Week 2: Applying for Artist Residencies Continued

Week 2:  Applying for Artist Residencies Continued

Crafting Persuasive Applications:  Tips & Advice

When applying for an artist residency, the process is pretty much the same no matter where you decide to apply.  The following materials are usually required, and can be used and used again for future opportunities:

  • Writing Sample (10 pages for poetry, 20-25 pages for prose)
  • Project Proposal (usually 1 page)
  • Resume/CV or biographical statement
  • References (usually two or three)

When crafting an application, here are some tips:

  • In general, the work sample should support the project proposal. One of the most common mistakes that individuals make when filling our residency application is presenting a work sample that seems disconnected from the proposed project.  It’s helpful to remember that the purpose of the work sample is to show that you have the technical capability to carry out the proposed project.  So if you’re proposing a sonnet sequence in the project proposal, show them a sonnet sequence in the work sample, etc. 
  • Present a concise, unified application. This is especially key with the work sample. Many writers make the mistake of trying to demonstrate their formal range in the work sample.  It’s much better to present a unified set of poems, stories, paintings, etc.  A concise body of work is easy for admissions committees to recall, which will certainly benefit you during the selection process. 
  • Show that you’ve researched the program. You can accomplish this by mentioning specific resources the program offers, as well as the location, size, or structure of the residency program.  There’s nothing residency programs dread more than seeing an artist arrive, a look of horror cross her face, and the words, ” What?!  I had no idea this program was located in rural Wyoming!” 
  • Don’t choose “traditional” work or “experimental” work based on what you think the admissions committee will like. Many individuals assume that if they’re applying to Yaddo or MacDowell, they should submit traditional work, since these are more established colonies.  With that said, admissions committees at most residencies rotate so as to assure that a diverse range of aesthetics are represented.  Simply send your best work, and the work that is most closely connected to your proposed project. 

Reading Assignment

For this week, we’ll be looking at an “expert breakdown” of the application requirements, originally published in Poets & Writers Magazine.  Hopefully this article will offer some insight as to how your general project proposal from last week might be customized for specific opportunities. 

Applying to a Writers Residency:  An Expert Breakdown of the Requirements

Also, you should know about Rate My Artist Residency, which contains lists of no application fee residencies, residency funding resources, and the programs rated highest based on artists’ experiences while in residence. 

Rate My Artist Residency


Optional Assignment:  Submission Bombing

The following arts organizations have invited submissions from our class and very much look forward to hearing from you.  There is no formal deadline, so feel free to revise your materials first based on peer and instructor feedback. 

The Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow

The Centrum Foundation

Sundress Academy for the Arts


Kristina Marie DarlingKristina Marie Darling is the author of over twenty collections of poetry. Her awards include two Yaddo residencies, a Hawthornden Castle Fellowship, and a Visiting Artist Fellowship from the American Academy in Rome, as well as grants from the Whiting Foundation and Harvard University’s Kittredge Fund. She is currently working toward both a Ph.D. in English Literature at S.U.N.Y.-Buffalo and an M.F.A. in Poetry at New York University.

Week 1: Applying for Artist Residencies


Yes, there are a fair share of people who have crazy ideas about artist residencies.  These misguided notions of what an artist colony looks usually involve a cabin in the woods somewhere, where you can hear a pin drop, and a vase of wildflowers sits atop your beautiful writing desk. 

Most people tend to forget, though, that there is no one model for an artist-in-residence program.  When applying to residencies, it’s important to keep in mind that there’s a tremendous range within the seemingly small realm of literary arts fellowships.   Programs can have as few as one artist in residence (which is the case with places like the Centrum Foundation, where you’re given your own cabin near the sea) or as many as sixty five other residents (which is the case with the Vermont Studio Center, the country’s largest residency program). 

Some residencies are diverse and international (which is certainly the case with the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts) while others cater to artists from a particular city or region.  There are also many programs exclusively for writers (such as the Hawthornden Castle International Retreat for Writers in Scotland). 

When applying, it’s crucial to assess your goals.  Do you hope to network with other artists?  A larger program might be a good fit.  Would you be interested in finding possible collaborators, perhaps even collaborators outside of your chosen discipline?  Then you might consider an innovative and interdisciplinary program like I-Park in East Haddam, Connecticut.  For other artists, solitude or a balance of solitude and social interaction is more appealing. 

Lastly, it’s helpful to keep in mind that scheduling works differently at these various programs.  Some residencies are awarded in one-month blocks (Willapa Bay AiR is one good example of this) while others host artists for as long as three months (for instance, the Wurlitzer Foundation in Taos) or even a year or more.  Before applying, you’ll want to think about the amount of time that would be appropriate for your proposed project. 


Resources & Opportunities 

For residencies within the United States, the Alliance of Artist Communities offers a fairly comprehensive database, which is searchable by discipline, deadline, and region.  Click here to visit the Alliance of Artist Communities website.

For international residencies, Res Artist is considered by many to be the most comprehensive helpful database.  Click here to visit the Res Artist website

If you are looking for an international residency, TransArtists.org (http://www.transartists.org/) and Residency Unlimited (http://residencyunlimited.org/opportunities/) might also prove helpful.  

This article also offers some great suggestions:  http://thewritelife.com/writing-residencies/


Reading Assignment:  A Horror Story & A Happy Ending

Please read the following essays before posting to the discussion board. 

Vanessa Blakesee, Apologia for Being a Colony Addict

Edward Gauthier, Get Thee To A Writers Colony


Stacking the Deck

Hopefully Vanessa Blakesee’s essay has instilled in you a sense of fearlessness, a realization that anything is possible when applying for grants, fellowships, and other opportunities.  At the same time, Gauthier’s piece reads as a cautionary tale, underscoring the importance of research, realistic goals, and a backup plan. 

Given the project you’re working on, what is your dream literary arts fellowship?  Hopefully you won’t need a backup plan, but if you do, where else would you be happy to write?  Perhaps more important, why these programs? 

n.b. If you’re unsure which programs would be a good fit, take a look at the article on “Amazing Residencies Around the World,” which is a great starting point for research.  Then look up the programs you’re considering in the Alliance of Artist Communities database, which provides detailed information on regarding program resources, application statistics, the number of artists in residence at any given time, deadlines, funding, etc.      


Writing Assignment:  Project Proposal

For this week, you will write a project proposal for a residency of your choice.  When drafting your project proposal, here are some tips:

  • Propose only one project and be as specific about that project as possible. Fellowship juries look for serious writers with a serious project, and it’s to your advantage to be focused. 
  • Explain why this project is necessary. What will your work contribute to the literary community that isn’t already present, and what will it accomplish in the world beyond the literary community? 
  • Why are you the one who should complete this project?
  • Explain where you are in the project, what you need to accomplish, and how the residency can aid you. Do you need a block of uninterrupted time to revise a first draft of a novel?  Are you only a few poems away from a first book of poetry?  Or would interactions with individuals outside of your discipline expand your sense of what is possible within a project?
  • Why this particular program? What does it offer that others don’t?  The answer can be as simple as community, or time and space, or you might have research that you can only do within that particular region. 

If you’re stuck, feel free to use the bullet point list to structure your statement of purpose, devoting a sentence or two to each question.  The finished first draft should be no more than one page double-spaced, 250 words, unless otherwise specified by your chosen program.  


Kristina Marie DarlingKristina Marie Darling is the author of over twenty collections of poetry. Her awards include two Yaddo residencies, a Hawthornden Castle Fellowship, and a Visiting Artist Fellowship from the American Academy in Rome, as well as grants from the Whiting Foundation and Harvard University’s Kittredge Fund. She is currently working toward both a Ph.D. in English Literature at S.U.N.Y.-Buffalo and an M.F.A. in Poetry at New York University.