Designing Residencies for Everyone

Insights from the Acme x Res Artis Global Conference.

The recent Res Artis Global Conference, titled 'Mind the Gap: Designing Residencies for Everyone,' served as a beacon of hope and a call to action. Hosted by Acme in partnership with UCL, this three-day event brought together over 200 participants from diverse backgrounds to explore the intersections of access, power dynamics, and artistry within the context of global residencies.


The conference's title, "Mind the Gap," borrowed from the iconic London underground announcement, cleverly highlighted the prevalent power disparities within residency programs and the need to bridge these gaps to ensure inclusivity for all artists.

One of the most striking features of the conference was its commitment to centring artists' voices and empowering them within the discussions. The session titled 'Reflections on equitable working and co-creation from creators,' facilitated by the Head of Artist Support at Acme, allowed artists like Lisa-Marie Harris, crazinisT artisT, Shaymaa Shoukry, and Haffendi Anuar to share their personal experiences and practices within residency contexts. Their passionate accounts shed light on the importance of artists' agency in shaping their creative journeys.

Breakout rooms provided a dynamic platform for in-depth discussions on various topics, including 'working with displaced artists,' 'supporting neurodiverse and disabled artists,' and 'creating boundaries and avoiding burnout.' These sessions encouraged participants to explore innovative ways to make residencies more accessible.

The conference's overarching themes revolved around filling the gaps in the residency landscape, with a particular focus on inspiring models that promote inclusivity. Sarah Cullen's pioneering initiative, MOTHRA, based in Canada, stood out. MOTHRA is a residency program designed to support artist-parents, fostering a community that empowers their artistic practices. Their inspiring Manifesto, including “…All signs of life are welcome” and “There is no one ‘art world’” was met with great applause from the audience.


One of the most striking features of the conference was its commitment to centring artists' voices and empowering them within the discussions.


Sheryll Catto, representing ActionSpace, highlighted their commitment to supporting artists with learning disabilities. Catto emphasized the importance of active listening, clear communication, flexibility, and care to ensure that artists with learning disabilities can thrive within residency contexts. Ellie Liddell-Crewe from Unlimited, an arts commissioning body supporting disabled artists, shared her organization's commitment to fostering diversity and inclusion in the arts. 

The conference shed light on the various application and selection methods prevalent in the art world. It underscored the need for artists to dedicate significant time and energy to these processes, often with limited chances of being accepted into competitive programs. Understanding these dynamics, especially in the context of global mobility, dependency, and unfamiliar environments, was a vital aspect of the discussions.

Visa regulations and the lack of transparency surrounding them were significant concerns. Speakers from organisations like On the Move and Arts Infopoint UK provided valuable insights and advice to address these challenges. The conference starkly highlighted the glaring disparity in opportunities for artists in Europe compared to the rest of the world.

The conference also featured speakers who discussed the experiences of artists at risk of persecution due to their identities or activism, shedding light on the struggles they face. Saber Bamatraf shared his journey as an artist who found refuge in Scotland through the support of Art27Scotland after being forced to flee Yemen. Manojna Yeluri, representing Artists at Risk Connection, addressed the issue of limited global mobility and the international hierarchy of passports, emphasising the urgent need for change.

As the conference drew to a close, it was announced that the next global conference would take place in Taiwan, where the conversations around breaking down barriers and creating a more inclusive and equitable artistic world, will certainly continue. 

'Mind the Gap: Designing Residencies for Everyone,' brought together artists, organisers, and advocates to address critical issues in the art world. By prioritising artists' voices, discussing access and power dynamics, and showcasing innovative models, this conference provided truly valuable insights and a roadmap for a more inclusive and equitable future for artists and organisations worldwide. The resonance of its message and the anticipation of the next conference in Taiwan demonstrate that the conversation is far from over, and there is much work to be done in shaping a more inclusive artistic landscape.

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