So, you’re thinking you’d like to go on an artist residency China. Congratulations, you’re in the right place!
Each residency in our directory is unique, and no two residency programs are exactly alike. The upside of such diversity means there's something for everybody, but it also means that finding the right residency for your practice will take a little bit of research and a good amount of soul-searching.
Here’s a few things to think about to narrow down on the program that will be the best fit for you and your practice, and to keep you from ending up like the unhappy creature pictured above.
1. How would you like to spend your time?
A residency provides artists with space and time, but how that time is structured depends on the nature of the program. Is your main goal to work on a project; discover a new place; meet other people; or show your work? These four activities aren't mutually exclusive, but raking them from most to least important will help guide your search for the perfect program.
WORK: If you’re main goal is to work on things, uninterrupted, in your own studio, focus on finding a residency that provides you with your own private workspace. Make sure the program doesn't call for mandatory interactions with other people at the residency or the greater public.
DISCOVER: If you want to go China immerse yourself and explore a totally new environment, look for residencies with strong ties to the local community. Second and third tier cities like Chongqing, Xiamen, and Kunming, as well as more rural areas will have small (or non-existent) international communities.
NETWORK: If you’re going to meet other artists, curators, and collectors, you’ll likely want to be in a big city with a robust international arts community like Beijing, Shanghai, or Hong Kong. You'll be able to go to lots of openings, see shows in hundreds of galleries, museums, and independent art spaces.
EXPOSURE: If you’d like to show your work, look for programs with frequent public-facing activities, like open studios, artists talks, or workshops. Some residencies also have active exhibition space or collaborate with other venues to provide group or solo shows for visiting artists.
2. What do you need?
EQUIPMENT: Some residencies are specialised in certain mediums and provide access to kilns, darkrooms, dance studios, and other facilities. There is are dedicated residencies for printmakers, ceramic artists, photographers, new media artists, writers, and so on.
LANGUAGE: If you already speak some Mandarin, Cantonese or another dialect, you'll be able to figure out a lot of things on your own (just make sure to go to the regions where that language is spoken!). If you don’t, and are planning to get by using only English or your native tongue, you might be more comfortable in a big city where more people will speak some English. Some residencies also have a multi-lingual staff speak French, German, Icelandic, Italian, and other languages.
PROJECT ASSISTANCE: If you think you’ll need a translator or a studio assistant to help with sourcing materials or working through your process, make sure the programs you apply to have dedicated, bilingual staff who will be wiling to help out, or be prepared to hire an assistant on site.
3. What suits your lifestyle?
ENVIRONMENT: Think about your level of comfort. Residencies vary from farm houses with intermittent electricity to luxury hotels with continental breakfasts. Do you want to be in a village or a big city? Can you rough it and deal with extreme air pollution, mosquitoes, freezing cold, and sweltering heat, or would you rather go when the conditions are more mild? Think about what kind of context you need to create work.
PEOPLE: If you're looking for solitude, find a place that hosts less than three residents at any given time to avoid constantly turning down invitations to group activities. On the other hand, if you'd like to spend time on your residency getting to know other artists, look for a place that hosts many artists or provides communal meals. It's also possible to get the best of both worlds, as bigger programs sometimes "adopt" the residents at smaller programs in the same cities, inviting them to take part in studio visits and other activities.
FINANCES: Although this is the last criteria in our short guide, it might be the most important. Can you afford a residency fee? Can you find a sponsor or patron in your home country to cover the travel costs? If finances are a limiting factor, apply for fully-funded opportunities. You can also consider running a crowdfunding campaign to raise the sum necessary to cover the cost of a residency.
We've learned that the best way to help prepare artists for residencies in China is to manage expectations. So after you've arranged your priorities, the next step is to go read interviews with residency staff and past artists. You'll get a sense of which place would be a good fit for your work by reading about how other artists described their experiences, and learning about what kinds of projects they undertook. And finally, you can reach out to the programs that interest you!