In 2005 I was an artist-in-residence at the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin. For four months, Anna and I lived on the grounds of the museum with eight other international artists. The museum was formerly a veteran’s hospital, built in the 1600′s; the carriage houses in the back were converted into artists studios and apartments.
I have never felt so fortunate as an artist as I did at IMMA.
I had just graduated from grad school, where all of my professors warned (just as my undergrad professors had) that once we all graduated no one would care about our work. (They didn’t word it so dreadfully, but basically that’s what they were saying.) No one would be knocking on our studio doors demanding to ponder with us the details of our projects for two hours straight, engaging in heated debate with colleagues over the intent of our work. Also, I suspected that this probably was not a degree that would earn much money.
But then there we were at IMMA. In short, we resident artists felt like rock stars. We were living in a museum. They were giving us money, studios, and apartments. Museum curators were visiting our studios, genuinely interested in what we were doing. Perhaps most thrillingly, there were giant iron gates that opened for us when we came home at night, and then closed behind us. Once, a few guys trailed us home from a pub. We cackled with delight when the giant gates closed in their faces. I thought, Our teachers were wrong! THIS is what it’s like to be an artist!
And then we came home (well, after another residency that is another Fond Art Memory), or rather to my parents’ house, where we would then live for four months, before we moved to a friend’s lightless basement in the dead of winter to sleep on an air mattress on the floor for three months, jobless, in much debt, and warding off depression with many episodes of Alias.
I guess one of the advantages and disadvantages of being an artist is that there isn’t just one reality. IMMA was real (I have pictures to prove it, in times of doubt), and so was the subsequent reality of being homeless (though thankfully not shelter-less), moneyless, prospect-less.
Anyway, there’s no moral to this story. Except that if you’re an artist, you should apply.