My Journey to Becoming an Artist-in-Residence

Feb 4, 2019

I’ve been a full-time artist for a while now, like about two and a half years of this writing, and during that time, I’ve learned about lots of aspects of the creative life that weren’t on my radar before. For instance, I had heard of ‘artist-in-residence’ gigs but I didn’t really know what that meant. I thought these kinds of opportunities were only for famous or well known artists, not people like me.

But in September of 2018, I saw an announcement on Instagram for an artist-in-residence opportunity at my local arts center. When I clicked on the link, I was just curious; I didn’t think I was going to apply. But as I read the qualifications, I began to wonder, “Do I have a shot at this?” Not only did the residency fit my stage of career development, there were lots of additional perks: studio space, professional development, and a joint show. The whole thing sounded really appealing.

I had just spent a month working with an incredible mentor, Dylan Mierzwinski, and I’d begun to see myself and my work in a new way so I tackled the application with enthusiasm. For the first time since I’d been a full-time artist, I felt confident in describing what I do and how I do it. I had a clear point of view. I knew what my perspective was and where my voice was coming from. It felt great.

And I felt really good when I explained why I was a good fit for the program. Rather than skirt around what I felt was the elephant in the room—my age and late start as an artist—I went straight into why that gave me an advantage.

As an older artist, I maintain a sense of healthy urgency. If I am to build a body of work and reach a level of skill that merits commercial viability, I have to accelerate my progress and grow rapidly. To that end, I’ve created my own curriculum and energetically pursued training through a variety of online courses and in-person workshops.

After I submitted my application, I felt happy. I wasn’t overconfident but I felt that I had a really good chance. Beyond that, just putting down everything in writing had really helped me crystalize and organize my thinking. It was really a win either way, I thought.

So on a really gorgeous, sunny afternoon in October, I met an artist friend for lunch in Portland. We had an amazing conversation and, afterward, I stopped at Barista, one of my favorite coffee shops. I grabbed a latte and sat down outside. I pulled out my phone and there it was: The Email. I took a deep breath and coached myself a little: “Remember, Tara, rejection doesn’t mean you weren’t good enough or you weren’t deserving.” Still, my heart was pounding.

I began to skim the contents of the message which began with “Thanks so much for applying…” I guess I kind of blurred my gaze as I scrolled down until I hit the list of important dates. Wait a minute…. I scrolled back up and re-read the second sentence: “We are delighted to offer you the Artist Accelerator residency.”

Out loud, I blurted, “I got it!”

The guy at the next table said, “Got what?” As I explained, he jumped up and we high-fived. He asked to see my art and I showed him a photo. “That’s fantastic,” he crowed. “You’re there! You did it!” We high-fived again, both grinning from ear to ear.

As I mentioned earlier, part of the residency is about professional development and I chose remodeling my website as my business project. As you can see, I’m making progress! My site looks like it belongs to an artist and I’m steadily populating my portfolio.

Now that I’ve got my journal started, I’m looking forward to sharing more about my practice and how I’m working to develop myself as an artist and as a business owner. I hope you’ll enjoy seeing my journey unfold as much as I’m enjoying living it.

By the way, I’ve got a newsletter! I share stories and art there that I don’t publish here so if you want to see those, please subscribe. Thanks!!

1 Comment

  1. Tara Rodden Robinson » Recent Work: “In the Shadows (Western Tanager)”
    September 19, 2019

    […] you’ve been following me a while, you might remember that last fall, I was an Artist-in-Residence at The Arts Center in Corvallis. This year, I was invited to contribute a painting to their annual fundraiser, Art for the Heart. […]


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