What we can offer to non-US artists is the apartment, free of charge. They can also get help in terms of finding people to work with, or places to visit. During the open call we didn't have that many applications from other countries, but this year we chose one artist from India and in June we are having Bulgarian curator. She is coming for 10 days and is financed by the institution where she works, because they are interested in working on a project with Russia.

(BP) From your own experience, can you see a difference between artists who come with funding and the ones who need to arrange that themselves? I know each situation is different from the other, but if we try to generalise, are there any differences in attitude towards the residency or the city?

(LM) All the artist that are coming this year are in St. Petersburg for the first time, funded or not. We are trying to choose artists that are really interested in the city and who need to come here to do a project or research that cannot be done in any other place. It is very difficult to compare because we had 12 US artists, and one from India and Bulgaria respectively. For example, for the Indian artist there was huge cultural difference between his native country and Russia. The interesting part is that he was supported by the Russian embassy in India, and he was supposed to make an exhibition there. The US artists, on the other hand, have no connections like this, for example with embassies, which gives them more independence.

(BP) The funding for culture has been cut in many countries in Europe the past years, which requires all the sides involved from artists to organisers to be creative in terms of looking for funding. Apart from that, the art market and art scene are being looked at as one and the same thing, which means that places for experimenting are receiving less support, since they are not profitable enough. How do you see this trend developing in the future?

(LM) Talking about the Russian context, we have the Garage stipends for supporting young artists. In St. Petersburg there is Anna Nova gallery that supports young artists each year with grants. People are starting to feel this gap between artists and institutions, and they feel that artists really need support. In St. Petersburg, the New Holland is coming, a cultural institution founded by Roman Abramovic, like the Garage museum. Maybe they will not give financial support, but it is good that we will have such an institution in the city, so people can go there and see who and what kind of art is getting support. As to private financial support, it’s also developing, people are realising that the arts need their support, and that it is a good way of spending money. It also influences the process: you have to think where did you get the money from, and what should you write or say about this source, meaning you have to be careful. In the early 2000’s there was a lot of money in Russia, and people were spending money on everything, including art. That was a time of expensive projects, and posh collaborations for example between alcohol factories and museums of contemporary art, really weird combinations. It stopped around the crisis in 2008, and now the tendency is that people are supporting the arts, but in a more sober way.

The long read — "Residencies: Practices and paradoxes" by Susan Jones


The terms of reference for today’s artists’ residencies are wide and various. Examples of the polarities artists are now presented with, range from a considered opportunity over several months for artists to take stock and reflect with little or no expectation of ‘public’ output, to those residencies in which artists are expected find a solution to a community, education or arts ‘problem’ in a short time, often for a very small fee. Drawing on evidence from the UK, this essay attempts to provide a brief analysis of how the landscape for artists’ residencies have transformed, highlighting where arts policy and the changing political and economic climate might have impacted the various expectations for, and manifestations of, the residency format. By raising and commenting on the issues arising and highlighting an example of one artist’s commitment to set a new, more equal context for artists’ residencies, it is intended to contribute insight to inform future residency practices and arts policies.


Research (Dahl, 1987) concluded that residencies were essentially about two kinds of relationship: “On the one hand there are those residencies which are exclusively about the artist and the artist’s activity. On the other, there are those exclusively concerned with people and people’s activities. The difference is the degree to which the ‘clients‘ – the people whom the residency project serves – are considered to be an active element in it.” He described as ‘artist-centered’ those residencies which were either ‘transferred studio’ or ‘commission-based’, and as ‘people-centered’ a residency for a community artist, the ‘response requirement’ type (in which the characteristics of the situation are the lever for new work), and the ‘consultation-type’ (where artists’ creativity can effect change). His description of the ‘interchange type’ – a residency which balances the interests of the artist and the public – probably comes closest to what we might now recognise as ‘socially-engaged‘ artistic practice.

We must also look to the pioneering work of the Artists’ Placement Group (APG) in the 1960-70s as a forerunner to artists’ residency practices in the UK. Initiated by artist Barbara Stevini, the group included John Latham, Barry Flanagan, David Hall and Jeffrey Shaw.1 APG’s aim was to reposition the role of the artist within a wider social context, including in government, commerce and industry. The brief for Garth Evans’ placement in 1969 at the British Steel Corporation was to “carry out his own work as a sculptor in relation to the material of the industry.” While he was categorically not expected to be working for BCC – his funding came from an education budget - he did in the process interview apprentices on-site and produce a paper for the Iron and Steel Federation.2

Considering the relationship between APG’s approach and current residency practices, it is notable that APG did not operate through a typical patronage or sponsorship model and seek funding to conduct a programme of activities. Rather, each project was unique, the artist receiving a fee for undertaking a placement to which APG added a 15-20% fee to cover its organisational costs. Significantly, there was no consistently-applied residency formula. Each situation was individually negotiated, with the placement process comprising an initial period of some months of paid-for time. During this time the artist conducted a feasibility study and familiarised his or herself with the specific context, leading to a formulation of the artistic proposal for the longer placement to follow.

Artists involved in the APG were meant to function as independent observers within the organisations in which they were placed, with the nature of the work produced developing directly from being on site. John Latham called the artist placed in such a contexts an ‘incidental person’ and “an engineer of conceptual material… for which he (sic) carries the responsibility”.3


Although it was artist associations (including the APG) who led the way in conceptualising artists’ placements as a new way of understanding the artist’s role in society and in which the artist’s practice remained at the heart, a substantially different approach was taken for the UK’s Year of the Artist (YOTA) 2000/01. The stated ambition of this venture was to “place the artist at the centre of society, to create a better understanding of the role of the artist, to establish new partnerships between every section of society and the arts, to empower artists and communities and to have a lasting impact for their benefit.”

While the original proposals for YOTA as devised by an independent working group of artists and practitioner-based organisations had been broad-based and encompassed artists’ development, new art projects, in-depth research and strategies for raising public awareness, this was translated by the regional arts boards concerned with activating the initiative specifically into a simple residency programme because, as an internal paper from the regional arts board Chairs group revealed, it was felt that this would: “enable artists to work alongside more ‘normal’ people who do not at present recognise the way arts can and do impinge on their lives”.

Amongst the highly ambitious aims of YOTA was a desire to provide significant opportunities for artists to initiate and develop projects and to demonstrate and promote good practice in the commissioning and employment of artists. Within the detailed objectives were aspirations to deliver lasting opportunities for artists creatively, structurally and financially; extend opportunities for artists to experiment and replenish their creative energy; and to help expand the arts economy and support attempts to create new opportunities for employing artists, including action to improve the economic status of the arts and artists.


To a greater or lesser degree, improving artists’ pay was an aspiration of arts policy-makers since the mid ‘80s, and YOTA might have presented itself as a perfect vehicle to finally make this happen. This was because an important principle in the ambition to improve the economic status of artists was establishment of a minimum rate of pay for artists of £150 per day (£20,000 a year). This was intended to be a core legacy, upheld by the arts councils and boards and embedded into arts practices as a legacy for the future.

Although this minimum rate of pay was recommended, the Arts Council (ACE) evaluation report by Hutton and Fenn (2002) revealed that in some cases the artists whose projects ran into financial difficulties effectively subsidised their residencies by taking a cut in fees. An approximate calculation based on the number of artist days for the Year overall and the amount spent on fees produced a mean daily figure instead of £76, roughly half of the intended minimum rate. Led by a newly-appointed network of YOTA co-ordinators appointed to solicit and assess applications from artists through a mainly open submission meant that although £15m was invested by the arts bodies in 1,000 artists’ residencies, just £4.2m (38%) went to the individual artists’ projects.

Another of YOTA’s stated terms was to replenish artists’ creative energy. The Arts Council’s evaluation report forms show, however, that although most artists had gained new skills or developed their artistic ability in some way, some felt the formulaic constraints of the residency model and short length of most residencies had prevented them from achieving the heightened creativity for which they had hoped. Furthermore, an independent evaluation by Stephens (2001) concluded that YOTA had in effect taken artistic control away from artists and the artist-led, and put it instead in the hands of arts managers, thus “signalling the development [more widely] of artists’ residencies as a management tool [which could be employed] to deliver arts policy.”

The treatment and expectations of artists for YOTA contributed to a general momentum which has served to reclassify the role of artists as instruments of economic and social and community benefit, as opposed to a research-based ‘art for art’s sake’ practice. Their creativity is therefore tempered and controlled by the ambitions and needs of institutions. Within arts policies in England at least, the nuanced applications of the term ‘residency,’ as identified by Dahl and tested by APG in the past, have largely given way to a ‘contract for services’ approach characteristic of the creative industries as a whole.


Under the new-liberalism of New Labour, a Green Paper in 2001 outlined the look and feel of a new cultural economy, one in which the new patterns of freelance and self-employed work were set out as a model for others in the industry – including those in the visual arts - to emulate. However, as research by McRobbie (2001) concluded: “The neoliberalism of the cultural economy under New Labour seems likely to be the model for some time. And yet the myriad of freelancers, part-timers, short-termers and contract workers who sustain the model who have nothing to lose but their talents know that their way of life and work is, over the long term, utterly unsustainable.”

Portfolio working and the need for artists to hold down at one time three or even four short-term projects (which artists’ residencies nowadays often are) has compounded the issue of low pay and career uncertainty for artists. McRobbie (2002) has pointed out that a key downside of creative industries (and thus the visual arts) as a talent-led and social network-driven arts economy is that: “it irons out any dissent… It’s not cool to be ‘difficult’”. Many artists will agree privately that in the current climate (in England at least) the misgivings they might have about what they are offered and expected to achieve against the size of the fee must be privately managed and any difficulties carefully concealed, even from peers.


Women now make up 70% of the UK’s visual arts workforce as a whole, and amongst artists this same percentage holds true. This trend is likely to continue, as there are more than twice as many female students than males leaving UK undergraduate fine art courses each year.4 While evaluation of YOTA did quantify the offering of residencies to artists from ethnic minorities and those with disabilities, there was no data provided in the Arts Council’s evaluation report on gender. At first glance, however, it might seem that the portfolio working and synthesised visual arts practices that have developed since the turn of the twenty-first century might be more favourable to women.

However, there are conflicting opinions about where the actual disadvantages are to be found within the creative industries. While her research pertains to new media workers, Gill’s assertions (2011) may also resonate with the context in which visual artists find themselves, where the work which is available “calls forth or incites into being a new ideal worker-subject whose entire existence is built around work. She must be flexible, adaptable, sociable, self-directing, and able to work for days and nights at a time without encumbrances or needs and must commodify herself and others and recognise …… that every interaction is an opportunity for work. In other words for this modernised worker-subject, ‘life is a pitch’.” Significantly, McRobbie (2016) considers the longer-term impact for her predominantly female students (at a top London art school) who are “part of a global demographic of young women determined to live a life of their own. What is not on their mind is the question of motherhood and grappling with a career and children.”

Furthermore, research by Nelligan and Morgan has coined the term ‘labile labour’ to describe the need for creative workers, if they wish to survive in turbulent labour markets, to be mobile, spontaneous, malleable and capable of being aroused by new vocational possibilities. These researchers identified the four key qualities that such labour requires as being comfortable with the condition of incessant job seeking; being willing to ‘rebrand’ and improve themselves in response to the changing ecology; being excited by serendipity; and being prepared to endure the scrutiny and arbitrary judgement of the gatekeepers. They have thus concluded that because these characteristics are most often socially produced in women, it is their male counterparts who are in fact the more disadvantaged by the contemporary environment for creative work.

While the modus operandi of women in the creative arts may be more amenable to the acquisition of the work available, the rates offered for artists’ projects in the public sector clearly do not acknowledge family circumstances. The £150 a day intended as a minimum rate in 2000, and championed by arts funders as a benchmark for good practice, is now often offered in 2016 as a flat rate, regardless of artists’ experience level or their projected costs. Despite Arts Council England’s assertion that artists should be paid fairly and properly,5 artists’ projects such as at Kingsgate Art Space in the West Midlands,6 funded through ACE’s own Grants for the Arts scheme, offer a substantially out-of-date rate.7 Artist Emma Smith, whose practice predominantly comprises undertaking residencies in the public sector and who regularly puts in 12-15 hour days and rarely takes holidays, has observed that “funding [bodies] are always looking to get more-and-more for less-and-less [money].”8 She has acknowledged that having a child and remaining an artist would present a conflict.

Female artists working in the gallery sector are faring no better. When it comes to juggling childcare and art production costs, many of today’s up-and-coming female artists find themselves both time- and cash-poor. The burgeoning careers of many can stall as they grapple with the practicalities of having a family and managing the expectations of the art world, which dictate that artists be both continually available and constantly networking.

As a direct response to residency opportunities which do not acknowledge the circumstances of artists with family commitments, artist and mother Nicola Smith (aka We Are Resident) has been researching a new micro-research residency which is specifically ‘family-friendly’. Supported by Arts Council England and Finland’s Tampere Artists’ Association, a two-week fully-funded opportunity was offered, aimed specifically at an artist (male or female) from north-west England whose family or personal circumstances limited their participation in the usual residency opportunities. By widely communicating her intentions and findings9 and demonstrating the value of the approach she has adopted, it can only be hoped that such ‘family-friendly’ opportunities for artists will be replicated elsewhere.


This essay has attempted to provide a brief analysis of the history and contemporary landscape of artists’ residencies, and to indicate how the appropriation of the residency format by arts managers as a tool for delivering policies for audience development and social inclusion has been to the detriment both to the need of artists for concerted time and space in which to experiment and take risk and to their financial status.

Furthermore, while through funding organisations to programme residencies the arts policy-makers may have recognised that artists’ residencies contribute to raising awareness of the value of art and artists to society as a whole, I am unaware of any evidence being systematically collected or disseminated by the arts councils (or their programme collaborators) which might quantify this. The Arts Council’s own analysis of visual arts audience development remains based predominantly on attendance at public institutions such as galleries, museums and heritage centres.10 Unless this omission is rectified, artists’ residencies will remain at the margins of the contemporary visual arts, and the funding bodies will be complicit in maintaining the inherent poor working conditions and inequalities for artists taking part in them.



The green line(s) – Sustainability issues for the residency in Bumi Pemuda Rahayu, Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Funding for the management of artists in residency organisations is key and challenging. This is one of the most common pieces of feedback we get when we present the cultural mobility funding opportunities shared on On the Move's website. The models to support residency organisations depend on the contexts they are implemented in, and the history of each organisation. They can range from almost fully public-funded organisations (at national/regional and/or local levels) to fully independent and even individually supported ones.

The ethics behind the funding of art / cultural organisations, and in this particular case of residency programs, is another challenge, particularly when it comes to private sources of funding. Money, can for instance be linked to 'green washing', with private companies trying to get a cleaner image by supporting arts and cultural organisations or events. For example, stories like the Tate Gallery in London with the oil giant BP made the news. This issue may be raised differently but with the same level of sensitivity, particularly in countries where public support for the arts and cultural sector is still very much limited.

This article deals with this issue for Bumi Pemuda Rahayu (BPR), a rather new residency location in Yogyakarta. Yogyakarta is the university and artistic centre of the Java island in Indonesia, located one hour by plane from the capital city of Jakarta.

BPR was founded in 2012 by the architect and urbanist Marco Kusumawijaya and his organisation Rujak Centre for Urban Studies (RCUS). Located in the village of Muntuk, in the southern part of Yogyakarta, it aims to support a vision of ecological sustainability by working with communities and artists on practical and theoretical levels. The architecture of the building is based on a model of self-sustainability, echoing the vision and activities of the place. The connection to the local communities was key for setting up the place: local craftsmen and builders were, for instance, associated with the construction of the bamboo structure. Apart from the residency programmes introduced below, many activities are targeted to the communities, such as science workshops for children, workshops for working with bamboo, puppet-making with the local children, and video-making classes with women from Munthuk.

Since the start of the BPR residency programme in 2012, there have been three yearly residencies for Indonesian creatives and one for a Japanese artist. In 2016 there will be two Indonesian creative workers staying for 6 months instead of 2, and one Taiwanese artist through an exchange with Bamboo Curtain Studio in Taipei. One of the two Indonesians will then stay in Taipei for two months. The BPR’s residency programme is co-managed by RCUS, Kunci Cultural Studies Centre and Arsitek Komunitas Yogyakarta (ARKOM). The last two organisations are based in Yogyakarta and have their own residency programmes connected with that of the BPR. 

Regarding the community outreach goals of the BPR, Kusumawijaya acknowledges: ‘The children benefit from activities with the residents. Neighbouring families also benefit from working together with the residents in collaborative projects and from working at the centre to provide various forms of services to the residents. The centre also has a separate crafts’ group consisting of BPR neighbours. They were trained by a Japanese master, Takayuki Shimizu, in 2015, and have since started to receive orders for bamboo basketry’.  This question of ‘return’ to the communities is key for other residencies in Yogyakarta, like the well-established Cemeti Art House. Mella Jaarsma, one of the co-founders, highlights the importance of ‘artists working directly with local people and/or craftsmen in order to use local materials and knowledge in their artwork and/or process’. In this context, the intention for artists coming to Yogyakarta is to make the mobility experience and its impact more relevant, and to maximise the potential of the experience for the local communities.11

The funding for the BPR facility was donated by the Indonesian government through its Ministry of Youth and Sport in 2011. The first residency programme was funded by the Ford Foundation. Since 2014, BPR has been funded by the SAM Fund for Arts and Ecology through the individual support of the family of the curator Natasha Sidharta. Sidharta has stated that her mission is ‘mostly to support the ecosystem of the Indonesian contemporary art scene and its structure. Therefore my work has a lot to do with stakeholders: artists, curators, gallery-owners, collectors, writers, researchers. We aim to help Indonesian contemporary art move forward. (…) By supporting a residency such as BPR, my hope is that more Indonesian artists could have an experience with projects deeply connected with the surrounding community. I think it is also great for artists to narrow their interests and to deepen their perspective and experience’.12

In Indonesia, mostly because of the lack of public support for the arts and cultural sector, many art events/organisations – particularly in the performing and music sector - are supported by cigarette companies and, less often, by private oil companies. Kusumawijaya’s stance on this funding source is clear, despite the larger income they could get from such companies: ‘Our policy - with KUNCI and AKROM - has been decided: no fund will be accepted from cigarette companies. Offers from oil companies (and other extractive industries) will be scrutinised on case-by-case basis, taking into consideration their practice with regards to the environment’. So far BPR has not been approached by any such companies. 

The debate is open, as the question is not always easy to answer, particularly if the sustainability of the organisation is at stake. It is worth mentioning the chapter ‘It is not easy being green’ in the IETM/COAL publication, Art for the Planet’s sake, written by Hannah Van Den Berg and then reprinted in Mel Evans’s publication ‘Artwash: Big oil and the Arts’. The author ‘confronts the intricacies of big oil relationships, and asks if cultural organisations, in accepting money, become accomplices to environmental crimes. A clean motive would perhaps be more persuasive if big oil was funding small organisations and community projects and not just aiming to win big in public relations impact by supporting Big Art with relatively small contributions’. Ultimately, the question about such funders, particularly in relation to community-related projects, is about their real motivations. Very few high-ranking persons in these companies have a clear understanding of the contemporary art scene in Indonesia: “They mostly want exposure and art is not yet their target, or maybe it is just when they want to reach out a wide audience through art. My primary concern is to make good, quality and in-depth art projects’, says Ms Sidharta.

In any case, as a way to tackle the challenges of private companies’ support, the long-term development of BPR, as well as of many other small organisations, may rely on multiple, creative partnerships and alliances locally, nationally and internationally. The question of innovative partnerships was particularly addressed in the ArtCOP21 Professional Workshop in Paris, December 2015, alongside the COP21 event, and in the Salzburg Global Seminar in March 2016, Beyond Green: the Arts as a catalyst for sustainability. Such multi-layered partnerships — with a balanced form of local and international interventions — can contribute to a large extent to the long-term development of art and sustainability related projects and organisations. But this is often easier to say than to implement.

For the future development of BPR, Kusumawijaya sees the increase of regular courses and workshops as a way to increase income, since for the time being the BPR operation is mostly subsidised by RCUS through its other projects. To develop new residency programmes with additional partners would also be a way to increase the income of BPR while contributing more to the local economy and to social links it can nurture. Shall this article be a call for partnerships?


Interview with Keke Vilabelda

(Léon Kruijswijk) What was the main reason to apply for an artist-in-residence programme at Campos de Gutiérrez?

(Keke Vilabelda) I wanted to have some more experience abroad. I found it somewhere and thought ‘why not’? That’s what I usually ask myself. And if there’s a reason for not doing it, I don’t do it. I applied and they were interested in the project. It was a short experience so it didn’t change my life completely. I had a time gap because I had been working for a long time on big projects in Valencia, so I was on a roll doing things and I never had time to stop and think about what I was doing. I needed a break to clear my mind.

(LK) How has the residency influenced your practice? Also taking its location in consideration, outside the city?

(KV) It is outside the city of Medellin, located in a valley and the residency on a hill. From there you have a massive view on the city, you can even hear the sounds on the top, the music, the people. The valley is like a speaker. As a result, the presence of the city of Medellin is still very strong. One of the reasons I went to this residency is because I was able to go for a short period of time. I didn’t have time to develop a site-specific project, fully influenced by the surroundings and produced there. I went there with a quite clear idea of what I wanted to do. I took a lot of pictures of the city’s buildings, which was very inspiring. My stay might have been a little too rushed to get influenced. My initial plan was to stay for two months, but I twisted my ankle so I had to postpone and shorten the residency. In the end, I stayed for 40 days, which was really worth it.

(LK) Sounds like an interesting place. Are you ready for the dirty talks? For the residency, the initial programme fee was 1,000USD (25 USD per day). Luckily, you received a subsidy of 45%, which was covered by a sponsoring patron. How did you apply for the subsidy?

(KV) The organisers helped me, and just before going there they told me I got it. I had everything planned because I said to myself ‘I am going to do it anyway’. There was a possibility to give some kind of workshop there to pay the fee, if needed. In the end, it wasn’t necessary.

(LK) Did you make some kind of exhibition or did you give a presentation?

(KV) We did a small show with the group. At this residency it is all about the group. The director of the residency, Andres Monzón-Aguirre, sometimes is able to arrange a presentation at a gallery or a project with the government through his contacts. I met a lady from Plecto Gallery in Medellin who came to Campos, where we presented our works. She was interested in putting up a show with the group. My pieces were quite a lot of work: I made huge works of concrete, which were not easy to move. Luckily she was very happy with them, and some months later she decided to do a solo show with my works in a different space, during which she sold some of them. That’s how I managed to get some money back from the whole experience, a few months after the residency for which I paid for in advance. For this reason I always say that to have this kind of an experience, in order to boost things, you have to make an investment. And later, you might get lucky and sell some work.

(LK) You paid the fee before you arrived at the residency and you also had to pay for your ticket, etc., right? In the end you were able to pay for everything with the works you sold after the residency.

(KV) Partially, I got enough money for the ticket and the residency, not for the rest. I think this residency was really affordable, because Colombia is quite an affordable country, compared to, for example, NYC where a 2000 USD fee per month is normal. This residency was quite balanced with what I would have paid in Valencia, where I also have to pay for food, my flat etc. You’re spending the same money, except for the flight. I guess a residency can be a business like everything; when you pay more, you’ll get more. [Hesitates] For example, when staying at an expensive residency in NYC, the residency might put you in contact with a lot of relevant people. The reason for me to stay at Campos was that it was very personal; I did it to gain new professional experience. 

(LK) Besides the show at the gallery, has the residency at Campos de Gutiérrez led to any other advantages?

(KV) These kind of results are not so measurable. I’ve mainly been keeping in touch with the woman from the gallery, not so much with the residency. The fact that I got in touch with her is a direct result of Campos. I sent her more paintings and we are planning to do a solo show in another gallery in Medellin she just opened.

(LK) A more general question: what do you think is the most valuable aspect of an artist-in-residence?

(KV) You change the point of view of everything, of your own work. It can lead you to unexpected places, it can lead you to unexpected relationships. It makes you move. It’s not only helpful when you leave, but it’s also helpful when you come back. We’re so used to seeing things, but don’t pay much attention to them. When you come back from a two-month stay, you start to appreciate more what you have, so I think it’s a good experience in a lot of ways.

(LK) Very good point. People often only focus on getting away, instead of coming back. And have you been enrolled in other residencies after Campos?

(KV) I’ve been working a lot lately, so I only recently applied for some residencies. Yesterday I got the news that I was accepted in a residency at a gallery in Mexico. It’s by concidence that the gallery is based both in Mexico and Valencia. They provide a studio in the gallery and you only have to pay for the rest: the flight, the house, etc. It’s a massive gallery, and in the basement they have studios which can accommodate about four to six people. In the end, you might get the opportunity to exhibit the work you made in the gallery, but that depends on what the organisers think about it.
There are some expenses for me, but it’s quite helpful because I had this idea of moving anyway, I wanted to go to Mexico. It’s time-consuming to apply, to think about the project that you would like to do, but it’s part of your job when you’re an artist. If you’re not rich, it’s the only way I know to move around.


Station to Station is an online magazine of DutchCulture, focusing on international collaboration through the lens of artists practices and residencies.

Issue launched in Amsterdam on the 28th of September 2016.

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