Swedish artist residences: how it works

Member of the Nordic Art Association (NKF), chairman of the Swedish section of NKF Alvaro Campo told us about  art institutions in Stockholm and about cultural policy in Sweden.

Open Place interviewed Alvaro Campo

April 13, 2015
Stockholm, Sweden


NKF was founded in 1945 and consists of nine sections, representing Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and the autonomies Faroe Islands, Greennland, Åland and the Samic people.

In search of studio

Open Place: When did the Swedish section of NKF start to work with the residency ?
Alvaro Campo: The Nordic guest Studio has existed for quite a while, but NKF has been running it since 2007. In different times different people were in charge of the studio and the NKF organization has existed since 1945. So, the way it was managed changed but the space is the same quite a lot of time. I have been chairman of the board of the Swedish Section of NKF since 2012. From this time we have been developing a regional concept. Now it’s a project based on organizing artist residencies in Stockholm. Curators, artist run organizations, even larger ones, like schools, can apply for our residencies. The only requirement is that it is attached to a project in Stockholm. You cannot apply as an independent artist from abroad. You can apply if you already have a project with somebody in Stockholm. And you can apply together.
Today, we work with all kinds of organizations. We collaborate with Supermarket, The Modern Museum, smaller art schools and independent curators. This year we have started a new program for curators in Stockholm. (Curatorial Residency in Stockholm) Jonatan Habib Engquist is in charge of the project, he selects different curators and brings them here for short period of time, for a week or for 10 days. These people meet many artists or people connecting with art here. We don’t ask them for anything in exchange, we only give them the space and opportunity to meet lots of people. Consequences we will see later.

Open Place: How is your residence supported?
Alvaro Campo:It’s supported by the city of Stockholm. The building where the studio is located belongs to the city. The whole building is used for artists’ studios, it has been this way for a long time.
Also now we have a grant from Kulturkontakt Nord and other smaller grants, which are connected with projects. With the help of a smaller grant we are developing a web-site for studios’ exchange. (StudioSwap.org) People in Sweden can post there information about their studio, a working place, and other people from different places can do the same. You can exchange studios with other artist. Or you can pay something for renting a studio if you like.

Open Place: What other projects do you do?
Alvaro Campo:One time a year or two years we hold a meeting where everybody we have worked with shows their projects. Everybody talks for five minutes and then also presents his or her work on projector. Then we discuss what we saw. We do it in different spaces. We visit each other and it connects us. It’s a simple idea and it doesn’t take so much time. But this platform is becoming very important for many people in Stockholm. We hope that next years we’ll get funding from the city. We apply for it once every two years. We never feel certain about the results.

Open Place: What will you do if you don’t get this funding?
Alvaro Campo:The most expensive thing for us is the rent. And little costs we spend for taking care of this place, for example for cleaning. It should be funding by organization with big possibilities, like the city of Stockholm or some state institutions and so on.

Independent art and state support

Open Place: How can an artist in Sweden find a studio?
Alvaro Campo: Getting support from state is quite difficult but possible. You can apply for studio and wait for it a lot of time. List of people who want to have studio through the state is long. After some years you will have your permanent studio, but you always have to pay a rent.
There are couple studio grants and you can apply for them. You could get the grant from the city of Stockholm and have a studio for one or two years.

Open Place: What about the situation in Stockholm art-world?
Alvaro Campo: It’s a big question because there are many different aspects of this situation. Very different people work in different areas. For instance the art you see on Supermarket is presented by independent artists and associations. And we have also institutions which host artists and show art. For example, Bonniers Konsthall and Färgfabriken. Magasin III Museum & Foundation for Contemporary Art is not very big but it’s a very important institution. Its events always extremely well organized.
Also we have some art schools the Royal Academy and Konstfack and there are also many institutions and organisations for example Tensta konsthall and Botkyrka Konsthall.

Open Place: How are cultural institutions in Stockholm are connected with the surrounded area?
Alvaro Campo: One institution which comes up to mind in this context is Färgfabriken. It makes lots of projects connected with different social aspects. They make a lot for development of the environment. There are several curators for Färgfabriken’s projects. We collaborated with this organization. In fact, recently one artist from Indonesia lived in our residence and he had the exhibition in Färgfabriken.

The dangerous capital

Open Place: How much is the culture budget in Sweden?
Alvaro Campo: There are the budget of the city and the state budget. State one is divided between different areas of Sweden. But there is also a local budget provided by different cities. There are two separated budgets. City of Stockholm has its own culture budget. It’s formed from taxes. But it’s very small comparing to any other fields of the city budget.

Open Place: What about private money?
Alvaro Campo: They wanted to have less rules and more freedom to create companies, they wanted to have a free market. When the state is eliminated in these questions companies have more possibilities for profit. But we have some dangers on this way. Private companies try to profit from schools and houses for old people. Gathering money on everything is dangerous. The main direction of capitalism is profit and not care so much about people. Big multinational companies will have more and more power in Sweden. Private interests are more and more powerful. I think it’s a very dangerous situation. It’s not the perfect world here, it works now but eventually they will need some new models to come up with.