When I was accepted into my first residency program back in 2011, I began researching as much as I could about what I needed to bring. At that time, nobody had compiled a good basic residency packing list for artists. My research brought up a lot of vacation packing lists or information about specific residencies. I spent many weeks prior to my residency packing and considering what I needed to bring. While sorting, making piles, and trying to stay organized, I saved my master list of what I brought so I could share my tips and list with other creatives.
This list was compiled with a travel-by-car residency in mind. This list will be different for artists especially if you travel by air to your residency or if you are doing an international residency. Please note that some materials won’t be allowed airplanes, or have limitations.
Preparing to Travel
Be careful not to overpack when going to your residency. (I brought everything but the kitchen sink).You will not need all of the supplies you normally have in your studio. To help with this, keep in mind the specific goals of your residency as you pack so you know exactly what you need. That way you’re not moving your entire studio with you for a residency.
Don’t forget to leave room for what you plan to bring back. Remember that you will be returning with some new artwork (and maybe a few souvenirs!). Make sure you make a plan for getting the art home before the residency concludes. It’s easier to stack fresh unused canvases in a car than it is to return with precious fine art.
Planning ahead for your new work may include a budget for shipping. If you plan to mail back your new art, pack some shipping boxes, bubble wrap, and tape so you can safely prepare the work for traveling home.
Ask the Program
Always reach out to the residency program to see what is already provided for you at the site. Does your residency provide you with food, housing, a stipend? While you are understanding the scope of the residency opportunity, this is a good time to ask for recommendations on what residents tend to bring.
Another good question is to ask where the nearest art supply, hardware store, or craft store is located. When I traveled to my residency, the headquarters for a well-known art supply company was about a half-hour away. I definitely filled my extra car space with some awesome finds I bought directly from their warehouse. Knowing where the nearest supply stores are great so you know where you can grab some supplies if you run out or forgot to bring an item.
Before Hitting the Road
Review your residency guidelines and read all residency information packets.
Spend some time mapping out out a loose plan for how you want to spend your time during your residency. Many residencies expect artists to participate in public exhibitions, lectures, slide talks, artwork donations, studio tours, and more. Pack what you need to complete this expectation and pace out a schedule so you can meet these expectations.
In addition to scheduling out a plan for your art making, plan to schedule some down time. Include any travel stops along the way, or local sites you plan to visit during your residency. Research places to go to while you are there before you get to your residency.
The Comprehensive Artist Residency Packing List
Use this comprehensive list as a basis for your packing list. Add to this as you need to for the scope of your residency.
- Sketchbook or journal (it’s great to document your residency experience)
- The specific art materials that you need to make your work
- If you are a messy maker (paper towels, apron, rags, rubber gloves, tarps, plastic, etc)
- Packing blankets or shipping supplies for completed work
Art Business & Office Materials
- Business cards (a residency is a great opportunity to network)
- Any office tools you frequently use: stapler, scissors, tape, erasers, rubber bands, glue, pencil/pen
- Laptop, power cords, and headphones (You may want your printer, printer paper and cords)
- Phone or camera, power cords, extra batteries, additional lenses, or tripods
- Bath towels or washcloths
- Shampoo, soap, or body wash
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Brush and other hair care items
- Shower shoes or flip flops
- Sunscreen or lotion
- Band-aids and basic first aid
- Cosmetics and feminine products
- Passport or personal identification
- Cash, checkbook, or credit card
- Proof of insurance: Car and/or health
- Thermos or water bottle
- Tote or travel bag (something small is great for day trips or excursions)
- Pillow and blankets or sheets
- Car or travel emergency supplies
- Shoes: slip-ons and tennis shoes
- Clothing: Pack at least one nice or professional outfit. You may have the chance to show your work in a gallery, attend an opening, or have a residency-sponsored dinner or event to attend to.
- Personal mementos or photos you wish to bring
- Any personal vitamins or prescription you take
Kitchen & Other
Some residencies provide meals for artists. Other residencies provide cooking space to prepare your own meals. Use this list if it applies to the type of residency you are attending.
- Dish soap
- Paper towels
- Food and snacks
- Extension cord(s)
- Laundry soap
Concluding Your Residency
Bring your residency packing list with you so keep track of what you brought. When your residency concludes, use this list so you can re-pack everything before returning home. This is especially important if you are attending a longer residency and you have made your residency a home-away-from-home. It’s easy to forget you tucked some items away in a drawer or cupboard. It’s also handy to maintain a record of your packing list so you can refer to it when you have another residency!
Have you been on an artist residency? Comment below and list your favorite items to bring or your favorite residencies you have traveled to!