Funded 10 Month Artist Residency in Rural Northumberland - VARC

Deadline: 11/10/2019  |  Published: 12/08/2019  |  Region: Northumberland  |  Country: United Kingdom  |  Visual Arts in Rural Communities

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A ten-month residency with Visual Arts in Rural Communities (VARC) at Highgreen in rural Northumberland June 2020 – April 2021. Part of a two-year multi-partner programme ENTWINED: Rural. Land. Lives. Art. This vibrant programme will comprise 6 unique artist residency opportunities culminating in an exhibition and publication in 2021. The ten-month residency forms part of Year 2.

When: 29 June 2020 – 26 April 2021

Where it is, access and accommodation:

The residency is hosted by VARC (Visual Arts in Rural Communities) and the artist will live and work at VARC's base at Highgreen, Tarset, Northumberland, NE48 1RP. See for more about the charity.  Tarset is a sparsely populated rural part of Northumberland where land is mostly devoted to hill-farming. See for more about the area.   

Highgreen is made up of a collection of early to mid-19th Century buildings. Whilst the studio and site is generally on ground level with no steps, the buildings have access limitations. The artist’s flat is in part of a restored stable block and is accessed via a steep flight of stairs. We realise this isn’t ideal and makes the residency unsuitable for artists who use wheelchairs or find stairs difficult to manage. You can see photos of the studio and access to the living accommodation in the photo Gallery. The local shops are in Bellingham, some 8 miles away and Newcastle is 40 miles away so the artist will need to have his/her own transport. 

What is provided:

A free studio and living accommodation plus a fee of £10,000 paid to the artist.  The artist is responsible for their own personal costs eg materials, transport, food, access needs etc.  In addition, there will be agreed travel expenses paid including travel to attend the Sharing day and the end of programme conference (see below).

There will be an exhibition at the end of the ENTWINED: Rural. Land. Lives. Art programme that VARC staff will support. 

VARC will produce a publication that will include work from the entire ENTWINED: Rural. Land. Lives. Art. programme.

Please note that contact with VARC staff will be limited due to staff working part time hours and therefore it is important that the artist is able to work independently. The artist will receive support with engagement, events and promotion.

About ENTWINED: Rural. Land. Lives. Art:

A multi-partner project comprising 6 mixed length artist residencies. With an engagement programme of workshops, open days and sharing days the programme will culminate in 2021 with an exhibition and a publication.

Through the artists’ practice, different aspects of what makes a ‘place’ will be explored and the interconnectedness of rural land and rural lives revealed. Artists are open to respond to the theme in the broadest sense and could investigate people, animals and the landscape (that link in to current research conversations around 'human' & 'non-human' relationships), marks left by old industries and new technologies, issues such as sustainable energy, access and re-wilding, changes in farming practices, skills and traditions, current expressions of culture and community and how new environmental conditions affect people and nature alike. Artist residencies based in a number of venues in the community of Tarset and North Tyne (Kielder Village, Unison Colour, Tarset Village Hall and The Heritage Centre at Bellingham) as well at VARC (Highgreen) will encourage closer, direct working with people and material. The hosts and venues are as follows:

Year 1:

Based at VARC, Highgreen 10 months (June 2019 – April 2020) Artist appointed and in residence.

Based at Kielderhead Wildwood Project (Northumberland Wildlife Trust) 1 month (April 2020)

Based at Unison Colour 1 month (May 2020)

Year 2:

Based at VARC, Highgreen 10 months (June 2020 – April 2021)

Based at Tarset Village Hall 1 month (May 2021)

Based at The Heritage Centre at Bellingham 1 month (June 2021)

ENTWINED: Rural. Land. Lives. Art. will encourage artists to draw on and contribute to the rich and previously under-explored sources of material and wealth of knowledge held by the many groups and organisations supporting the programme. Whilst the focus will be on an examination of Tarset and the North Tyne, artists’ exploration will be rhizomatic in methodology as artists follow threads of investigation accessing archives, libraries and collections locally and across the region. Skill sharing and partnership working is crucial and artists selected will affirm this approach.

Public of all ages will share in and contribute to a conversation about an ecology of place with regard to Tarset and the North Tyne but also, through connections, that is larger than the local with potential to link to similar projects and communities elsewhere in the UK and world-wide.

The programme is supported by many organisations both locally and regionally and the artist will be able to work alongside and access expertise and resources of the following to aid his or her research and development of artwork as well as the extensive knowledge of local residents and farmers:

  • Natural History Society of Northumbria
  • Northumberland Wildlife Trust
  • Northumberland Archives
  • Tarset Archive Group
  • Kielder Water and Forest Park
  • Northumberland National Park Authority
  • The Heritage Centre at Bellingham
  • Newcastle University Centre for Rural Economy

The two-year programme of which this residency is part, is funded by Arts Council England National Lottery Funding, VARC, Newcastle University (Institute for Creative Arts Practice), Northumbria University (Visual Arts and Material Culture Research Group), Sunderland University (Walking, Art, Landskip and Knowledge Research Group), Northumberland County Council and Community Foundation Trust.


VARC seeks an artist that wishes to spend 10 months living and working in rural Northumberland investigating ‘place’ in the broadest sense of the word. This could be exploring Tarset’s rural community and livelihoods, culture and tradition – past, present and future or exploring the relationships between people and nature in the widest sense; climate, dark skies, energy, habitat and species for example. 

Students are not eligible to apply. Artists for this post will be asked to apply for advanced DBS clearance, the administrative fee for which VARC will pay for. Artists who have not lived and worked in the UK in the past will be expected to provide their country’s equivalent certificate. Artists must have a driving licence and car.

The selection criteria are:

  • Permission to live and work in the UK for ten months
  • Quality and strength of work in any media
  • A demonstrated passion for research into the ecology of place in the broadest sense
  • Evidence that this research informs their artwork
  • A desire and willingness to be part of the ENTWINED: Rural. Land. Lives. Art. programme, to share skills and research methodology
  • Through the engagement activities, be committed to work with members of the public of all ages
  • Demonstration that this residency will benefit artistic practice and professional development

The artist will research and make work around the theme as outlined above and will be committed to:

  • Live and work at Highgreen during the residency period
  • Work in a spirit of mutual knowledge and skill sharing with residents and supporting organisations
  • Host a public Open Studio session at the start of the residency
  • Lead 2 x 1/2 day creative workshops with groups of local people/families.
  • Provide 2 x Creative Research Sharing sessions with members of Otterburn Youth Groups working towards ‘Discover’ Arts Award
  • Lead a full day exploring and creative workshop at Highgreen
  • Mentor/lead up to 3 days of student placements from regional universities’ fine art departments.
  • Make artwork for display at the conclusion of your residency in April 2021 and for inclusion in the Exhibition at the end of the programme (Autumn 2021)
  • Aim to take part in the sharing day in the summer of 2020 and at the conference at the end of the programme (Autumn 2021)
  • Feature in a short artist film documenting the programme

The deadline for applications is Friday 11th October. Unsuccessful applicants will be notified by 29th November 2019. Due to limited staff resources, we are unable to provide feedback to unsuccessful applicants.

Interviews of shortlisted artists will be held by Skype. These will take place on Thursday 14th November 2019. It will be the responsibility of shortlisted artists to make sure they have a good Skype connection.

The selection panel for this and all residencies in the programme is made up of curators, arts academics and researchers and arts professionals of the partner organisations and VARC itself.  


A visit to Highgreen is possible for shortlisted artists only. Unfortunately, there is no funding to arrange travel or accommodation for visits.

Please see the list of FAQ and contact the curator for any other questions.


Contact the curator
Who is eligible for this opportunity?
All professional artists able to live and work in the UK for 10 months. Students are not eligible.
When is the deadline?
5pm Friday 11th October 2019
How many works can I submit?
You can upload up to 10 images, a list of image details and a CV, plus audio and video files if relevant.
How much does it cost?
The artist pays nothing but needs to cover his/her own personal expenses, food and any support costs.
Are there payments to artists?
Yes; £10,000 fee for the 10 month residency. The artist residency fees are augmented by provision of free studio space and living accommodation with utility bills paid and broadband provided. The total package for a 12 month residency would be worth £27,500. The residency fees of £1000 per month are based on the expectation that artists will spend up to one day per week planning, preparing and undertaking engagement with the community. This time valued at £250 per day is in line with A-N The Artist’s Information Company recommended for established artists. The remainder of the artist’s residency time is for them to develop their artwork and is supported by the provision of the accommodation etc plus staff support. Any expenses incurred through engagement including travel, are paid to the artist. Travel to attend any of the Sharing Days, are also covered by VARC.
What are the exhibition opportunities?
There will be an Open Studio event at the beginning and end of your residency, a chance to show work at the Sharing Day in Summer 2020 and a group exhibition that will include work made during your residency early in Autumn 2021.
Does the location have disabled access?
The studio and most of the site has reasonably level ground with no steps. But the buildings are converted farm buildings and have limitations. The artist's flat has stairs that sadly would exclude wheelchair users or those with limited mobility.
What publicity will be provided as part of the opportunity?
VARC staff will promote the artist's work through social media and e-newsletters. The artist will feature in an exhibition and a publication.
Do I need to be present?
The artist needs to live in the accommodation provided.
What happens if my proposal is chosen?
Shortlisted artists only will be invited for interview. The interview will take place via Skype on Thursday 14th
November 2019.
What are the selection criteria?
• Permission to live and work in the UK for ten months
• Quality and strength of work in any media
• A demonstrated passion for research into the ecology of place in the broadest sense
• Evidence that this research informs their artwork
• A desire and willingness to be part of the ENTWINED: Rural. Land. Lives. Art. programme, to share skills and research methodology
• Through the engagement activities, be committed to work with members of the public of all ages
• Demonstration that this residency will benefit artistic practice and professional development
Can I apply for more than one of the residencies?
Yes. However you must make a separate application on CuratorSpace for each of the residencies you wish to apply for and make clear why you feel your work is suited to the particular residency.
Do I need a visa?
If you are applying from overseas, you will need to be able to work in the UK for 10 months. VARC has a sponsor's licence and can assist with this process.
What is in the studio?
The studio has running water, electricity and wifi. VARC has a small selection of tools and equipment. However any specialist equipment will need to be the artists’ own.
What support will I receive?
VARC has 2 part time members of staff so contact time will be limited. The staff do not live on site and so it is important that the artist can work independently. The VARC Director will ensure you have relevant introductions with partner organisations and will coordinate events. The Engagement Manager will help to arrange workshops and volunteers can also support you. Any specific support needs should be discussed with the Director in advance of the residency.

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