Friday, October 26, 2012

FoAM's Family-in-Residence Program

the Simpson family collaborating at FoAM Brussels in 2011
FoAM, a network of transdisciplinary culture labs based in Belgium, has instituted an informal family-in-residence program as part of its larger constellation of artist residencies. There is no childcare or financial support available, but the presence of family is treated as a part of the creative process rather than as something from which to retreat.

From the FoAM website:

"In 2010 FoAM expanded its residency programme to include people of all ages. The first experiment was having a “Family in Residence” (FIR), welcoming Alex Davies, Alexandra Crosby and their young son Luka Davies for a three-month residency at FoAM in Brussels. The experience was extremely positive and we concluded that it is an experiment worth continuing. FoAM’s burgeoning intergenerational residency programme, combined with Alex and Ali’s experiment in parenting, has produced some interesting results."

Alex elaborates on the context for such a program here:

"While the number of these programs is growing, the model of how they function remains notably unchanged. Whether based on social engagement or productive seclusion, they are usually still designed as opportunities for individual artists, rather than integrating existing social relationships into the art making process.

There are a number of reasons for this stagnation, but mostly, artist in residency programs are built on the myths surrounding the individual and secluded (usually male) genius artist. Even residencies based on social engagement are usually based on one artist engaging with a community. In fact, artists in residence depart and return to their families and communities as fathers, husbands, girlfriends, sisters, cultural activists, educators, and social advocates. Some artists in residence can be found isolated in studios making ‘art for art’s sake’, but most artists' work also includes important activities that get slipped in spontaneously between formal requirements of programs. These activities nourish much more than individual careers."     
In 2011 the Simpson family (Mark, Lea, Scarlet and Delilah) took on the challenge of a two-week collaborative family residency through foAM, soon to be followed by a week-long microresidency by Lies Declerck and her two-year-old son Adriaan this August. Similar opportunities seem to be slowly but steadily on the rise. We'd love to see a program that offers a residency experience paired with childcare options (partnership with a nearby daycare center?), but in the meantime FoAM's family-in-residence program is a simple but important addition to the opportunities available for artists with children.

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