Posted by: jeanne | March 15, 2013

an art residency in iceland?

i’m working on a novel about an antarctica without ice.  looking at the maps i’m making, the landform it most resembles is iceland.  so i want to go to iceland for a residency, so i can get a feel for what an arctic environment is like.  and i want the aurora, and the midnight sun, the glaciers and general arctic environment.

there are four in the northern part of iceland, and i can’t find very much about them, so i’m assembling what i can find out here.  let’s start with the weather.

it’s ‘refreshing‘, meaning cool and damp, and windy.  but i haven’t been there, so i’m just guessing.  basically it stays in the 50s in the summer, and hovers around freezing in the winter.  personally i want to see the midnight sun, so high season is what i’m researching.  it’s safe to say that a southerner like me isn’t going to take any shorts along, and instead will concentrate on wax walking jackets and woollen underwear with wellies.  (but take a bathing suit for those thermal pools).


they’re all in the same general area, about 400km (5 hour drive) from rekyavik, where the plane comes in (about $1000 round trip).  car rental is exorbitant (~$100/day), so it’ll be a bus (~$100 one way)  or shorthop plane (~$200 round trip) that gets me there.

going from  the airport at akureyri, and going widdershins around the peninsula, the first place you come to is the island of Hrisey in the middle of the longest fjord in iceland, and the residency is called gamli skoli, or ‘old school’ in english.


next there’s the residency called listhus, in Ólafsfjördur. it’s on its own fjord, a branch of the larger fjord, and basically facing directly into the north.


continuing north thru tunnels only just recently carved out, there’s the formerly isolated fishing village of Siglufjörður, with its residency, called Herhusid, which means (salvation) army house. it’s the northernmost village, at the base of its own fjord, and from here the next stop is the north pole.


and finally, all the way around the peninsula and situated on a much larger, broader body of water is Baer art center, just outside of Hofsos, and the only residency on a farm rather than in the middle of a village.


they’re right next to each other, on the map.  in reality it’s probably many miles of travel between then.  they’re all rural, remote, near the sea, and offer residencies of a month (minimum).

gamli skoli is a 4 bedroom setup with studio space, and costs 400 euros for the month. companions can come at 40% extra. they have wifi. application deadline is open call, and they take last minute enquiries.

listhus is a house with 4 bedrooms and 3 studios, offers a bedroom and shared studio space for 400 euros, and a companion will cost another 50%. they have wifi. it’s a new program, and has been around since 2010. application deadline is open call (which means there is no deadline).

herhusid is a 2 storey house with a studio downstairs and a studio apartment upstairs. it costs 400 euro for the month. it has wifi. it only accepts one artist at a time, but you can bring someone else (your spouse or work partner or even i guess  your kid). application deadline is february 1.

baer has no fees, provides meals, is on a horse farm, and offers a studio and attached living space. there’s wifi. companions have to apply separately as artists in their own right, but they do not encourage artist teams as their space is so limited. application deadline is february 1 and they do not accept online applications, so it’s snailmail for this one.

as for access to information, three of these four have facebook pages.  here’s herhusid‘s and here’s the one for listhus and here’s for gamli skoli.  here’s how to contact baer, who are currently updating their website to include more information.

as for obligations as opposed to being left strictly alone with your work, i was at one residency where the residents were required to show up for dinner, and it always irritated me because i was in the middle of my afternoon session, and was almost expected to while away the evening in social mixing with a crowd i didn’t happen to be compatible with. otoh, i was at another residency where i could have died and nobody would have noticed until the end of my stay. i happen to like being left alone, but the happiest residency i had was at i-park, a farmhouse in the middle of rural east haddam, connecticut, where the residents formed a tight bond and did everything together, even some collaborative work, but all spontaneously, without planning. it is different every time, and every place. it even differs according to the mindset of the administrator of the residence; i’ve had repeat residencies at places where the director went from being incredibly involved in everything that happened one year, to being absentee and laissez-faire about the whole thing the next.  but they’re people with their own concerns, and it’s totally appropriate for the tone of the residency to change over time.

gamli skoli only wants you to clean up after yourself and share household tasks with the other residents.

listhus would like a presentation, a workshop, and an exhibition, and also expects you to clean up after yourself like any adult would.

herhusid doesn’t seem to want anything, but you might be able to exhibit your work.  and please don’t leave a mess.

baer puts on an exhibition, and you donate a piece of art.  there’s also a group project at the end of every residency period.  they don’t bother to tell you to clean up, you’re supposed to do that anyway, right?

so, how to choose, and who’s been there to say something about it?

here’s what i can find on blogs.  here’s one that shows all four residencies in the area of north iceland.  remote is the whole idea here.

here’s a short blog entry about gamli skoli.  here’s something about the island of hrisey, which is apparently renowned for birding and black sand beaches.  here are several posts about a residency on hrisey.

here’s listhus’s own blog.  nice that they’re making themselves available like that.  i’m personally in favor of residencies having facebook pages and blogs.  it makes researching them so much more easy.

here’s something about herhusid, again you want to page forward for more.  here’s someone in residence on a herring quest based at herhusid.

here’s a blog entry about baer.  here’s a wonderful blog about a month on residence at baer.  you’ll want to read thru the posts.  here’s someone’s work and reflections of baer.

there’s so much to choosing a residency.  the least of which is – will they have you?  it’s got to appeal to you, you should be drawn to the place.  it should have what you need to do your work – and this is a very difficult thing to pin down.  you bring the supplies you need, that’s not what i’m talking about.   i’ve been on residencies where people took a runner after three days because it was too quiet.  because it was too noisy with strange sounds at night.  because the place creeped them out.  because they couldn’t stand solitude.  because they were on residency for something hidden (psychological) and couldn’t deal with it when it started to kick in.  so the place has to be one you can work in.  it has to have the right ambience for you.  the right balance of solitude and community, freedoms and restrictions.  say you really need to be in a certain area in the world.  say you have to be in northern iceland, and nothing else will do short of antarctica, or svalbard, because you just have to have that landscape, those winds, the skies, the weather and the sea.  you’d think, any place at all will do.  but it’s not true.  oh, you could actually go and have yourself a residency out of a youth hostel, or with a tent and a rented car.  but having other artists to share your experience with, having a place to stay that’s yours for the month, having the idea that everything is set up for you to do your work, having a schedule that suits you, being able to find things you need that you couldn’t bring – all these are very important, and that’s why there are art residencies.  so even tho there are four nice residencies in north iceland, they are all different, and i need to sit and distill which one i want to apply to before going ahead with it.

i’ll post/update more as things occur to me.  if you’ve been to any of these residencies, please comment on your experience.

here’s the next post in this series.



  1. […] TAK! Kraina ognia i lodu! Islandia! Dwa miesiące temu żadne z nas nie pomyślało nawet, że będzie to nasza następna podróż. Teraz czytamy, zapisujemy i planujemy. Bo przecież oprócz pomagania naszej ”rodzince” musimy zobaczyć jak najwięcej. Pomieszkać na Islandzkiej wsi, zobaczyć gejzery, zorze polarną, wieloryby i wiele więcej. Mamy na to 2 miesiące, a jak wszytko będzie super to 3. Hania wyszukuje już jak najlepszy (i najtańszy) sposób dostania się do Reykjaviku. W najbliższym czasie kupimy bilety, a potem to już tylko czekać do końca lutego i w drogę! Wtedy to będzie się tu działo Zdjęcia wysepki pożyczone z bloga […]


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