Artist residencies - catalysts for art export

Image: Ulrika Ferm

Residencies provide artists with an opportunity for an international breakthrough, according to the new survey conducted by the Finnish Institute in London. The Institute has been actively developing artist residency projects in the United Kingdom and Ireland since 2002. Key Finnish partners in the residency projects include the Arts Council of Finland, Finnish Fund for Art Exchange (FRAME), and the Helsinki International Artist-in-Residence Programme (HIAP). The Institute has now conducted a comprehensive survey about its residency activities so far (2002-2008) focusing on the effects of residencies on the artists' work and career development. The aims of the survey are to bring together the experiences the artists have had during their residencies, to show the significance of artist residencies in internationalisation of art and art export, and to use the results to develop the Institute's residency programme further. Based on the results of the survey, the Finnish Institute in London also presents suggestions for further development of other international artist-in-residence projects.

International Mobility of Art on the Rise
The results of the survey show, that the impact of residencies on advancing international mobility of art is highly significant. Residencies offer artists an excellent opportunity to work on their art, to network with prominent international art organisations, curators and other artists, as well as to deepen their knowledge about the art scene of the receiving country. Possible exhibitions, open studios, artist talks and publications collectively comprise the heart of residencies. Experiences gained during the residency lead to internationalisation of the artists' work and the subsequent utilisation of the experiences in working with domestic art organisations.

"Intensive Working Period"
Residencies provide the artists with important opportunities for international networking, presentation of their work, reaching new audiences, and immersing oneself in the art scene of a foreign country. During the residency, many artists also create new works, plan new projects and research new pieces of artwork. Artist-in-residence Johanna Lecklin created her famous art project Story Café during her residency at Artsadmin in London in 2004, and Story Café is still travelling the world today. Some of the artists feel that the residency has had a significant influence on their work practices as well as the content of their art. The residency even changed the way some worked.

"This particular residency had an immense impact. It changed the way I work and during it, I developed ideas that have continued to influence my art until this day," says Hannu Karjalainen, who was in residence in Bristol in 2005 and was subsequently awarded the Young Finnish Artist of the Year title in 2009.

The Finnish Institute's other residence partners in the United Kingdom and Ireland include Camden Arts Centre, Spike Island, FACT, and Arnolfini.

"Possibilities, Inspiration, New Audiences"
The survey results showed, without exception, the far-reaching impact of residencies on both the artists' careers and their work. An example of this is the pilot programme initiated by the Finnish Institute in 2007, whose aim is to further cultural exchange between Finland and Ireland and to strengthen professional networks in art. The programme includes an annual artist exchange in which one artist from each country is selected to undertake a residency in Dublin and Helsinki. The receiving organisations in the exchange programme are Temple Bar Gallery & Studios in Dublin and HIAP (Helsinki International Artist-in-Residence Programme) in Helsinki. The results of the pilot project have been impressive: the artists have gained visibility, formed lasting contacts, and have been subsequently invited to work on new projects in their residence cities. In July 2009, Antti Leppänen will be relocating to Dublin for a residency and Helsinki will welcome Niamh McCann from Ireland.

Suggestions for Developing Residencies Further
Based on the survey, the Finnish Institute proposes some steps to be taken in order to develop international artist-in-residence projects further. These steps include investing in both artist exchange and long-term residency programmes specifically, implementing a mentoring system, developing a pre-departure information kit for the artists, and investing in the role of Finnish cultural institutes abroad as key partners supporting residency projects. The survey suggests that Finland's cultural institutes operating abroad are essential partners in setting up and supporting residencies for artists. With their broad local knowledge and their vast contact base, the institutes hold a key position in forging a functional tri-base model between residence organisations for residency projects and their funding.

"Institutes form a quality foundation for residency projects and a radar of a kind in the search for best partner organisations," says Hanna Harris, the Arts and Culture Programme Director at the Finnish Institute in London.

The survey is downloadable at: