Applying to Artist Residencies, Part 2

Recently, I got my first blog-related email (yeah!) about my blog post about applying to artist residencies from reader Caroline Hurley. Caroline, a visual artist, had questions about applying to artist residencies as a first-time applicant.

What Caroline wrote to me: I am applying to Jentel, VCCA, Anderson Ranch, and Blue Ridge, and a couple others.  What I would love to know is what is your secret?  Perhaps its different for visual artists but I wanted to know, what do you think is the best advice you could give to someone like me applying as a first time resident?  I went to RISD and paint professionally and am represented by a gallery, but I have not had luck when it comes to applications.  I thought maybe you could shed some light since you seem to be an expert resident!  

Instead of just relying only my advice, I emailed a few of my artist friends to get their opinion. Here’s what we came up with! Thanks to David Licata and SJ Hodges for taking the time to respond. Special thanks to Caroline for writing in and inspiring me to write another post about the all-important artist residencies.

My best advice for applying as a first-timer? Apply to the right places for you. For instance, don’t just apply to the big ones like MacDowell or Yaddo and then write off residencies when you don’t get in. Centrum was a perfect first residency for me. And Hedgebrook was a dream. I think the best thing you can do is apply year after year. Understand that they only have a certain amount of spots available and while you might be a lovely person, they have a limited amount of space and time to offer. So keep applying, find the right place for you, and if you get rejected, just apply again.
-Jennifer Chen (Centrum, 2006; Hedgebrook Owl resident, May 2007)

My iBook (now deceased) and my view from my window at Centrum, my very first artist residency in September 2006.

Apply with your best work. This seems obvious, but I believe most of us aren’t the best critics of our own work. So I recommend seeking the input of your peers and mentors, people who know your work and will be honest with you, people you trust. Show them your application and get their feedback. And not just on the individual work, but on the whole application. Is it put together professionally? Is there coherence in the order of the images on the CD or slides or whatever? Is your CV as impressive as it can be and still be truthful? Is your artist’s statement clear?

Apply to many different places and don’t be intimidated by their reputations. MacDowell takes people who have never been to artist residencies before, and when I was there there were a few people who confessed it was the first residency they applied to. Most of all, keep applying and don’t let the rejections stop you (I’m guessing you’ll get one or two in your professional lifetime, if you haven’t already). Rejections won’t kill you, but they can make you stronger.
And now if you’ll excuse me, I have to prepare for my residency at Blue Mountain Center.
-David Licata (Centrum Arts and Creative Education, Fundacion Valparaiso in Spain, Jentel Arts, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, The MacDowell Colony, Blue Mountain Center)

Find David online at his blog and Twitter. You can email him directly at

Apply for a residency during the least popular months or over the holidays. All the famous writers and artists who also teach want to be at the MacDowell or Yaddo during the summers when they are between semesters. If you’re willing to do a residency during the brutal winter months or over the holidays, you’ll have a better shot at getting in–less people apply for those times and less people are there so they have room for you.
-SJ Hodges (MacDowell)
Find SJ Hodges online on Facebook, her blog, and Twitter @ConstantCreator

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