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Guiding and strengthening the residency wave – an interview with Eliza Roberts (part 2)

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“Given the recent explosion of arts residencies around the world, Res Artis has never played a more crucial role.” In late 2016 Eliza Roberts joined Res Artis as their inaugural Executive Director. In the second installment of our two-part interview, she speaks to ARTERI about her vision as well as her “long-standing interest and enthusiasm for working with Malaysia.”

How do you feel about your new role?

It’s an exciting time to join Res Artis, as it is on the brink of realizing the next phase of its existence.

Res Artis was conceived 23 years ago at a time when residencies were a relatively new concept. We played a critical role in advocating their importance on behalf of the field and their validity to funding bodies, international ministries and cultural councils.

Welcoming delegates at the Res Artis Meeting in Tehran, 2016

Res Artis helped residencies all around the globe establish themselves and be the best they could be. This is at the heart of our mission, and is what we will always do, but it is now time for new and innovative methods and approaches that respond to significant changes occurring at an economic, social, cultural and political level.

How will you do this?

In 2015 Res Artis conducted a survey of our members aptly titled ‘What do Res Artis members want us to be?’ The results were analysed and informed our 5-year Strategic Plan from 2015 – 2020 that sets out the future plans of our network.

In line with the rapid expansion in the field of artist residencies, the membership of Res Artis has grown dramatically over time. We now have 605 members in over 70 different countries, making us a truly global network comprising an incredible think-tank of skills, knowledge and expertise.

In order to harness this knowledge, remain relevant to residencies in different regions and respect cultural differences, Res Artis aims to strengthen our core in Amsterdam while at the same time introducing regional clusters throughout the globe.

We will engage Res Artis members more closely in order to share key issues, challenges and opportunities that are specific to that region.

We will disseminate our findings through digital and in-person platforms that will be of benefit to our members all over the world.

At Borak Arts Series with (L-R) Teresa Rances of Asian Cultural Council, Kate Ben-Tovim from Arts Centre Melbourne Australia, and Janet Pilai, Founder of Arts-ED Penang

Res Artis will do this in partnership with existing organisations and regional networks to strengthen the field of residencies together. Given the recent explosion of arts residencies around the world, Res Artis has never played a more crucial role.

What has been your professional association with Malaysia?

I have a long-standing interest and enthusiasm for working with Malaysia. Living in Australia, Malaysia is one of our close neighbours and we have a huge Malaysian population here in Melbourne.

In 2008 I curated the ‘Malaysian Batik Design and Fashion’ exhibition at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) as part of the Malaysian Film Festival.

My first opportunity to visit Malaysia came about in 2013 when I was awarded some funding through the Australia-Malaysia Institute. This enabled me to meet Asialink’s current and potential new residency host partners and attend the Melaka Arts and Performance Festival that was initiated by two-time Asialink resident Tony Yap.

On this trip I went to Kuala Lumpur, Rimbun Dahan in Selangor, Penang and Melaka. This resulted in the cementing of existing relationships and creation of new collaborations. I was blown away by the generosity, enthusiasm and passion of those working in the arts and cultural sector on this first trip, and vowed to return again soon.

Presenting on behalf of Asialink and Res Artis at Res Artis Meeting Malaysia in Rimbun Dahan, July 2016

In 2015 I was invited to participate in the annual Borak Art Series held in Penang to coincide with the George Town Festival.

What was that like?

The focus of the conference was the ASEAN region, and I spoke on a panel session titled ‘Getting to know our International Fund Partners’. Through this panel I outlined funding opportunities for working with ASEAN member countries, as well as non-monetary approaches towards reciprocal and multilateral partnerships on a local, region and international level.

I thoroughly enjoyed participating in this conference and meeting so many colleagues from the ASEAN region who I had previously only engaged with through email. These face-to-face meetings are absolutely crucial.

The focus on the ASEAN region peaked my interest and in July 2016, together with my long-standing colleagues and friends at residency space Rimbun Dahan, we devised a plan to host a Res Artis

Meeting in Malaysia that focused on ASEAN interactions purely within the arts residency field. We held the meeting at Rimbun Dahan, a residency space set amongst an Indigenous Southeast Asian garden that features traditional Malay architecture. In total 23 residencies from 8 Southeast Asian countries and 9 from non-Southeast Asian countries with an interest or investment in the region gathered to strengthen ties and share expertise, case studies and strategies to ensure sustainability.

I’m not sure what’s in store for my next professional association with Malaysia, but I very much look forward to it!

If you missed the first part of the interview, find it here.

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Amy De Kanter
Amy De Kanter

Former Chief Editor, frequent contributor and enthusiastic audience member, Amy is thrilled to have a job that lets her do three of the things she loves most.