My experience with artist in residency programs by Oliver Musovikj

“Artist in Residency programs provide artists with time and space away from their home environment, where one can reflect, conduct research, and investigate new works or means of production.

Artist residencies frequently provide the artist with a range of professional and economic resources, including a living allowance, facilities, tools, professional feedback, and opportunities to develop their networks and build an audience. In addition, they can also offer access to new technologies, partnerships and further funding opportunities which may lead to the development of new ‘products’ and ideas that expand the artists’ work. It has also been said that residencies can also offer time for reflection and experimentation, opportunities to develop artistic practice, and connect with other artists (Australia Council for the Arts, 2015). Certainly, some of the benefits of residencies highlighted by artists relate to how the residency experience can inspire them creatively, sustain them professionally, provide artistic and professional opportunities, build international networks and expose them to emerging international trends in their art form (Styhre and Eriksson, 2008). Intrinsic benefits include building confidence and pride and generating a sense of being taken seriously, alongside the prestige that comes with being awarded a residency in the first place (Australia Council for the Arts, 2015). The experience of being in residence also fosters a wider cultural awareness (when artists visit another country), and competencies in organizational and managerial skills (European Commission, 2014).

For the host organization, hosting artists from different cultural and professional backgrounds offers them opportunities to gather experience and develop long-lasting relationships, often leading to wider networks of international artists, cultural organizations and funding agencies (European Commission, 2014).”


I am a practicing visual artist who works mostly with photography and I work alone. My experience with residencies is only as a recipient, and I have never been involved in hosting or organizing such a program.


My first artist in residency program was 20 years ago (2 years out of school) in rural Switzerland. Since then I have been to 7 residencies, and my last residency was in 2018.


At the beginning of my career, I did not have a very conscious approach to applying to residencies, I applied so I could go to some new place.

While I had a steady job I was not able to apply to longer residencies and was using my annual leave and accumulated extra workdays.

Since I became a full-time freelance artist I took a more structured, intentional approach to residencies. As the working conditions for freelance artists are very precarious, it may sound desperate, but I started viewing attending residencies as a survival strategy. In choosing which residency to apply to I am primarily guided by the conditions/benefits they offer, and I apply only to ones that offer accommodation, studio, travel, stipend/living allowance. With a frugal approach, the living allowances usually allows me to live at home for at least the same period duration as the residency.

Only once, in Seoul, I did not have a stipend, but considering the expensive flight that was covered and the benefit of getting to know a distant culture I thought it was OK, and once you have accommodation sorted out, Seoul ended up being an affordable place for a 3-month stay.

Now, since I have a child, I am back to applying to shorter residencies and started looking for child-friendly ones, which seem to be very scarce.


Increasingly the open calls for residencies are thematic. It is not always easy to answer a certain theme, and often one cannot situate one’s own practice within that theme. I often pass on some opportunities because I feel I cannot address the theme genuinely. I have several developed proposals on a couple of themes regarding public space, and for each call, I usually rework those and try to adjust them to what I think it would be appropriate for the location. I have noticed that in the last of my two successful applications I made a genuine connection in the proposal between the host location and my home city.


Residencies at large seem to prefer younger artists. As for the age-restricted residencies, I have noticed a significant drop in opportunities once I reached 35, and then even more once I have reached 40. Even the residencies that have no age limit, seem to have more younger artists. At the last 3 residencies, I have been the oldest among the residents. I guess there are more younger artists applying as they have fewer ties at home and are free to travel, and that would explain part of this age discrepancy, but not all, I think institutions prefer to discover artists themselves. As an illustration, my success rate in getting the residency at the beginning, when I actually did not have a big portfolio and was less skill-full in writing proposals was very high (maybe around 50%), with age, although with serious portfolio and better writing skills, my success rate has been dropped significantly.


Something that I have been noticing is that residencies for visual artists have lower and lower expectations from the resident artist to produce and present new work. So, even residencies that have exhibition spaces do not necessarily offer an exhibition slot to its residents, nor production budget. Instead, all plan for some public presentation of the residents in the form of artist talk or similar presentation format (workshops for performing artists). I do not fully understand the reasons for this, maybe it is due to lack of funding or maybe due to previous bad experiences where resident artists did not deliver or just understanding that in a limited time period one cannot produce quality work.


On all but one, I applied on open calls and only on one I have been invited directly.

Information about the opportunities I find on-line.


The residency set-ups on the ones I attended differ significantly, on some I was alone, on some group of 3-5 residents, while on others it was a much bigger group of more than 20 residents, usually a mix of local artists and guests. My preference now is a community of artists rather than alone time. Even though my practice is not collective, and I do not seek to team up, on residencies with other artists on a couple of occasions I was able to forge collaboration outside of the residency like joint exhibitions or concepts for exhibitions.


Location is also an important factor, rural residencies can be very isolating.


Some recent trends that I have noticed are that there are more and more residencies for curators, often thematic, transdisciplinary (science, environment, AI for example), a condition not to work (Wapping project Berlin, Hiatus residency), web residencies (social media takeover).


The residencies that offer full support do not seem to be dominated by artists coming from rich countries that systematically support their own artists with grants, as the paid-by-artists residencies and many top residencies like HIAP in Helsinki, or IAAB in Basel, or the National Museum in Seoul that function on the principle of exchange (The Netherlands, Germany, Scandinavian countries, Japan, Korea, UK, USA). Some countries have their own residencies abroad exclusively for their artists (American Academy in Rome for US artists, Villa Romana in Florence for German artists).


In Macedonia, as far as I know, there are just a couple of private initiative artists in residencies, paid by artists and also some summer “art colonies” (a format remaining from former Yugoslavia, short term, week or two with the participation of more artists, usually tended towards more traditional art forms like painting), some are small organized by local hotels or businesses for example and artists are expected to leave work of art for the collection of the organizer.


What I would like to see here developed is a residency program for foreigners here, networked with important residencies abroad that in return on the principle of reciprocity would accept Macedonian artists.


Oliver Musovik (1971, Skopje)

BFA from the Faculty of Fine Arts, Skopje, 1997; MFA, 2004.

He had solo exhibitions in Macedonia, Switzerland, Slovenia, Serbia, Australia and Montenegro. Participated at numerous international exhibitions, among others: “Solidarity – Now More Than Ever”, Weimar, 2019; “AFTERMATH – Changing Cultural Landscape, Tendencies of engaged post-Yugoslavian contemporary photography”, Ljubljana and touring, 2012-14; “HISTORY, MEMORY, IDENTITY: Contemporary Photography from Eastern Europe”, Modena, 2009-10; 3rd Bucharest Biennale in 2008; 1st Thessaloniki Biennale, 2007; “The Gorges of the Balkans”, Kassel, 2003; Manifesta 4 – European Biennale of Contemporary Art, Frankfurt, 2002; 6th Istanbul Biennale, 1999.

Participated at artist-in-residency programs including: Weimar 2018; Brno, 2017; Geneva, 2016; Seoul, 2014; New York, 2006. Works in several public collections including: Museum of Contemporary Art, Skopje; Museum of Modern Art, Ljubljana; National Museum of Montenegro, Cetinje; Photography Foundation, Modena. Works published in art magazines and books, including: “Autobiography” (Thames and Hudson, 2004), “Vitamin Ph – New Perspectives in Photography”, (Phaidon, 2006), “Photo Art, Photography in the 21st. Century”, (Dumont 2007 / Aperture, 2008).