One of the new programmes that will launch in The Sackler Centre is a Museum Residency programme. We hope that this will contribute to making the Centre a dynamic, creative space. There will be two studios in the Centre in which resident artists/ makers will be able to work. It is unusual to have permanent residency studios in an educational setting. We wanted to give residents access to the V&A collections for study, and also to give users of the Sackler Centre an opportunity to interact with the artist/ maker and learn about the processes used to develop work.
We began research in early 2005 by visiting a number of existing residency programmes, such as at the Museum of Modern Art in Dublin and Gasworks in London. I attended a workshop at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, aimed at artists wanting to take part in residency programmes, to find out what an artist or maker might expect to gain from such an experience. I also talked to artists who had already taken part in residencies to try to understand what opportunities and benefits these programmes provided, both as a learning experience and in contributing to their professional practice. This helped us to decide the length of each residency, what our studios might look like, how they would operate, and what facilities we needed to install when building the spaces. The studios will have basic facilities including running water, power, wi-fi and one clear wall for displaying work. Each resident can add further equipment and materials to suit their work.
We held a consultation workshop at the Museum to which we invited V&A curators, public programme leaders, museum educators and external contacts from other arts organisations who had experience of running residency programmes. This established exactly what we wanted to gain from our programme, what form we expect public engagement to take and what we would call the programme. We decided upon 'Museum Residency', a term which includes a wide range of artists, designers, performers, writers, musicians, craftspeople and artists working with new media.
Since then, we have been working in partnership with a number of different organisations including the Crafts Council, the London Printworks Trust, the London Print Studios and Gasworks to develop our programme further. Although the studios will be built as part of the Sackler Centre, we have to fundraise for the Residency programme. At present, funds are committed from the Crafts Council and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation for six residencies of six months each. We are now able to begin the process of selecting our first residents. Studios will be open to the public at set times and the resident will also work on projects with one or more of the V&A’s audience groups: community groups, schools, families, students or people with disabilities.