June 2014 - EUNIC Summer Academy

Res Artis was invited by the Swedish Institute, who is freshly presiding over the European Union National Institutes for Culture (EUNIC), to talk about the social impact of artist residencies worldwide and to participate in the discussion whether artist residencies can function as a tool for public diplomacy. This event was hosted and moderated by Intercult.

The target group of the EUNIC Summer Academy 2014 are public agency managers with a special interest or previous experience in residency projects. An objective of this three-day program was to lay the foundations for specific collaborative projects in relation to mobility and residency initiatives within the Creative Europe and other funding programs.

20 EUNIC members gather at Intercult in Stockholm to discuss artist residencies as a tool for public diplomacy.

How can Res Artis help EUNIC members in creating contexts where creative minds can meet and develop?

The three-day training program offered project managers from EUNIC member organizations the chance to learn more about the residency reality and to discuss what it means to develop hubs for artistic and cultural production in another country, as well as to support international artistic development “at home”. It was Res Artis’ task to expand the common understanding of the role of artist residencies by introducing latest trends and sharing interpretations of what we observe in our worldwide membership.

Residency programs not only focus on servicing the artistic production today. They increasingly take on a wider organisational social role for the local community. In many cases the residency structure is used as a tool to reach a third - political, social or personal - goal: To raise awareness for and integrate local minority groups, to turn residency land into UNESCO nature reserve, to revitalize an otherwise deserted site, or to create international connections and opportunities through residency programmes that would not exist due to the given socio-cultural scarcity. None of this has to take away from servicing the artist.

Lillian Fellmann presents observations made and trends being observed within the Res Artis membership.

The discussion showed that residency programs seem to emancipate themselves from the – what we now call – traditional type of an artist residency that is focusing solely on offering the artist a time away from the daily responsibilities. It was strongly argued by many attendees to not burden the artist with a specific outcome but to offer an “open residency” structure.

Resulting questions:

-As residency programmes are turning more and more locally entrenched and socially engaged, is the residency model being usurped by other disciplines within the cultural sector, i.e. science, education, media, and the health sector? Is the artist residency becoming one model of residency out of many?

-How can we justify an open residency towards a funder? If its outcome is not (immediately) measurable how can we argue for an investment into residencies?

Funding schemes are changing

Public agencies working with residency programs are located at the intersection between the public and the cultural sector; this is a powerful place to be at in a time where mobility funding schemes are tending to become unilateral, as opposed to reciprocal, in reaction to national funding cuts. Many national bodies reduce their programs to sending their cultural workers abroad, ignoring the value of bringing foreign professionals in to enrich the local artistic and cultural know-how, as well as the general social fabric.

The partnerships between the national agencies and the cultural experts on the ground (be it at home or in the partnering country) ask for even more sensitivity and mutual trust, and a clear focus on what wants or needs to be achieved when starting a residency at home or in another country or when creating a novel mobility scheme for exchange. In any case, investing in artist residencies is a long-term engagement.

Also check out the report on the first Asia-Australia-Europe Creative Residency Network report on Funding Schemes and Self-Assessment of the field.
Key recommendations to national agencies:

• A new understanding of ‘reciprocity’ is required that takes into account the benefits beyond nationalistic export. True reciprocity should recognize limitations in funding and resources in some parts of the globe. Reciprocity is an international issue. It should be addressed within countries, regions and broader international networks.

• Artist residencies can be looked at as an element of public diplomacy but they will only succeed if the national officers work closely and respectfully with the local experts abroad, the investment is long term

• Measuring the residency practice is based on self-assessment. Every residency project needs to set its own goals and values to legitimize its actions internally and toward sits stakeholders.

• Funding should also be invested in resources to improve hosting – e.g. infrastructure, language classes, induction kits, alumni networks, staff exchanges for residency centres

• Work with all stakeholders, and get new ones. National agencies could makes sure that national officials on the ground are better informed about visa issues and changes, so they can help residents from around the world to enter Europe (in time)

• A broader report on the benefits of arts residencies is required. This should take into account the immediate and ongoing outcomes for the artists; the broader impact on the local community; benefits to the artist’s own community on return, etc

Swedish Institute: Pilot in Serbia

The Swedish Institute presented its pilot project in Serbia, where they started in 2011 to support the artist residency field development successfully, creating strong and new international exchange and cooperation. Res Artis was among the international organisations who participated in this focus. In Stockholm, the SI was discussing the idea to apply this experience and the expertise gathered to other places in the world.

At the Serbian Creative Europe Desk meeting, June 30 till July 2, 2014, this discussion was continued within the specific context of the Serbian reality. Res Artis was talking there about the need of a local and regional funding scheme to ensure the building of local networks in emerging residency field. Read more in our report.