‘THE AUSTRALIAN ART CURATOR BLOG’ – ARTISTS IN RESIDENCE

Artists can find inspiration for their work anywhere and at any time. Think Shepard Fairey's creation of the Obama 'Hope' poster; or the barrage of street art that emerged during the 'Vote Yes' Marriage Equality campaign, last year in Australia, or in the artists' tendency to be inspired by the everyday visuals.

But sometimes familiarity can breed contempt. Work can verge into the realms of the uninspired, and the uninspired into boring - something no one wants to associate with art.

One way to shake things up in the art department is to go away on an artist residency. An artist residency invites artists, or other creatives (found through applications or express invitation), to spend some time out of their usual environment, providing for their needs with funds for a partial or full living allowance. This could be anything from living in a cottage and presenting workshops in a rural community, to a retreat studio space in a foreign city.

There are thousands of artists in residency programs out there, that are designed to remove the artist from the familiarity of their everyday and stimulate all the creative juices. And VOILA beautiful art! 

While some of these programs (especially the dream-worthy European placements, such as the Brett Whitely Travelling Art Scholarship) may seem like a fantastic holiday opportunity, think of them more like a scholarship with things that need to be completed. For example - the artist might be asked to complete a body of work.

Ben Quilty took part in the Hill End residency, Hill End landscape 2006. oil on linen. 140 x 130cm. Collection of the Macquarie Group

Ben Quilty took part in the Hill End residency, Hill End landscape 2006. oil on linen. 140 x 130cm. Collection of the Macquarie Group

Like an art prize, these programs require rigorous trials. Artists submit their works and proposals so that those in charge of the program can see if their practice is appropriate. For the artists, a residency is somewhat a rite of passage leading to always valuable exposure and funding, creating career boosts and fame.

Let’s unveil some prestigious, exciting and unusual programs available.

Hill End Residency Program

Starting close to home is the Hill End residency program. Managed by the Bathurst Regional Art Gallery, artists are invited to travel west of the Blue Mountains to the historic gold mining town: to soak up the stunning bush environment and heritage buildings.

Haefliger’s Cottage becomes the artists home. This cottage was bequeathed by artist, Jean Bellette, and it remains relatively untouched since the 1950s. Alumni from this program include Ben Quilty (2014) and Andrew Burton (2015).

Andrew Burton took part in the Hill End residency, Brownfield or Buddleia Vale? 2014. mixed media including buddleia, roadstone and found ceramics. variable dimensions. Airspace Gallery, Stoke on Trent. Photo credit: Glen Stoker.

Andrew Burton took part in the Hill End residency, Brownfield or Buddleia Vale? 2014. mixed media including buddleia, roadstone and found ceramics. variable dimensions. Airspace Gallery, Stoke on Trent. Photo credit: Glen Stoker.

With such a prestigious list (326 artists involved since 1999) it is well worth applying!

Not an artist? No worries! You can visit the town, or the Bathurst Regional Gallery regularly exhibits works created through the program.

Brisbane Airport Artist in Residence

Still in Australia, I have to mention a very unusual program based in Brisbane. Starting in 2015, Brisbane Airport now hosts creatives giving them a (relatively) all-access pass to the bustling airport. Realist painter Robert Brownhall kicked off the program, being tasked with capturing the everyday scenes of one of Australia's busiest airports.

Robert Brownhall created Airport Figures during his Brisbane Airport residency

Robert Brownhall created Airport Figures during his Brisbane Airport residency

The Queensland Symphony Orchestra (2016-2017) followed, performing orchestral music to passengers in order to capture the "excitement of new places" that the travellers were about to experience.  The currently artist in residence,  LEGO brick builder Ben Craig (2017-2018), is yet to finish his work. But it's set to be two lego walls of art - one depicting ‘a day in the life of Brisbane International Terminal’ and the other, a series of detailed dioramas of travel destinations.

If you happen to find yourself in the airport in the coming months, Ben Craig is working on his LEGO in public spaces, He apparently welcomes ideas - so you could even have an impact on the work!

Whitney Independent Study Program

Heading to America, the Whitney Independent Study Program is one of the most prestigious programs out there for creatives. It's not only for studio artists but also hosts curators, cultural theorists and other academics. Notable participants include artist Félix González-Torres (1981 and 1983) and the New York Times art critic Roberta Smith (1969).

In their New York gallery, the Whitney presents a yearly exhibition displaying the works and literature created over the year and is a highlight event in the institution’s calendar.

Brett Whitely Travelling Art Scholarship

Paris, Je t'aime. This Australian scholarship offers young artists the chance to win $40,000 (for all those European travelling needs and/or cheese and wine allowance) and a three month scholarship at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris.  Beginning in the late nineties, it aims to award talented Australian artists with a significant body of work to further their studies in a European setting. 

According to the judge, last years winner - Sally Anderson - was chosen for her "naturalness" in bringing abstract forms and figurative shapes, together. Past winners have included Ben Quilty (the well-deserved scholarship golden child) and Nick Santoro.

Interested in getting your artist and croissant kicks? Applications will soon be open for the 2018 round, with current closure dates standing at 7 July 2018. Bon chance!


This is just a small overview of available artistic programs! If you are an artist or creative there are plenty of opportunities to have some time away from home.

Websites such as resartis are great hubs for information about residencies globally, helping with applications or just supplying more details for those interested. More locally, Art Almanac also provides information on residencies, opportunities and internships for artists and creatives.