Located in a converted school in the countryside three hours north of Helsinki, the Arteles Creative Residency Program brings together international artists to focus exclusively on their creative practice in a supportive and communal environment. Open to artists working across all disciplines, with each cohort bringing together creatives from a variety of backgrounds, the program encourages a cross-pollination of ideas and approaches and the opportunity for participants to challenge the boundaries of their practice. Four past grantees, working in visual arts, music, multimedia and literature, have participated in the program, most recently 2018 grantee and writer Peter Walsh.
Peter reached out and sought the advice of past grantee Sissy Reyes, who also attended Arteles, throughout the application process. We were buoyed by this show of resourcefulness and community between artists, and followed up with Peter on his experience of the Arteles program, what it takes to write a good grant application and whether he had any advice of his own for artists starting out.
How did you find out about the Arteles Creative Residency Program?
I was alerted by a friend as part of an elaborate ‘cheer-Peter-up’ exercise after something I had applied for fell through. They have a really developed social media presence, along with online catalogues – just generally quite high tech for a program such as this – which gave me a comprehensive understanding of the place and the process and just catalysed my desire to apply.
Can you tell us a bit about how the program is structured? What makes it unique?
It’s grounded around the motto ‘freedom to create’, they are located in the most extraordinary spaces – a converted school in the countryside – and everyone is allocated space (so much, too much!) to do whatever they wish and a great deal of licence to do so. It enabled a lot of constructive encounters between people, so many of which happened just incidentally – I drew a lot from being able to talk and engage with people from creative backgrounds beyond my own (and I hope that feeling was mutual).
What did you find most valuable about undertaking the residency alongside artists from different creative backgrounds? Were there any challenges associated with this?
I count myself very lucky to have developed fast and firm friendships with everyone I was associated with on the residency, especially those I shared a house with. While we worked in different mediums, we thankfully all tended to have overlapping tastes (a lot of movie nights and book discussions) – we still email twelve months on! I also discovered a utility I didn’t know I had as an artist’s assistant, certainly my back-up plan.
Did the location influence the work you produced during the residency?
Less so than it might have done had I not already arrived with parts of it written. It certainly influenced how prolific I was able to be, given the isolation and the mental space that’s freed up when you’re not thinking about work or rent.
You reached out to another Cultural Trust grantee, Sissy Reyes, while applying for a Cultural Trust grant. What led you to reach out, and what advice did Sissy have for you?
Ian Potter has a really useful database that allows you to search through everyone who had been awarded before. I suppose I graded my chances at getting a grant through whether anyone else from Arteles had received one. Seeing that Sissy lived in the same city as me and had gone relatively recently, I just kind of took the plunge and shot a message out of the blue. She was so absolutely generous with her time, called me, gave me a lot of veeeryyy helpful advice about writing a to the point and effective grant application and it honestly changed how I approached my application. She said I should focus on the educational possibility entailed by the program, its benefits for my practice, and the chances for collaboration – all of which thankfully ended up happening in Arteles!
Do you have any other tips for early career artists who are just beginning to apply for residency and mentorship programs?
Apply early, apply often – but make sure you’re writing something unique for each new program. For me, I started getting lucky once I was able to clearly outline some value to an audience, rather than relying on less quantifiable ‘self-improvement’ goals. The main thing I would say is to try and balance the practical elements of the application (be extremely precise about costs) with an ambitious account of how you expect to grow. In my case it was about meeting artists further along in their journey than I am and seeking those opportunities for beneficial mentorship, I was lucky enough to get all of it and more – it was the most important step I could have taken at this stage in my career.
How did you find out about The Ian Potter Cultural Trust?
Ian Potter has a really useful database program where you can search every project awarded in the past. My research into Arteles brought me into contact with Ian Potter, since it had lists of everyone – including Sissy – that had been awarded for the residency in the past. I had heard of Ian Potter the person independent of the trust, but that was my first encounter with a non-government grant organisation. A close friend of mine and I both applied – exchanging feedback on our applications and keeping each other committed to the deadlines – and gratefully both of us won!
What are you currently working on? What’s coming up next for you?
Still the same piece of writing =/ But maybe that’s a :D thing. I’m currently in Berlin, seeking to finalise some work by early next year. I’m sorry, such a coy answer.
You can find more information about the Arteles Creative Residency Program on their website.