Ready for Your Artist Residency?

by Charis J. Carmichael Braun | August 28, 2015

As Caretaker at the Art Students League of New York’s international artist-in-residence program, The League Residency at Vyt[1], I have had the privilege to meet all kinds of artists from all over the earth. Each one packs with him or her a view of their home, and opens up new perspectives by sharing his or her creative world with us at Vytlacil. When I welcome new residents to the program, their baggage in hand, I know their preparations started months earlier as they read their acceptance letter and thought: What should I take with me? So if you’ve discovered this article in preparation for your own creative journey[2], way to go! I want to share with you some of my best tips—and some ideas that might surprise you—to help you pull it all together for your upcoming residency.

The Vytlacil House at The League Residency at Vyt.
The Vytlacil House at the League Residency at Vyt.

Try to aim for less than you think you’ll wear. Find out if laundry is available to you, i.e. wash and re-wear as often as needed. Less-than-loaded luggage at the beginning of your residency means you’ll have space to tote back artwork, supplies and mementos at the end. Because you’ll be intensely focused on your studio practice, you won’t need vestiary variety: think of your work clothes like a “studio uniform,” go ahead and wear it every day. Here are my sartorial suggestions for the typical situations I’ve seen: 

– Studio uniform
Studio uniform #2  to wear while Studio Uniform #1 is in the laundry
– A normal outfit: something reserved that doesn’t have wet paint on it, is not cloaked in sawdust, or is not flaking with dried clay.
Go-to-meeting clothes: something nice(r) to wear when visiting galleries, museums and cultural institutions in the area.
– Bathrobe: lightweight, for more than just scurrying from the bathroom to your bedroom.

This is where your residency handbook comes in handy. Ask about the details about the tools and supplies to which you may have access. If success in your studio requires a certain tool, then bring it with you. Here are a few other useful things to pop in your pack:

– A roll of tape/small container of push pins: quicker if you have them at hand than to go on a hunt.
 Multi-purpose pocket tool: with one of these, you’ll be the hero of any impromptu gathering with its bottle opener,* and you’ll always have a solution at hand!
Container for painting liquid (water/medium): often it’s a little thing like this that can put a stumbling block in your studio practice, especially if you want to get to work right away after you arrive. In a pinch, ask your residency where the recycling is: often you’ll be able to find used spaghetti sauce jars or yogurt containers that’ll work perfectly.
Your cards and resume: ready to hand new visitors to your studio.
A couple of blank CDs (or USB drive)because sometimes the internet doesn’t work and you have to move/print/save/share files pronto.
Anticipate the pack back: what supplies might you need to ship your artwork back home? Do some research now to solidify your shipping strategy.

While most smartphones may record data, find information, connect online and play media, in some locations your cell phone may not have service. Check your service provider’s coverage map to be sure. (If you’re traveling internationally, arrange for your cell phone to function in the country where you’re headed; or purchase a prepaid local wireless phone for use in that country.) Whatever your technological preferences may be, check that everything is in working order before you go. And, of course, don’t forget the cords.

–★ Adapter plug
–★ Prepaid calling card
– Headphones
– Extension cord/power strip
– Radio or iPod (cord)
– Laptop/computer (cord)
– Cell phone and charger cord (good to have an extra charged battery under your wing, too)
– Camera, camera battery, (cord): ask the residency if they have a tripod you could use/borrow.
– Web camera (cord)
– GPS (cord)

There is a wide range of how residencies approach room and board. Some have a cafeteria; some provide a meal(s); some have full shared kitchens; some residencies provide just sleeping rooms and studios. In any case, these items can make your stay a lot smoother:

– ★ Snacks: make sure you have something to tide you over if you get stuck on an impromptu layover, or if your next grocery trip is a ways off: e.g. granola bars squirreled away in your suitcase.
– ★ Grocery list: when you’re on your first grocery run at the beginning of the residency, you’ll be in an unfamiliar place, most likely pressed for time, and tired. Having your grocery list prepared beforehand will ensure you won’t forget items you know you’ll need. (Handy tip: also toss some “ready-to-eat” foods like a few cans of hearty soup in your cart.)
– Sandwich & snack bags/chip clip: sandwich and freezer sizes for keeping sliced peppers fresh, saving leftovers, or preventing soggy saltines.
– Water bottle: for field trips out of the studio.
– Spices: there’ll always be salt & pepper, but a sprinkling of your own spices (from a mini travel-sized spice kit) for your favorite recipe beats purchasing new, full-size jars.

Tuck these little things into your suitcase, they’ll go a long way!

– ★ Copies of important papers, printed out: insurance: car, health, travelers; ID: passport, license. (If you’re a super-planner like me, you may have notes on your credit cards tucked away on your person in case you need to do damage control.)
– ★ Residency information, printed out: your acceptance letter, directions, their contact info.
– ★ All-purpose soap:  keep a little travel-size (to use for laundry and shampoo), or a travel stain remover for any mishaps.


– Reusable folding grocery bag
– A book to read
– Pop-up umbrella: good for sun-shade, too.
– Small pillow or blanket: The soft scent of home is a nice comfort in a strange bed.
– Sleep-aid: such as melatonin, a sleeping mask, earplugs, etc. If you’re sharing a room with another resident, you’ll be glad of it.
– Shower scrubbie: net dries quicker than a washcloth.
– Flip flops: shower shoes
– Tylenol, antacids, or medication (Any prescriptions should be labeled clearly.)

But before you’ve taped your last box or clasped your suitcase shut, don’t forget to include the most important thing you’ll need: flexibility. When you go on residency, you’ll be stretching your abilities, revitalizing your creativity, enriching your network, and making things come together. A flexible attitude will enable you to adapt to daily challenges and take full advantage of your experience. 

* Special thanks to Vytlacil Alumna SiSi Chen[3] for her “multi-purpose” tip!
★ These items are especially important if you’re traveling internationally.

Charis J. Carmichael Braun[4] is an artist and arts administrator living in the Hudson Valley.

  1. The League Residency at Vyt:
  2. in preparation for your own creative journey:
  3. SiSi Chen:
  4. Charis J. Carmichael Braun: