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History of artist-in-residence programs

Artist-in-residence programs have a history that stretches back much further than is often thought. Due to its currant popularity it seems we are dealing with a fashionable phenomenon that owes its explosive growth solely to globalization of artists’ ‘nomadic’ behavior. However, artist-in-residence programs have not appeared out of the blue. The phenomenon has been part of the international art world for over a century.

1900 First development of artist in residence programs

The first wave of artist-in-residence programs came at the beginning of the last century. Take The Corporation of Yaddo, founded in 1900 and the Woodstock Guild/ Byrdcliffe Arts Colony in 1903, both established in the state of New York. Yaddo was founded by art-loving benefactors. They regarded offering guest studios to individual artists as a new kind of patronage. Woodstock Guild was founded by artists and was run on their own terms: a sense of community was very prominent in this artists’ colony. Both models were typical of a lot of other artist-in-residence programs which were set up during the first decades of the 20th century, both in the United States and Europe. An example in Europe is the artists' colony at the small village of Worpswede near Bremen: founded in 1889 by, amongst others, the artists Heinrich Vogeler and Rainer Maria Rilke. Soon they managed to draw attention to Worpswede internationally. In those times the village even was called 'Weltdorf'. In 1971 the colony was given a new boost with the foundation of Künstlerhäuser Worpswede, which has grown into one of the most renowned international residential art centers. Another European example is the Gregory Fellowships, dating from 1951, funded by the Yorkshire printer Peter Gregory, placed painters, sculptors, poets and musicians in the University of Leeds. The University was, at that time, primarily a technical institution with very little arts activity, and the presence of the artists was intended to humanise the university. The Gregory Fellowships helped to set the typical formal for subsequent artist in residence schemes, with the fellows being free to move around the university as they wished, and not being tied to any one department.

1960 Second development of artist in residence programs

A new wave of artist-in-residence programs emerged in the 1960s, adding two new models to the ones that already existed. One new model offered artists the opportunity to withdraw temporarily from a society which was considered bourgeois. They preferred to create their own utopia in seclusion. The other new model, on the other hand, tried to contact the public and aimed for social engagement: guest studios in villages and cities served as a base for society change. Quite a number of new foundations elaborated on this new tendency during the seventies and the eighties.

1990 Globalisation: new wave of artist in residence programs

As from the nineties a third wave of residency programs proliferated all over the globe: from Brazil to Taiwan, from Estonia to Zambia, from Japan to Vietnam. Characteristic of this new wave is the rich diversity of residency models: from not required hospitality at one end of the spectrum, to almost commission-like projects at the other end of the spectrum. Because of its global expansion and its seemingly unrestrained popularity, these new artist-in-residence opportunities have attracted more attention in the art world. However, we must not forget that new residency opportunities do have their historical roots. Neither should we forget that the 'old', established programs are still offering their expertise, contacts, advice and support to the new opportunities.


Getting information on artist in residence programs

Demand and supply of artist in residence programs are increasing world wide. New residency models offer a diverse picture of artist-in-residence programs. Because of this diversity and growth in number recently non-commercial organisations have come into existence, specializing in offering reliable and up-to-date information about residency opportunities world wide, such as

 •    Trans Artists

 •    Wooloo