My Artist Residency Wrap-Up

By Megan Monafu, Artist-in-Residence

Dear Impact Hub Ottawa: My time as Hub’s Artist-in-Residence is coming to an end. I’ve had an exciting full-time career opportunity come up that requires me to switch focus, and while I’ll still be seeing you around and consulting with the Hub team, I’m easing out of my Artist-in-Residence role.

To wrap-up the residency I will be interviewing leaders in Ottawa who are conducting their own innovative artist residencies and I’ll be writing a blog that brings together some of the learnings from these initiatives. But first I want to share with you some of my learnings from this Artist-in-Residence pilot project at Impact Hub.

As discussed in prior blogs here and here, my role has been to bring arts animations to the Hub space, provide arts consultation to Hub members and Hub staff, and curate visual arts in the space, within about 15 hours per month. Because it was the first time Impact Hub Ottawa had ever tried an artist residency –and one of the first examples of such a residency for Impact Hubs globally–there was a lot of trial and error. Some arts animations stand out as beautiful moments; others generated no interest.

So here are some large areas of learning.

Cross-sector collisions need a reason to collide

I offered weekly arts consultation office hours, where anyone could drop by and discuss arts-related matters. Though I put it out there a few times through blogs, tweets, and Hubnet that I was skilled in cross-disciplinary facilitation and was looking to have conversations with non-arts workers, pick-up on this front was minimal. Arts consultations primarily attracted Hub members who already had at least some connection to the arts, and while it was great to serve those people it didn’t lead to much cross-sector discussion. Offering an open forum wasn’t enough.

In retrospect, this makes sense. People want a concrete reason to start a conversation. We don’t have enough existing examples of the arts collaborating with other innovative sectors to refer to when imagining how to start these conversations at random. In future Hub Artist-in-Residence iterations, it may work better for the artist to lead a collective Hub project that provides a framework for members to easily join regardless of their artistic background.

Space matters

Artists are flexible and can work in many spaces, but there are some issues that never go away. Artists make a mess. Artists make noise. Artists need places to put their weirdly-shaped/heavy/large/smelly work.

It may be that the artistic creation activity that can happen at Hub will always be limited–after all, it is not meant to be a studio. The space worked for me because the main skill I was using in the residency was creative facilitation, but installing the visual art display posed a challenge. As Hub looks to work with other artists, especially visual artists, we’ll need to find people who are inspired by the space itself so that they can work with it.

And space also matters in the sense that people want beauty and freshness in their space. This is not a new learning, but still important to mention. After we installed our CSArt Ottawa visual arts display, we received a lot of comments about how it changed the atmosphere and gave the space new energy.

People want to share

The most successful arts animations I led at Hub were the ones where people had an opportunity to share. A beautiful moment that stands out in my memory is the Inspiration Swap. It was a simple idea, inviting Hubbers to a special Wine Down where they would bring something that inspires them in their work–be it a story, a poem, a saying, or an image. All I did was bring in some brownies and facilitate the inspiration sharing, which was easy compared to other animations such as planning and facilitating a drama workshop for Hub members.

But the Inspiration Swap was hands down the most successful arts animation we had. The atmosphere was warm, it was easy to access, and though people were nervous about sharing, they were happy to share about something important to them.

Moving forward, I would suggest that other arts activities could fill the role of creating a space where Hubbers can share. If the goal is bringing together people from different lines of work, the skill of facilitating will be essential for the artist.

It has been a pleasure to work as Hub’s Artist-in-Residence these past 8 months, learning with you about the possibilities of art in the Hub space. This was only the very beginning of what could be done, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the Hub team and Hub artists try next.


James Chan