Artist-in-residence programs have been part of the international art world for over a century. Some residency programs cover all costs, some offer stipends, others don’t cover any costs at all, still others provide lodging reserved for artists but require that you pay rent. In most cases, artists are required to apply. Documents may include a curriculum vitae, references, and sometimes a project statement or proposal. Participation is planned well in advance, often six months to two years.
I’ve been participated in three residencies. The first one, The Montana Artists’ Refuge, in Basin, MT, was for the month of September, 2005. I didn’t have a place to live for a month. I contacted them a month in advance, and they had an opening—a one-bedroom apartment in an historic building, for which I paid $250. (Note: This residency program no longer exists.) I enjoyed interacting with the two other residents and the townspeople. We participated in a fun artwalk/ evening in Butte, MT, and met other artists from the area. One of the other artists told me about Jentel, another program she’d been to. She said, “You’ll love it there.”
So I applied to the Jentel Foundation for the Arts in January 2006, and was accepted for the period April 15 – May 13, 2007. Jentel is located on a working cattle ranch near Banner, WY. The closest town of any size is Sheridan, WY. While each of the six residents (two writers; four visual artists) paid our own way to/from the residency, Jentel paid a stipend of $100 a week. They took us to Sheridan once a week to buy groceries, which we cooked cooperatively in a lovely kitchen. Our private bedrooms were suitable for visiting royalty, and the common area featured soaring windows facing the Bighorn Mountains. Separate studios were provided. Besides the time to focus on a project for the month (I wrote 20,000 words on my second memoir), I thoroughly enjoyed interacting with the other residents in the evenings. We had bicycles to ride, and over 1000 acres to roam. More information on this incredible place can be found at http://www.jentelarts.org. Also, we visited back and forth with artists in residence from nearby Ucross Artists Residency, on another working cattle ranch. The link to Ucross is http://www.ucrossfoundation.org.
Because I’d been a resident at Jentel, I received an invitation to apply for a new program in southern Wyoming, The Brush Creek Ranch Foundation for the Arts near Saratoga. I completed my application package in the fall of 2011 and was accepted for a two-week residency for April 3-17, 2012. The artists’ residency is a philonthropic program that is separate from the guest ranch and spa, all on a working cattle ranch of 13,000 acres. The website with information is http://www.brushcreekarts.org. Residents pay their travel expenses to/from the ranch (or the Laramie airport), but there are no other charges. Meals are provided. There are eight residents at a time (writers, visual artists and composers). This is where I’m at right now. The other residents include a brilliant young composer originally from Hong Kong and a visual artist, age 72, from Santa Fe. Again, interacting with the other residents has been stimulating and enjoyable. In this particular group, I believe I’m the only one without an MFA or PhD, but we’ve all “let our hair down,” so to speak. We talk and play and eat chef-prepared meals well together. Lodging and studios are furnished with upscale ranch décor and are totally comfortable. We can wander most places on the 13,000-acre ranch (except the bison range), and last Friday afternoon, we were treated to a guided horseback ride.
Another residency, where I visited a friend one time, is the Wurlitzer Foundation for the Arts in Taos, NM. There are three-month residencies are free for eleven artists at a time. The individual casitas are furnished, and you sleep and work in the same unit. You purchase and prepare your own meals. I’d apply for this situation except that pets are not allowed, and I don’t want to leave my dog for that long. That link is: http://www.wurlitzerfoundation.org/.
If you’re interested in a retreat where you can focus on your writing (or other creative discipline), I highly recommend applying for a residency (or maybe several, to increase your chances). There are hundreds of opportunities worldwide. A simple search online will turn up several links, probably even blog posts and Facebook entries by various residents, but one umbrella organization to check out is: http://www.artisticcommunities.org/residencies/directory. There’s competition for these situations, of course, but if you can demonstrate that you’re earnestly working on a project and can fulfill the application requirements, you have as good a chance as anyone.