If you are an artist or a writer, you’ve probably struggled to find time and space to focus on your craft. Between work, kids, school, and just plain living life, it can be almost impossible to sit down with a short story idea, or find the perfect subject for your next painting when you’re at home. That’s why it can be so valuable to take some time for yourself to travel and focus on creating — and what better place to do that than Europe? Follow in the footsteps of Europe’s countless prolific writers and artists by applying for retreats and residencies that accept Americans. You’ll be able to concentrate on your creative drive and find inspiration in Europe’s beauty.
1. Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Ireland
The Tyrone Guthrie Centre is situated in County Monaghan, near the border with Northern Ireland, and far enough away from major cities that you won’t get distracted by tourism. A rambling, old Victorian house on a large estate, it was converted in the 1980s by the Irish government into a residential space for any kind of artist: composers, sound engineers, painters, dancers, authors, etc. Sign up for space a week at a time and make sure you book early as they fill quickly. The only caveat of your stay is that you must have dinner at 7 PM every evening with the other residents, but given the high quality of the food (which is included), this is no hardship. If you’ve stayed there once, you are always welcome back; there is no re-application process for return visitors.
2. Westfjords Residency, Iceland
If you like stark, remote beauty and small towns, this residency in the wilds of Northern Iceland is a perfect fit for you. Only available from September through May, the Westfjords Residency is located in a village a hair below the Arctic Circle and ringed by the stunning Westfjords Alps. The center offers cozy accommodations that include kitchens — residents are responsible for their own meals and schedules — and every resident is provided with studio workspace, which must sometimes be shared. Group residencies of less than a month are available, and transportation to and from Reykjavik is included; otherwise, residents must make their own way to Thingeyri, which is about an 8-hour drive from Keflavik Airport, assuming the roads are open. Many past residents have described their stay here as “life changing,” so if you’re up for an adventure, check out their application form, which is currently open for this upcoming autumn and winter.
3. La Muse, France
Parts of La Muse’s original manor house date back to the 12th century, although it has been substantially renovated and improved since then. Each of the rooms is different and they vary in size (and price) to suit your individual needs; two of the rooms have private studio workspaces included. Public spaces are shared, including a well-stocked kitchen where you will cook your own meals, and a “living library” — guests who are accepted for residency must bring two books with them for the library, so the contents are always changing and growing. There is a small French town nearby for shopping, but generally, the area is untouristed and remote enough to satisfy your need to get away. When applying, note that they accept applications for partial barter stays, which substantially reduces your costs in exchange for work around the residency. Retreats are usually booked for one or three weeks, although you may negotiate a personalized visit with the owners.
4. Rupert, Vilnius, Lithuania
Vilnius is starting to emerge as an artist’s paradise, and Rupert wants to encourage that. This residency offers only studio space, although the building hosts some communal spaces, such as a kitchen and a common room. Along with the studio, artists are given a Mac computer, a phone with a Lithuanian SIM, and a bicycle for the duration of their stay. Stays usually begin at one month and can go for three. All residents are responsible for their own living costs and visas in that time period. All residents also receive 2 “curatorial visits” from local and international curators, who provide personalized feedback for every artist. While the listed cost is 450 EUR, at least half of the residencies are given for free thanks to the support of the Lithuanian Council for Culture and other grants. Rupert provides some transportation and living grants for some candidates, while others may receive comprehensive support and assistance in applying for external grants to fund their stay.
5. The Bothy Project, Scotland
A bothy is a small-scale, off-the-grid, tiny house in the wilds of Scotland. The bothies are available for individual weeklong artist and writer retreats, and each of them has wood burning stoves for heating and cooking, access to clean water, a composting toilet, outdoor shower facilities, and a full list of amenities: clean, organic bedding, a fully-stocked kitchen, a library, and solar power. Inshriac House is in Cairngorms National Park (and is rentable by the night), while Eigg Island in the Inner Hebrides has 4 bothies available at variable weekly rates, and provides transportation to and from the island pier. Artists must bring all their own supplies, but evidence of previous residencies is scattered through each of the tiny cabins, so if you feel moved, you are welcome to leave your own work as a legacy.
6. GlogauAIR, Berlin, Germany
The studios are spread over ten rooms on two floors, and each one has a sofa bed and all necessary furniture — GlogauAIR also provides extra bedding and mattresses if you have guests — as well as access to shared kitchen, bathrooms, and communal space, including a backyard and garden. Residencies are either 3 or 6 months, and artists are required to present work, as well as attend every Open Studio during the course of their residency. A three-month stay averages around 2100€, although GlogauAIR helps applicants find grants, sponsors, and other funding opportunities to reduce costs for individual artists. The facilities also offer a large Project Space, where residents and other local artists can teach workshops, do demonstrations, offer roundtable discussions, film a movie, or do whatever else they like. GlogauAIR is in Kreuzberg, a neighborhood on the former border between East and West Berlin that became known for squats, performance art, and multiculturalism after the Wall fell.
7. Skopelos Foundation for the Arts, Skopelos, Greece
The Skopelos Foundation for the Arts offers residencies for mixed media artists, painters, printmakers, ceramicists, and sculptors on a small, remote Greek island. The residency is located a steep 15-minute walk from town, and is not considered to be accessible to those with problems walking; there are taxis, and it is possible to rent a car, as long as you have an international driver’s license. There is only one studio, and accommodations are not included, although there are several cheap pensions nearby. Residency applicants are encouraged to submit ideas for unique works inspired by the culture of the island. Residencies last a minimum 2 weeks, and any stays of longer than 4 weeks can receive a special long-term rate. The studio is closed in January and February.
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