Residency Structure

Residency programs vary in structure; some assign artists to specific tasks, while others remain open-ended and evolve during the artist's tenure based on agency needs, community interest and the artist's own creative direction. The lengths of these residencies may range from just a few weeks to multiple years. While some artists become salaried staff members, others function as contractors operating on a project-basis. The most common artist-in-residence structures include:

  • Project-based: These particular residencies are structured around a central project or issue which the artist addresses during the tenure of their residency. In 2015, Seattle Public Utilities selected artist Vaughn Bell as their Green Infrastructure and Waterways artist-in-residence to work closely with SPU staff to develop an art master plan to guide future public art commissions to be integrated into SPU Drainage and Wastewater projects. In Minneapolis, performance artists Sh Cage and E.G. Bailey collaborated with the City of Minneapolis Department of Community Planning and Economic Development (CPED)'s Long Range Planning Division to develop a creative asset mapping project, part of Intermedia Arts' Creative CityMaking artist in residence program. Residents in the Cedar Riverside neighborhood populated a map with what they valued about their community, and the artists used the map to facilitate a series of conversations within the neighborhood[1]. The artist team has developed an artful map template for the community to populate what is valued by the people who live, work, study, and play in the community. The team is using the map in tandem with a series of deep community conversations around what matters to the people of Cedar Riverside about their neighborhood.
  • Department-based: Other residency structures focus on embedding artists into individual departments. The City of Boston's Artist-in-Residence, Creative CityMaking Minneapolis, the City of Austin Artist-in-Residence Program housed in the Watershed Protection Department, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation's Creative Catalyst Artist in Residence and the Public Artists in Residence organized by The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs all pair artists with specific municipal departments and the duration of their residency focuses on working closely with the staff and the issues of the department. New York City, for example, has hosted artists in residence within the Department of Veterans Services, the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs and the Department of Design and Construction among departments. Over the course of at least one year, these artists in residence receive a fee, project budget, desk space within the host agency, and additional resources provided by both the Department of Cultural Affairs and the hosting department.
  • Agency-wide: At the Metropolitan Area Planning Council in Metropolitan Boston, Hortense Gerardo serves as the agency's first artist-in-residence and works across many divisions within the agency, is developing educational opportunities and training initiatives for both planners and artists, and is executing public art projects that advance the goals of planning projects currently underway. As artist-in-residence, she serves on MAPC staff for a salaried 18-month term and has dedicated desk space. Similarly, the artists of City Artist St. Paul work across city agencies and ensure that art is integral to every civic discipline.


Embedded artist residencies allow for artists to work collaboratively with the hosting organization to develop projects and arrive at outcomes together. Outcomes may include tackling old processes and ongoing challenges in new ways, increased community buy-in/support, deeper engagement, augmenting planning goals, and giving voice to underrepresented constituents. Most of these programs express a central interest in exploring new ways for deeper exchange between the community and the agency. Below are examples of some of the outcomes emerging from AIR programs as identified in our scan of government-based residencies.

  • Bridging sectors: Facilitating cross-sectoral exchange amongst arts professionals and planners thereby creating an expanded ecosystem of collaborators around government-led work
  • Government Culture: Generating new systems or processes within the agency that infuse fresh thinking and creativity.
    Planning Process: Stimulating more diverse community participation in planning and design processes along with an element of fun.
  • Community Engagement: Nurturing deeper community and stakeholder engagement; creating new pipelines of connection between citizens and departments, agencies/municipalities, or artists; and the engagement of students.
  • Communications: Creative new methods for the community to access to new information and to access municipal departments; creation of new educational materials that translate government process or projects to new audiences.
  • Prototyping: Create an artistic prototype of interventions or solutions that might be replicable in other cities and towns.