What It’s Like to Be an Artist in Residence

An Inside Report from Downtown San Antonio’s Creative Retreat

BY Heyd Fontenot // 09.24.17
photography Heyd Fontenot

Artist/designer/filmmaker Heyd Fontenot — former director and chief curator at Dallas’ CentralTrak from 2011 to 2016 — contributes insider reports from his residency at Artpace. This is the first in a regular series, an exclusive for PaperCity.

Three hundred words and 10 images, due each Thursday to PaperCity arts editor Catherine D. Anspon. I am to write about my experience as an artist-in-residence at San Antonio’s Artpace. OK, there’s 30 words, good start!

I’ve completed my first week in-residence in San Antonio, after driving back down from Canada, where I’d spent the summer with fellow artist Erin Stafford. We were in a small town in British Columbia called Vernon, in a great mansion that had been converted into housing and studios for artists and writers. (Some claimed it was haunted, but we never heard a peep.) Our host was another artists’ residency program: the Caetani Centre

There’s a vast range of situations and degrees of support among artists’ residencies. Every one of them is different — like boyfriends.

Some of them are short term, some are long term. Some you think about often and fondly, some of them you never want to see again. Like the one residency program that unintentionally trapped the artist within because it was in a shipping container, out to sea and the ship couldn’t dock.

But Artpace is in downtown San Antonio, so I’m pretty confident I can escape at any time. It’s lovely here, and the staff and local art community are great, and I’m working in my studio everyday — so I have no escape plans. I’m in heaven.

Holiday Gifting

  • Cle Du Peau - Lip Gloss
  • Cotton Club
  • Mariquite Masterson
  • Elaine Turner - GiGi Flats
  • Wayne Smith
  • Museum of Fine Arts Houston
  • Loeffler Randall - Shoes
  • Cotton Club
  • Loeffler Randall - Clutch
  • Bond No 9 - Perfume
  • Cle Du Peau - Nail Polish
  • Asher Gallery
  • Mariquite Masterson
  • Oscar De La Renta - Earrings
  • Bond No 9 - Candle
  • Oscar De La Renta - Clutch
  • Wayne Smith
  • Elaine Turner - Felicia Stole in Magenta

I have a loose formula that I use to help people understand how advantageous and important artists’ residencies are. In terms of artistic output, it’s been my experience that one month in a residency equals one year in the civilian world.

The concentrated time in the studio, the dedicated space, the lack of distraction all adds up, and artists can make great strides in their work in a program like this.

So, one week down and I have to present an exhibition here at Artpace on November 9. This means I have seven weeks to crank out something … incredible. The clock is ticking. No pressure.

Home, chic home.

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