How To/Showcase: Residencies – no.1

Megan Pickering

Insights Editor

Megan graduated from a fine art degree. Like many professional artists, life after graduation has been about balancing regular work to pay the bills with opportunities to continue making artwork.


Outside of her part-time work here at UAL, Megan volunteers for organisations who campaign for causes close to her heart. She also creates and distributes zines as well as running zines workshops. Recently she wanted to take some proper time out to really focus on her artwork, so she looked into what a ‘residency’ entailed.

In the first of a two-part series Megan shares some insider knowledge on what a residency is; how to find the right one for you and how to fund the time you spend on a residency.

What is a residency – where can I find out more?

Credit: Artquest supports visual artists with information and opportunities as they progress onto careers in the arts. It’s a great resource to look at for planning your future after graduation. Take a look now and get ahead of the game.

Residencies are an amazing opportunity for creative people to have time to develop their art practice, often in a new location or even country. They can be very varied in what they offer and what they expect from artists. Some offer a studio space, others offer access to special collections. Some ask for an artwork to be produced, others ask for the artist to do an artist talk. Some offer financial support and some require payment from the artist.

As there are so many different options and requirements, it’s really important to do your research to find the one that’s best for you. Artquest is a great place to start- take a look at their article that introduces the most common types of residencies available. As well as opportunities listed on Artsquest, there are many other websites to find out about residencies to apply for. I found Res Artis and TransArtists particularly useful.

Nick from Artquest gives some sound advice: “Each residency (or indeed any other opportunity) comes with its own commitments. Be it a minimum amount of time you’re supposed to spend in the studio or something else. You should be sure that whatever opportunity you take on, you’re able to meet the expected commitments without burning out.”

Choosing and securing my residency

Credit:. Mentoring Artists for Women’s Art (MAWA) works to mentor women artists and help them become a part of Winnipeg’s (Canada) local artist community.

In August 2017 I was an artist in residence at MAWA in Winnipeg, Canada. One of the main motivations for me applying for this particular month-long residency was working more closely with an organisation that has a focus on supporting self-identified women and non-binary people in the visual arts.

I had to send an application form, which included: a cover letter saying why I would like time in the MAWA apartment and what I would be working on (goals, rationale), an artist’s CV and up to 20 embedded images or links to up to two videos. MAWA let me know a year before the residency took place, so I had plenty of time to rearrange work commitments, secure funding/save money, plan, book flights, etc.

Finding a residency that was affordable to me was really important. As part of my residency I was given free accommodation and a studio space (in the MAWA apartment). I was also paid to do an artist’s talk to the local community. I had to find funding for my flights to Canada and living expenses. Unsurprisingly, this was a very boring and time-consuming process. Filling in funding application forms – some being unsuccessful – was an important part of making a residency affordable to do.

Finding financial support

Credit:. Empty Shop is a non-profit arts organisation in the North East of England. They provide a platform for artists of all levels and backgrounds to produce, exhibit and engage with art.

Luckily, I received a Talent Development Grant from Empty Shop which paid for my flights. As an artist who grew up in the North East, I have worked with this organisation numerous times, and been able to seek advice and support from them.

When applying for funding, it would be a good idea to speak to institutions you’ve already got good relationships with or may have been involved with in the past. Think about local charities or arts organisations that you might have connections to. Maybe you took part in their youth programmes or volunteered at community events. You’ll often find there are funds available to support young artists and entrepreneurs in taking that next step into life after graduation.

It’s always worth checking out current awards, prizes or grants on offer to UK artists from larger arts organisations.

So that’s how I got started and secured my first residency. Head over to part two in this series – my project diary – to find out what I got up to during my residency in Canada.

Megan is an alumni of the AWP Internship scheme. Internships are another option you could consider after graduation to gain experience in the art world.

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