Art Residency: Barbara Gryka Networking in New York

Residency stay in New York? Many artists dream about spending a month at an art residency in the art capital of the world. Not to mention having all residency-related expenses fully covered – this option would appeal to almost anybody. We recently had an opportunity to talk to Barbara Gryka – the first place winner of the Hestia Artistic Journey competition. Her submission was evaluated by prominent jury members, such as Nathalie Anglès – the founder and director of Residency Unlimited in New York. Thanks to her success, the artist was invited to a one month-long Artist-in-Residence programme in New York.

Barbara works across many fields of art including performance, painting, video and objects. In her works she narrates around the nature of human beings, their relationship with the surroundings and artefacts that influence their life. She also talks about social and political relations a person finds himself in. Interaction with the audience is a very important aspect of her works.

photo: Barbara Gryka

photo: Barbara Gryka

Your residency stay was an award that you won. Could you tell us more about the steps when applying and the contest in general? Our readers probably do not know too much about the competition organized by Hestia.  

I went to the residency organized by Residency Unlimited in New York City. My stay was the main prize for winning the competition organized by Hestia Artistic Journey Foundation at the Museum of Moder Art in Warsaw. The competition was intended for students who were invited to send their works to the competition organizers (the rules were typical for an open call). Later on, if the work was approved by the jury, it was qualified for an exhibition and their author was invited for an interview with the jury. During this conversation we were encouraged to talk about our artistic activities and practices. Receiving such prize is a really great honour and distinction for a young person who is only about to start a career as an artist. And New York City is obviously the icing on the cake! The place is fabulous, dynamic, positive and its residents are open-minded. I simply fell in love with it <3

What did your average art residency day look like? 

I had a drafted schedule which included three-hour meetings with curators invited to Residency Unlimited. These meetings took place three times a week. The invited guests talked to me about my works, portfolio, interests and what I would like to focus on. They also gave me suggestions on what could be improved in my works. These meetings really broadened my horizons and helped me a lot.

On my free days I tried to get up early and see as much as I could in the city. I visited museums, galleries, other tourist attractions, I strolled across some districts. It is amazing how different they are from each other, as if they were separate cities. I walked a lot which was why I felt that I gradually got to know the city better. I still remember travelling by subway which is like an alternate reality. There is a different concert at every station, someone is playing an instrument, someone else is singing around the corner… this is magic.

In November the PERFORMA performance art festival is organized in the city and it spans the whole month. It is an event on a grand scale, just unbelievable. Rosie Goldberg invites the most famous artists of the year, e.g. Ed Atkins or Kia LaBeija.

I found the best food in Chinatown, where I tasted a delicious mixture of Asian flavours 😉

Tell us about the projects you are working on right now?

My next projects will be about Poland. I love the place I come from or maybe I am fed up with it a little. I am not so sure.

From your experience, what distinguishes working as part of a residency from working in your home country?

When you are at a residency you can look at what you do from a different perspective.

photo: Barbara Gryka

photo: Barbara Gryka

Does the change of context help you in the creative process?

The change of context is extremely important. Residency programmes allow you to look at new things, experience a different place and cultural differences. This really helps in your artistic activity later on.

Did you place an emphasis on your work or rather on meeting people and exploring the city and your surroundings?

In the art capital, which New York City certainly is, I particularly focused on exploring, meeting and experiencing art. I did not devote my entire time and energy to creating.

What challenges and opportunities did the residency involve?

I really missed my relatives and friends, but that was the only challenge I faced. During the short residency stay you can create a new work of art, but it is not always possible.

The opportunities created by such residency stays are meetings with art professionals who teach you how to present yourself and your works in a proper way.

photo: Barbara Gryka

photo: Barbara Gryka

Name three objects which were most important to you during the residency.

I would not call these things creative – the most important were my Macbook, a notebook and a phone.

What was the role of institution in your residency? What did it provide you with?

I was provided with a studio to work, an apartment to live and all materials needed to create my art.

What would you recommend to artists going abroad for an art residency?

Be open to new people, talk to them, meet with them, share experiences with other artists and be happy to get to know opinions which are different from your own. After my stay in the US I became much more relaxed. Art has to be treated seriously, but it always needs a bit of irony and kittenishness.

photo: Barbara Gryka

photo: Barbara Gryka

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About The Author


Founder and director of London-based arts organisation Contemporary Lynx, since 2013. Editor-in-chief and founder of the print magazine Contemporary Lynx with a global reach and international distribution, listed as one of the best art magazines in London by Sotheby’s Institute of Art and recommended by Tate Modern bookshop.

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