The Museum as Studio; Arts Practitioner Residencies at the V&A Museum

Story: Devon Rose Turner
Photography: Devon Rose Turner
Friday, June 29, 2018

The V&A is regarded as one of the finest museums in the world. The museum boasts a permanent collection of over 2.3 million objects consisting of furniture, textiles, fashion, jewllery, stained glass, ceramics, sculpture, photography and more. This immense collection can seem overwhelming upon first visiting. It would truly take days, perhaps weeks to see and appreciate every item in the collection. Therefore, it’s a wise idea to have an agenda before visiting.

As part of my MA in Museums and Galleries in Education at UCL, I’ve been completing a work placement with the Residency Programme at the V&A. Before assuming this position, I wasn’t aware that the museum had artists in residence. 2018 marks ten years of the Residency Programme at the V&A in South Kensington. Three residents are selected each year to reside and create in the museum for nine months. Having dedicated studio space inside the V&A enables creative practitioners to gain unique access to the Museum’s collections, archives and curatorial expertise. Residents are provided with an on-site studio, a bursary, and a production budget to experiment, create a new body of work and engage with the public. The programme is open to practitioners who work in a variety of mediums with previous residents having worked in: drawing, music, digital design, gaming, costume design, sound art, calligraphy, ceramics, photography, poetry, architecture, comics, jewellery, animation and more.

V&A residents host Open Studio sessions several times a month where you can meet the practitioners and discover more about their work. Current residents include: Ceramicist Malene Hartmann Rasmussen who is the V&A Danish Ceramics Resident, Theater company - Metta theatre, and data and conceptual artist Rachel Ara who is the V&A Research Institute (VARI) Embedded Resident. Upcoming residencies include: VARI offsite international residency with Create, Sustainable fashion and textile design residency (in correlation with ‘Fashioned from Nature’ exhibition) and a Videogames Residency (in correlation with the upcoming ‘Videogames: Design/Play/Disrupt’ exhibition).

Wandering through the 6th floor ceramics galleries is an amazing experience in itself, but it’s enhanced by stumbling upon the ceramics studios. Separated by a giant glass wall, the artist and the visitor encounter one another in a way that brings the studio, the artist process, directly to the visitor. As the artist is working, you can stand and watch the delicate hand molding process, see photos and images that the artist has pinned to the wall for inspiration, and take a peek at works in progress. As part of the residency, the ceramics artist in residence is offered the opportunity to curate the case outside of the studio. Artists choose works from the collection that they admire and cherish. As a visitor, it is very interesting to see which collection objects the artist has chosen to display, as it is a way to visibly see the artist’s inspiration.

If you know where to look you can find works by previous residents throughout the V&A collection. On the 6th floor Ceramics wing there are several works by former residents including: ‘Octopus Junk’ by Michelle Erickson, ‘Meiping Vase/Snake’ by Keiko Masumoto, and ‘The Severed Head’ by James Rigler. To find out more about the V&A Residency Programme check out their YouTube playlist which provides highlights from previous residents and gives viewers an insider’s knowledge of what it’s like to be a resident at one of the top museums in the U.K.

If you are interested in museum residencies and would like to learn more, check out my recent article about residency opportunities at a variety of institutions throughout London.

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