What advocacy role does Res Artis play?

The residency field has diversified a lot within the past 15 years. Residencies not only connect the most advanced with the least represented areas in the world based on the principle of hospitality and trust, they also test alternative economic models in order for their organizations to sustain and grow. Residencies host refugee artists and exiled cultural professionals. They foster peace-keeping and inter-cultural understanding, and more and more create occupation and opportunities for their local communities to sustain in economically and politically difficult climates. The experiences, worries and concerns of the residency field are not yet adequately represented on the policy, program or strategic level of the EU and International cultural councils and ministries. This includes the Human Right to move freely, the visa code, and working rights for international cultural professionals, and more. We want to change that. Res Artis provides an advocacy role on behalf of all our members.

Res Artis membership to Culture Action Europe

Res Artis was voted onto the Board of Culture Action Europe (CAE) in October 2013 in order to represent the issues of the artist residency field, and our membership specifically. We now remain ongoing members of CAE, and fully support the powerful 5 year strategic plan that encorages cross-sectorial collaborations to invest in a common future.

Here is an excerpt from CAE’s 5 year Strategic Plan:

Our linear world view has come to an end; the shared prosperity and welfare as the two pillars we were told it was built on no longer exist. The argument that we need to shrink the resources that go to the public sphere in order to restore the financial base and finally our societies, is dangerous propaganda. This money has been dramatically cut already, badly affecting welfare, justice, human rights, public space and services, environmental care, rights to culture, education for all, and more. CAE is lobbying for a cultural sector that remembers the role culture plays for social development. Always has played and crucially plays again now in our times of transition. Culture must be acknowledged in all policy making decisions, programs and strategies on the EU level (Europe 2020 does not do that yet!), and beyond, and be integrated in every project on the private sector as well.

Advocacy Topics supported by Res Artis

Below are some important advocacy topics that Res Artis is supporting:

Visa & Mobility

The right to move freely
According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR, 1948) all people are entitled to the recognition of inherent dignity and certain inalienable rights, which are the “foundations of freedom and justice in the world.” Freedom of movement is part of the “liberty of man” thus making it one of the most basic human rights. Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stipulates:
“Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State. Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and return to his country.”
The right to free movement or the denial of it, within national and international borders can have profound effects upon other basic human rights also outlined in the UDHR and other treaties. Without the right to leave one’s home and the right to return to it, a cultural worker may be politically repressed, prevented from observing his or her chosen belief, prevented from enjoying the basic right to marriage or family life, or blocked from a job or an education that ultimately could enhance his or her quality of life. While free movement may seem on the surface to be a fairly minor and obvious human right, it actually is one of the most basic rights that in many nations around the world is undercut and compromised. For residency organisations, the guaranteed protection of the full human rights of their residents, as well as their own rights, informs the fundament of their work. This makes it for us a central matter of concern that we want our members to be well-informed about, to create opportunities to help each other, and to advocate for them on governmental and non-governmental policy making platforms.

Today, the work of artists and cultural workers is still considered nontraditional and precarious within the context of transnational movement. Problems mainly arise from a set of features: frequent travelling, short notice (and difficulties in preparing the applications in advance so as to have a response on time), precarious working conditions and irregular and/or low revenues, which make it difficult to comply with the ‘proof of financial means’ required for the applications as part of the risk assessment procedure.

Very often all of these categories apply to the potential residents, as well as they can apply to the residency organisers themselves. In many cases, the support given to the artists by residency organisations is vital to smooth the visa application procedure, especially in situations where the artists cannot personally travel to the Embassy, Consulate or agency dealing with their application. In some cases, the Embassy concerned is located in another country itself, and to get there already involves a visa application process.

Residencies as ‘Safe havens’

Cultural workers are easy targets; where artists and cultural workers are threatened to lose their human right of expression, or participation in cultural life, it is a sign that a State has in general withdrawn from its obligation to secure conditions under which artists and creators can live and thrive (art. 19,22,27 (2) UDHR). It mostly means that other human and civil rights are endangered as well.
An increasing number of artists and cultural professionals from Europe, and beyond, have to flee their country due to human rights violations to the extent that they are in need of temporary or permanent re-location.
These cultural workers need not only the crucial local and international connections to leave their home but also a place to stay abroad or in their own country, sometimes only for a few days, sometimes for a longer period of time, to recover and create a sustainable situation for themselves.
A residency place in the cultural world can save artists (and their families) from a life in psychological and physical distress and political and social repression, and the risk to be silenced or eliminated.
Below is a list or organisations working on the topic of Residencies as Safe Havens. Res Artis fully supports their work and cause:
  • ICORN Sweden is closely monitoring the residencies that create safe havens for persecuted artists, and has contributed to an EC report called: Mapping of temporary shelter initiatives for Human Rights Defenders in danger in and outside the EU, 2012.
  • freeDimensional (fD) has devised a collaborative approach that builds partnerships between arts residencies and human rights organizations worldwide to provide a wide variety of Distress Services to those in need including Creative Safe Haven. The Creative Safe Haven initiative brings about a ground-breaking idea: using surplus bedrooms of artist residency programs to counter the accommodation dilemma faced by the human rights community who know, and are connected to, oppressed activists in need of a safe place to live when fleeing danger.
  • The International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN) is an association of cities around the world dedicated to the value of Freedom of Expression. Writers have consistently been targets of politically motivated threats and persecution, and the network believes it is necessary for the international community to formulate and implement an appropriate response.By providing a Guest Writer with a safe place to stay and economic security for a standard term of two years, ICORN cities make an important, practical contribution to the promotion of Freedom of Expression.
  • The Committee to Protect Journalists: The Journalist Assistance program helps journalists through a combination of financial and non-financial assistance. CPJ maintains a small distress fund through which it dispenses emergency grants to journalists. The program also raises funds for journalists from outside sources and collaborates with other freedom of expression organizations. When necessary, CPJ lobbies governments or international agencies to help secure refugee or asylum status for journalists. We provide logistical support to journalists when they resettle in exile. CPJ also refers journalists to resources, including information on grants, fellowships, and awards.
  • FREEMUSE: The objectives of Freemuse are to document violations and discuss their effects on music life, inform media, human rights organisations and the public, support musicians in need and observe at their trials, develop a global network in support of threatened musicians and composers.
  • PEN: Pen is promoting Literature and defending Freedom of Expression. They collaborate with human rights organisations to support repressed and exiled writers in various ways.
  • Front Line Defenders: Front Line Defenders was founded in Dublin in 2001 with the specific aim of protecting human rights defenders at risk, people who work, non-violently, for any or all of the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Front Line Defenders aims to address the protection needs identified by defenders themselves. Front Line Defenders seeks to provide rapid and practical support to at-risk human rights defenders.
  • Artists at Risk Connection (ARC): is a collaborative project led by PEN America, which has been committed to protecting open expression in the United States and worldwide since 1922. ARC serves as a hub for freedom of expression and artistic freedom organizations worldwide, networking together to support artists at risk. The ARC network supports artists everywhere so they can live and work without fear.

Useful links

Scholars at Risk (SAR): invites Network member universities and colleges to help threatened scholars by hosting them during temporary visits as professors, researchers, and lecturers, visiting scholars, post-docs, graduate fellows or students.
Art Moves Africa (AMA):is an international not for profit organisation aiming to facilitate cultural and artistic exchanges within the African continent. AMA offers travel funds to artists, arts professionals and cultural operators living and working in Africa to travel within the African continent in order to engage in the exchange of information, the enhancement of skills, the development of informal networks and the pursuit of cooperation.
• Fractured Atlas: Getting a visa to work as an artist in the United States is a time-consuming and frustrating process. As part of this lengthy process, artists applying for these visas often need letters of consultation/no objection that vouch for their artistic excellence. These can be hard to get if you’re not already in a union or other professional association (and sometimes even if you are). Fractured Atlas can help, but they are not lawyers.

Artists from Abroad: Exhaustive site for visa applications for foreign artists coming to the US
• Touring Artists: The information portal for internationally touring artists coming to Germany

Share your resources

Share a link and useful information with our network! Send us an email at office@resartis.org with information that can be included in this section or shared via our communication channels.