Creative Exploring in the Arctic

Creative Exploring in the Arctic

Expansive seas under perpetual daylight. An incessant chattering of cracking ice. The thunder of calving icebergs. Ceaseless winds of penetrating cold. An endless resource for inspiration and contemplation.

by Hannah Shepard
ELYSIAN Arts & Culture Editor

With today’s access to illimitable information and global connections, it is unsurprising that artists are seldom defined by a single discipline. In the same vein, collaboration is at the forefront of artistic ingenuity by way of artist collectives, guilds and artist-in-residence programs. A.I.R. programs, in essence, offer space and time for artists to research, experiment and create. These programs are located all over the globe and are wildly diverse in their approach, with the majority focused inside the artistic domain. Some afford artists unadulterated freedom, where they can spend the time as they desire, having no conditions to produce a final product. Others are more structured, requiring focus on a specific outcome, whether that be definitive research, work for an upcoming exhibition or interaction with the local community. 

One such program that is spearheading interdisciplinary collaboration is an annual expeditionary residency that brings together international creatives of all fields—visual artists, scientists, educators, musicians and writers—who collectively explore the High-Arctic Svalbard Archipelago and Arctic Ocean aboard a barquentine sailing vessel for three weeks. The Arctic Circle program, founded in 2009 by current director, Aaron O’Connor, is a rare breed in the realm of residencies whose participants experience extreme conditions while having the opportunity to collaborate across platforms. A panel of jurors reviews and selects approximately 60 participants a year, who are then divided between only two expeditions, one in summer and one in autumn. There are no stipulations to what an applicant can or cannot propose for their residency project.

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