The Inside Scoop on the Studio of Key West's Artist Residency Program

We here at IP tend to view artistic residencies through the lens of inspirational solitude and the classic "back-to-nature" ethos. Upon further reflection, we realize we do this because we're projecting. We imagine environments that would be conducive toward our ability to create and inevitably imagine some rugged, romantic landscape like the wind-swept Great Plains or the mountains of New England.

There's just one catch. Artists and writers can thrive in other, less isolating environments. Take the Studio of Key West's (TSKW) artists residency program, for example. The program grants nearly 35 artists each year the time and space to imagine new artistic work, engage in valuable dialogue and "explore island connections." Accepted artists are granted access to a bicycle for the durations of their stays and are matched with a community member who serves as a host to assist with the success of their residency.

Now if you're us, your first reaction would be incredulity. How can a writer pen the Great American Novel in Key West? You know, the same Key West with the country's best climate, warm emerald waters, buzzing nightlife, and countless other distractions?

Apparently it can be done.

The program is built on the premise that these so-called distractions can actually spark the creative imagination. According to the site, the residency is "built upon the hope that visiting artists will take inspiration from Key West’s rich artistic past and present, and will engage with — and be inspired by — the remarkable people and culture that surrounds them." Sounds feasible.

The TSKW will open the application process in January 2015, so now's as good a time as any to see what it involves. Some key points (pun intended):

  • Residencies are available for one month and residency terms extend from the beginning to the end of each calendar month.
  • Residents may arrive any day after the first of the month.
  • Artists are responsible for food, travel, and materials. Artists are granted access to bicycles for the durations of their stays and are matched with a community member who serves as a host to assist with the success of their residency.
  • Artists collaborating on a project must submit individual application forms and work samples.
  • Those proposing collaborative work should also submit an example of jointly produced work (either completed or a work-in-progress).

The program also expects residents to give back to the community in the form of a class, workshop, reading, performance or special project to be agreed upon by the artist and TSKW.

Ultimately, upon reading the application criteria, we came to the conclusion that working as an artist in residency in a vibrant, warm-weather location can be done. It just takes a little focus and goal-setting.

And then there are the intangibles. For example, resident men may get so carried away in their work that they'll grow beards and win Keys' "Papa Hemingway" look-alike contest.

That alone is worth the $40 application fee.