How it all started: Trees inspire a family legacy

The seeds for Studio 88 were planted many years ago, by Aom’s grandfather, who first taught her the value of giving back to the community. Every time Aom returns home she is reminded of his foresight and community spirit standing tall in the row of teak trees along the 6 kilometer long canal road. Her grandfather did not live a long life to see these trees growing strong, but he has left the legacy not only to his family but people who are enjoying their shelter.

Aom and Sak planting teak trees, Studio 88 Artist Residency, Chiang Mai
Aom and Sak planting teak trees, Studio 88 Artist Residency, Chiang Mai

This simple act of an ordinary man has proven that anyone can create an impact in life. With her father, Aom had the idea to continue her grandfather’s legacy and kept planting more teak trees. A number of people stopped and asked what they were doing – many expressed their appreciation and wanted to help. The trees became about more than just creating a shady path, and have become about the way nature, people and culture can interact in daily life.

Teak tree Studio 88 Artist Residency, Chiang MaiThe story of her grandfather has inspired Aom to create a creative space where she could build a legacy to share with a community of like-minded people. Working with museums and galleries, visiting creative studios and maker spaces, have inspired her to create an artistic space that encourages creativity and collaboration. Because of her work and connection in the arts and culture, Aom decided to link the potential of arts and culture to create positive change with her love for giving back to her local community.

Studio 88 Artist Residency, Chiang Mai
Space for reflecting at Studio 88 Artist Residency, Chiang Mai

One of Aom’s colleagues and friends, Claire, is a writer who has returned many times to the tranquil space, where she’s worked on writing projects. It was when Aom and Claire started sharing ideas of creative space for social change that they decide to create Studio 88. Taking a lesson from Aom’s grandfather they knew it was important to make change in small steps, one tree at a time. With Studio 88 they don’t want to create a space to visit, but rather a place where artists can share and shape the space, where friends can become family.

The journey of Studio 88 has just begun, and hopefully many planting hands from near and far can share in its growth.

 

By Sasiwimon Wongjarin (Aom)

Don’t let old age get you down

Sak, a self-taught and veteran woodworker of Doi Saket, just turned 60 last year. He is now considered a senior citizen and entitled for elderly allowance. What does this mean to him and the community and society he lives in? And what can we at Studio 88 do to help?

Workshop with senior citizens at Studio 88 Artist Residency, Chiang Mai
Workshop with senior citizens at Studio 88 Artist Residency, Chiang Mai

Thailand will become a full-fledged ageing society in 2021 when the number of its senior citizens is expected to reach 13.1 million or 20 per cent of the total population, the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB) reported recently. This means one out of five people will be an elderly citizen. While their numbers increase, many in the older generations have low or negligible savings and assets to care for themselves.

Sak working at Studio 88 Artist Residency Chiang Mai
Sak working at Studio 88 Artist Residency, Chiang Mai

Sak doesn’t let his age worry him. Based on his expertise and experience, he approached the local Office of the Non-Formal and Informal Education (NFE) and proposed an idea to organise capacity building and skills training on woodworking workshop for local (senior) people. The workshop, held in early 2019, aimed to equip people with new skills and enable people to generate extra income from the skills that they learnt. Fifteen community members with different level of skills attended the workshop.

Workshop with senior citizens at Studio 88 Artist Residency, Chiang Mai
Workshop with senior citizens at Studio 88 Artist Residency, Chiang Mai

The participants learnt technical skills, from basic shape making with handmade tools to wood turning with machines. They made simple kitchen utensils like spoons, spatulas, shelves and home décor, like key chain hangers and stair railings. The items were simple and straightforward. Many of them hoped they might be able to use these skills to gain extra income, while others had plans to make items for family members.

Home décor made at the workshop with senior citizens at Studio 88 Artist Residency, Chiang Mai
Home décor made at the workshop with senior citizens at Studio 88 Artist Residency, Chiang Mai

The project might have been small, but it demonstrates how we could create a better livelihood within local communities – it’s never too late to learn a new skill. Sak is already thinking about other ways he could share his skills in meaningful ways. In the same vein, I invite artists and designers and anyone at Studio 88 to collaborate with local community to learn local wisdom as well as share their own knowledge. This is one way in which Studio 88 would like to make positive change, on both small and large scales.

 

Sasiwimon Wongjarin (Aom)

 

Where can artists find funding to travel?

So you’ve found the perfect artist residency or opportunity, but how can you get there? Making ends meet as an artist can be difficult enough without the added challenge of trying to travel half way across the world. However, travelling as part of a creative practice can provide amazing opportunities and inspiration, even if it takes years to come into fruition in your work.

Here we outline a few places to look if you’re seeking funding to travel to an artist residency. This is not an exhaustive list, but rather a place to get a few ideas of where to start.

Look out for useful resources

Every country has a distinct context and capacity to support artists who travel for their creative practice, however there are a few organisations that focus specifically on the importance of artist mobility.

One such European-based organisation is On the Move, a cultural mobility information network that provides extensive resources about the available funding for artists to travel. They have many publically accessible guides for artists looking for support, including guides for Europe, Asia, Arab countries, USA, Africa and the Latin American and Caribbean region. Culture360.org, a platform that stimulates cultural engagement between Asia and Europe, is also a good resource for opportunities for artists and cultural workers in the two regions.

In Africa there are a few organisations that support regional mobility, such as Art Moves Africa, that aims to facilitate cultural and artistic exchanges within the African continent, and Africa Art Lines, that funds artists and cultural workers for projects between Morocco and other African countries. In Asia, initiatives such as Arts Network Asia or Asian Cultural Council (ACC) encourage exchange between Asia (and in the case of ACC, also with the USA). The Fonds Roberto Cimetta has a similar mission within the Mediterranean region.

Investigate country-specific initiatives

On a county-level, a good place to start is the arts councils or local government. This could be at a national, regional or city level. The city level could have smaller grants for local artists, which are often less competitive with shorter processing times. Ask around at your local council to see what opportunities are available. For bigger projects, some national and regional bodies offer grants for larger artistic projects, which might include travel or professional development opportunities.

Another approach could be to research what national initiatives there are for the promotion of culture overseas. For example, the Catalonian Ramon Llull Institute promotes Catalan culture abroad and includes funding for touring and promotion activities. A similar organisation is the British Council, with offices all over the world, promoting cultural relations as well as education. Other such organisations include the Japan Foundation, the Confucius Institute, Alliance Française, Goethe Institute and the Creative Force by the Swedish Institute. In some countries there are also initiatives organised by departments of foreign affairs. These include once-off funding rounds that celebrate connections between countries (such as Japonismes 2018, that celebrated 160 years of diplomatic relations between Japan and France through a cultural programme in more than 100 venues across an 8-month period). You can look at the foreign affairs department of your country to see if there is a specific country focus (and grants) for any given year. For example, Wales Arts International has a current geographical focus of Europe, China, Canada and India, and in 2018 the Australian Cultural Diplomacy Grants Program focused on Japan.

Consider opportunities related to professional development and education

Others areas to look could be peak bodies for a particular art form, for example author, visual arts or performing arts associations. These peak bodies often collate opportunities for artists or they might even provide funding opportunities of their own.

Alternatively, art schools and art departments at universities might offer travel scholarships, either as part of a degree or as an award to their alumni at the end of the degree. There might also be institutes within a university that focus on a particular geographic area. For example the University of Sydney’s Southeast Asia Centre has a grant scheme that supports research, mobility and language study while Asialink, based within the University of Melbourne, offers grants for artist residencies.

Think outside the box

There are also private organisations and foundations that fund cultural activities as part of their philanthropic programme. For example, the Toyota Foundation supports artistic projects, mainly in Japan, South and Southeast Asia.

Is there an organisation that you can approach about your creative idea? Do they have business with the country where you’re doing your residency? It could be worth approaching them with a pitch for your next creative project.

Some grants to keep an eye on

Here are a few interesting funding opportunities that support the cross-cultural exchange of artists:

If you are accepted to Studio 88 Artist Residency we are more than happy to provide a letter of support for your funding application. But in the meanwhile, happy grant hunting!

 

Open Call for Artists: 12 April

Studio 88 is now calling for artists in any discipline for the August-September residency period.

Studio 88 Artist Residency is a space to play, share, learn, make mistakes and experiment in the northern Thai town of Doi Saket. Set in a rural landscape just 30 minutes from the cultural city of Chiangmai, Studio 88 gives time and space to focus on creating.

The aim of the residency is to provide time out from the busy day-to-day life in order to spend time in a tranquil space to create and think. There is no pressure to produce anything by the end of the residency, although the team can help to facilitate connections with galleries or other initiatives if the resident is interested.

In the first week Sasiwimon Wongjarin (Aom), an international arts manager and a native of Doi Saket, will introduce the residents to the space and the local context through a series of studio tours and site visits. Additionally, where possible she can provide any additional information about local artist initiatives relevant to each artist’s interests. The residency is an open format where each resident has the freedom to shape their own direction and focus.

Check out the application details and send your applications by Friday 12 April 2019.