The matching process

The matching process between cultural creators and residencies is fundamental and of greatest importance for our Emergency Residencies (ER) to be carried out. It takes place in close collaboration between Artists at Risk (AR) and SWAN Emergency Residencies. SWAN's coordinator, Theresa Lekberg, talks about the work with ER that she does together with Power Ekroth, SWAN/Artists at Risk (AR). They are the link between SWAN's member residencies and the applying cultural creators from Ukraine.

Text & interview: Maria Söderberg, Studio Karavan

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Theresa Lekberg, Coordinator SWAN

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Power Ekroth, Coordinator SWAN/Artists at Risk (AR)

Theresa, what does the matching process look like?

- A short description of the process becomes very linear, and might appear being much more simple than the reality. All matching processes are unique. But, if I simplify the different stages of the process it would start with the cultural creator who applies for an ER via Artists at Risk. Artists at Risk then validates the artist so that SWAN can find a suitable residency that has signed up as an organizer of Emergency Residencies. The residency organizer then seeks funds from SWAN, municipalities, regions, etc. Travel arrangements are done and the artist arrives on the agreed date. At this stage the residency organizer takes care of the local hosting. But, as I said, this is best case. Reality often look different.

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What can affect the matching process at the different stages? As the process is not linear but might take a bumpy ride, tell us.

- There are a variety of scenarios. Among the most important things to keep in mind is that the conditions for each individual artist look different. Many of the ER applicants are in occupied territories. They are in danger, in enormous uncertainty and perhaps separated from family and loved ones. Most people search for different solutions in these kind of situations. There are times when we have found a residency, but the cultural creator has chosen to cancel the process with us. Some times they have changed their minds and don’t want to leave Ukraine for some reasons. Then you have to keep in mind that they are at war and trying to find solutions themselves. They are not sitting around waiting for us to serve a positive message. They act.

 

- But our process can also be affected by the fact that we have applying artists working with a very specific or narrow art form. This can make it difficult for us to find a suitable residence. On the other hand, the residency organizer might also has such a narrow focus that we currently do not have artists in the queue who are in need of that particular type of place. In those cases, I have a close dialogue with Power, who can keep track of incoming demand for that particular art direction.

 

- In addition, the artists do not always come by themselves, some bring partners and others come as families with children and perhaps pets. That can make our job more difficult as many residences only have room for one.

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What's the most important thing to think about in your job with ER?
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- I relate to what’s most important right now. In some cases, it’s a matter of life and death. I always give priority to artists who are in danger. A priority can also be an artist who is somewhere in Europe, without a roof over his head. In that situation, it also feels prioritized to do one's utmost to find a solution. There’s a reason to why we call it Emergency Residencies. But the order of priority is variable and when a cultural creator has been matched, there are more waiting for their turn. Our work with ER never stops, when we have found a solution for one artist we continue with a new one. Currently, 1,700 cultural creators are waiting in line to get one of the Artists at Risk residencies in Europe. That queue is continuously growing.

What impact does funding have on your job?

- At the start of ER, in March 2022, all residencies with funding from their regions were matched first. Individual residences without their own financing had to wait, but that picture looks different today. During the summer, when we received funds from Svenska Postkodstiftelsen, the Cultural Council and the Swedish Institute, the matching processes have become easier to implement. We've also had the opportunity to extend residencies.

To what extent can the artists influence where they get a residency?

- Our job is to find as well-suited residencies as possible for those who apply for ER. There are limited possibilities for the artists to choose exactly where they will end up. But there are cases when we need to adapt to the current situation. For example when an artist has already arranged their own accommodation or if there are accompanying children who have already been given a place at school. 

"The power to take action in a crisis is built upon each organization's ability to cooperate."

Theresa Lekberg

Any last words about working with ER?

- I'm incredibly proud of the cooperation we developed so quickly through the partnership with Artists at Risk (AR), also knowing the impact a temporary artist residency can have in a cultural workers life. I see this as the beginning of extending SWAN Emergency residencies to also accommodate artists from other countries, risking their lives for democracy and freedom of expression. The power to take action in a crisis is built upon each organization's ability to cooperate. The engagement from the SWAN network with residency organizers was instant, both artist run initiatives and big art institutions have joined forces and worked together.

 

- Since March 2022, we have succeeded in matching 55 cultural creators with 36 different residencies. Residencies that provide a haven for Ukrainian artists, time and space to develop their artistry which can lead to both job and further education in Sweden after the residency period ends.

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Exhibition: Emergency Suitcase, Studio Silk

Photo: Studio Silk