MacDowell Colony
The MacDowell Colony Hall circa 1920

Eight Artist in Residence Programs to Launch Your Career

We’ve previously reviewed how important it is to craft a bio and resume that details your art career, and today we’ll discuss one essential element that’s sure to make your career stand out: the Artist in Residence.

Artist in Residence Programs

Artist in Residence programs are an excellent way to both perfect your craft and launch your burgeoning career. Artist in Residence programs invite artists, curators, and all manner of creative people for a time and space away from their usual environment and obligations. They provide a time for reflection, research, presentation and production, and often go on for as long as months at a time.

Most Artist in Residence programs offer funding and lodging to artists and are usually located in places that wholly remove an artist from their context to challenge and inspire within the landscape of a new environment. While the main goal of an Artist in Residence program is to create new work, it’s also an excellent opportunity to forge new relationships. Often times, you’ll be invited to attend social events, show your work among the residencies’ benefactors, or host a workshop or a panel. A Residency can catapult an emerging artist into the next echelon of their career.

Of course, not all Artist in Residence programs are created equal. Some focus on a particular medium or while other may focus on a certain demographic. Many are highly competitive while some have fairly high acceptance rates. If you’re an emerging artist or you need a creative boost and are looking to obtain a coveted Artist in Residence program, you may find yourself swamped by all the available choices. There are scores of wonderful programs to choose from but to help you along, we’ve rounded out our top picks.

MacDowell Colony

The MacDowell Colony residency is one of those programs that most emerging artists would kill to attend. Lasting anywhere from five to eight weeks, the MacDowell Colony residency takes place in an idyllic rural setting in Peterborough, New Hampshire. As the first artist’s colony established in the United States, the MacDowell Colony offers cozy cabin studios spread across its acreage and has spurred many a career: Heavyweights like artist Faith Ringgold, novelist Jeffrey Eugenides, and musician Meredith Monk have all visited the MacDowell Colony for inspiration. Just 250 artists are accepted into the program each year, which is fully paid for by the MacDowell Colony. As a plus, there’s absolutely no phone or internet access, so there’s nothing to distract you from producing your best creative work. Artists are also encouraged to collaborate with each other and a free lunch is offered daily. Applications for the fall, spring and summer are filled on a rolling basis and applications should include work samples and references.

National Park Service Residencies

The United States National Park service offers over 42 Artist in Residence programs throughout the country, which vary in length based on the location. The ‘Arts in the Parks’ program offers three distinct residency options: artists can either work as ‘volunteers-in-parks’ which requires them to present a program or demonstration designed for the public; take on a ‘partnership’ which requires the assistance of a non-profit to offer resources for the artist; or as ‘paid staff,’ in which an artist is hired as a seasonal employee for the purpose of creating a public artwork. These residences offer a wonderful opportunity for exposure as your work will be displayed in a place that thousands of travelers visit every year. The application process varies from park to park, so you’ll have to review each option once you settle on a location.

artist in residence

Studio Museum in Harlem

The Studio Museum in Harlem Artist in Residence program is reserved exclusively for artists who are of African or Latino descent and has been attended by artists David Hammonds, Alison Saar and Standford Biggers. The eleven-month long residency begins in September and is only offered to three artists each year, making it a highly coveted residency for minority artists. Also worth mentioning is that the Studio Museum in Harlem Artist in Residence program offers participants a $20,000 fellowship, plus free studio space and a $1,000 supplies stipend, though you will have to secure your own housing. Once the residency is completed, your work will be presented in the museum. Applications usually become available in March, and it’s important to note that artists are required to spend a minimum of 20 hours per week in the studio.

The Skowhegan School

If artists like Nari Ward, John O’Connor, and Ruby Frazier spark your vision of a dream career, then you may want to check out the Skowhegan School, one of the most prominent Artist in Residence programs in the country. Founded in 1946, The Skowhegan School offers participating artists the chance to be critiqued and tutored by six established artists, along with lectures and programs by an array of other visiting artists. Held in rural Maine, the nine-week residency program is highly competitive, reserved for emerging artists, and only allows participants to attend once in their lifetime. While tuition to Skowhegan is $6,000, the program has been known to offer full and partial scholarships to artists in need who qualify for the program. To apply, you’ll need to submit your portfolio, be at least 21 years of age, and have a working knowledge of English.

Ox-Bow Residency

Another highly coveted artist in residence program is the Ox-Bow residency, which is held on 115 acres of Michigan countryside. The Ox-bow AIR program is offered to artists and writers at various stages in their career and has been attended by artists like musician Nick Cave, abstract expressionist Joan Mitchell, and New Museum founder Marcia Tucker. Over a century old, the Ox-Bow program got its name as a painting school but has since expanded to include various other mediums. Though the Ox-Bow Artist in Residence program offers summer and fall programs, the fall program tends to be its most coveted. Admitting up to 30 artists, Ox-Bow Artists in Residence can elect either a two-, three- or six-week residency, and have studio access not available to their summer counterparts. The program is entirely funded for participating artists, and include room and board, three daily meals, and various opportunities to share your work with other artists in the program.

artist in residence

The Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the country’s most selective artist residency program is part of one of New York’s most iconic art institutions. The Whitney’s Independent Study Program offers individual programs in studio art, curatorial studies and critical studies, for which just 15 artists are selected each year. The program, founded by Ron Clark, has paved clear pathways for success for artists like Cuban-born painter Félix González-Torres, performance artist Andrea Fraser, and conceptual artist Mark Dion. What’s great about the Whitney program is that it provides a framework of study for those seeking an art adjacent career – so wannabe curators and art critics can also attend, and benefit from The Whitney’s curriculum and networking contacts. However, in order to attend, you must apply to just one program.

The American Academy in Rome Fellowship

With free room and board for up to two years in one of the most magical cities in the world, it’s no wonder artists clamor to attend the American Academy in Rome’s Artist in Residence program. Frequented by artists like painter and sculptor Ana Mendieta and visual artist Sarah Oppenheimer, the Rome Prize fellowship is not exactly easy to get into. Nine juries convene to deliberate entries from January through March and finalists are expected to come to the Academy office in New York for interviews (see below for interview schedule). The winners are approved by the Academy’s Board of Trustees and announced in mid-April.


This Bay Area residency is a bit unusual compared to most, as it requires artists to literally work with garbage. The Recology residency in San Francisco sets artists up with studio space near the San Francisco Solid Waste Transfer and Recycling Center. The goal is to inspire participating artists to conserve natural resources and make something beautiful out of waste. After the residency, artists participate in a two-day exhibition and contribute a work to its permanent collection. Six residences are awarded per year, and artists can determine their length of stay with the program’s advisors.

Have you ever completed an artist in residence program? We want to hear about it in the comments!


About the author

Nicole Martinez

Nicole is a veteran arts and culture journalist. Her work has appeared in Reuters, VICE, Hyperallergic, Univision, and more.

1 Comment

Click here to post a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  • I’m impressed, I must say. Rarely do I come across
    a blog that’s equally educative and engaging, and let me tell
    you, you’ve hit the nail on the head. The problem is something which not enough folks are speaking
    intelligently about. Now i’m very happy I came across this in my hunt for something concerning this.

From the Artrepreneur Marketplace

Click Images to View

LaNita Darden - Clouds Rolling in on the Beach, Photograph on Brushed Metal: $880.

Kateryna Bortsova - Marina, - Oil on Canvas (Wood Frame): $320.

Artemus Blue: Bums - Photograph (Unframed): $400.

Popular Posts

Latest Posts

Latest Posts

How to Host a Successful Artist Studio Visit

Delving into artist studio visit do’s and don’t for artists preparing for a life-changing studio visit, whether from a gallerist, curator, art dealer or cultural producer. Insights from curators, critics, art dealers and other professionals on what makes or breaks a studio visit.

A Practical Guide to Finding a Subsidized Artist Studio

Don’t miss your chance to find yourself a subsidized artist studio space! There are ample opportunities for artists seeking to create work in studios that won’t break their budgets. From partnering with nonprofits to sharing studio space in dedicated artist studio buildings that provide lower-priced studios to artists in exchange for municipal tax breaks, see what options are available for those looking to create artwork in studio spaces for a reduced rent – or even at no cost to themselves!