Right. Good question. I think there are lots of possible answers and variations. But what seems to be the common theme is that an Artist in Residency program is a place and space for an artist (of any genre) to focus on creative processes, inspiration and working without daily distraction.
There are varying constructs for an artist in residence: from a solo retreat that one organizes oneself, to a structure program of learning and critique, or something in between.
Arts Letters & Numbers falls on the organized spectrum in that there is an application process and a dedicated physical location for the pursuit of artistic ideas and work. Collaboration, sharing and critique are encouraged but not formalized.
What I particularly loved about my time there was the welcoming community, both within the residence and within the larger Averill Park, NY community.
Upon arriving, I learned of certain weekly rituals: the Monday afternoon t-time (tequila time that is), the Tuesday evening ping pong and potluck, the Friday liver and onion brunch, and some fluid activities, such as visiting musicians putting on a concert, or a film screening night.
But within the week of being here, the calendar filled with programs hosted by the residents. Everyone contributes.
We were lucky to preview a theatre piece, set to premier in Estonia later this year. And to hear a piano performance by a composer working on a musical piece to be performed by the Sydney symphony this summer.
I learned how to transfer photos onto wood blocks (but perhaps also on to canvases) to create layered collaged pieces that can then be painted (the sky's really the limit after learning the technique). I'd also been promised a beer bread baking class and I promised a yoga and meditation session.
While there, I was able to pull out themes and threads from the paintings I created and put them out for critique and criticism.
And I'll be sad to miss, but excited to see photos, from a collaboration on nature by two residents who will be here after I've left.
So what is an artist in residency program, then? Simply a time and place away from life (it can be a day, a week, a once-a-week time) to research, reflect, create and collaborate. Looking forward to continuing the journey!