In-school residencies can be a welcome source of revenue for a group or an individual teaching artist. Like any line of work, it can be hard to break into, but once you do, it becomes easier to get more of it. Here are some tips:
Develop a one-pager.
This doc should explain how your program will benefit the students and the school receiving the residency. Keep it to one page and make sure there’s lots of “air” on the page. Bulleted lists and 2-3 paragraphs with spaces in between them are good; a solid wall of text is not. The Americans for the Arts has a TON of research on the benefits of arts education and is a good starting point. This one-pager should guide the conversation in meetings with teachers and principals, and you should leave a copy with them at the end of the meeting.
Leverage your existing network.
When I was a taiko newbie, my group performed at an elementary school where a member’s granddaughter was a student. Her teacher LOVED the performance. The following year, I approached that teacher about a residency and she was immediately an advocate. She convinced the rest of the teachers at her grade level and the principal, and we did a residency there the following year.
I landed my first residency after moving to the Bay Area when a taiko friend mentioned that another friend had just passed on a residency. The first friend connected me with the person booking the residency and they booked me right away because I came to them through a recommendation.
The lesson here: be social. Make friends. Hang out with them. Go to events. Let people in your orbit know you’re looking for residency work.
Find your own funding.
Schools rarely have the money to fully fund an artist-in-residence program. Many states have a statewide arts agency that offers partial grants to help cover the cost, but schools don’t always know about this resource. Do your research beforehand, and bring at least one grant opportunity to the school to help cover your fee. Some states require that the school be the applicant, so it’s very helpful to the school if you can provide grant language they’ll need to put together a proposal.
Residencies attract more residencies.
Just like performances attract more performances, completing even one successful residency is a strong indicator that more will come your way. Kids talk to parents, parents talk to neighbors and co-workers, teachers talk to peers at other schools. This word of mouth is likely to bring you more work.
Don’t give up if it takes months or even a year or two to land your first residency - more will almost certainly follow. Of course, the stronger your program, the easier it will be to find additional work. I can help - contact me for support in creating a great in-school residency. Happy teaching!