How to Self-direct Your Own Residency

How to Self-direct Your Own Residency
by Alicia Toldi & Carolina Porras of Piney Wood Atlas

Artist residencies give space and time to creative thinkers and makers. They can be free, fee-based, or even stipended. They provide perspective, new experiences, and a chance to finally tackle a project, or just think.

There are residencies out there that are quite established and well-known, often with a lot of funding and opportunity for professional development. Then there are our favorites: the smaller, more unconventional, sometimes DIY spaces that have been started by a person or group of people that are passionate about helping artists. These residencies are more under the radar, and Piney Wood Atlas is here to help you find them. We have visited over 45 residencies across the US so far, and can tell you they are all different. We believe, as long as you are creative in some way, that there is a residency out there for you.

However, we also understand that some of you just don’t have the time, money, or ability to travel to a residency. All hope is not lost! You can still benefit from a self-directed residency.

Piney Wood Atlas:
Common Field:
TransArtists online database:
Res Artis online database:
Alliance of Artist Communities:

Reading Materials:
Piney Wood Atlas: The Northwest, The Southwest, The Midwest, and The Northeast — available via Flower Press and
Future Farmers / Cooley Windsor text on how to start your own Headlands [Center for the Arts] residency, but really any self-directed residency
Wolfman New Life Quarterly: Mary Welcome + Nicole Lavelle—a talk about being a ‘citizen-artist’, a good listener, a letter-writer, and having shared networks

Schedule (How to create your own):
What resources do you have? A studio space? A printing press? Write these down.
What resources are around you? A friend with an extra camera you can use? A park with awesome benches to sit and think? A local historian who you can have coffee with? Write these down.
What have you been wanting to work on? Get some perspective: Go on a walk, go somewhere new… And then think about what you want to create during your residency.
What tools do you need? Pick some up from an art store, thrift store, creative reuse store, or any supply store that fits your creative practice, or ask your community if they have some extra tools lying around.
Get research materials from the library or a bookstore. Reading can be a part of your residency.
Set a start & end date for your residency and carve out a regular time when you will be “in residence” each day or each week.
Take it seriously. Let your co-workers, friends, and family know you’re in residence during these periods of time and you may not answer your phone or e-mails at these times.
Think ahead & provide yourself with enough food and drink for the times when you’re “in the zone.”
Don’t stress about making something you like right away. You’ll likely need time to settle into this new, focused practice. Play around; experiment with different tools & mediums.
Think about putting your phone in a different room during your creative time. A short meditation before working can also help you focus.
Reward yourself with a treat after accomplishing a goal, even if that’s just sitting and writing thoughts down. Take yourself out for an ice cream, movie, or beer!