Based in the city with the world’s busiest airport, Atlanta’s AIR AIR artist residency is about to launch its third cycle, sending three artists on round-trip flights across the country on 24-hour trips, during which they create artwork under the constraints of space, time, and sensory deprivation.
In art parlance, A-I-R stands for Artists in Residence, creating a play on words when combined with the residency’s air travel component. This round includes printmaker and professor Erin Sweeney (Peterborough, NH); book artist Hannah Batsel (Chicago); and tattoo artist and sign painter Kayleigh Phillips (Charleston, WV). Following their flights on May 3-4, the artists will show their in-flight artwork in a one-night pop-up exhibition at the bar Mother in the Old Fourth Ward on May 4.
Started in 2017 by Atlanta designer Brandy Barker, the biannual residency challenges the artists to create work while confined to the space of just their airplane seat, with only materials they can bring in a carry-on bag. As an artist herself, Barker is aware of the time and money commitment that can often deter talented artists from taking up residencies, so she came up with the idea of AIR AIR while on a cross-country trip herself.
“I really aimed to create a residency that doesn’t take artists away from their life and family for long periods of time,” she explains. “But I also wanted to allow for a challenge that artists can learn from and take this new creative way of thinking back to their studios. This reshapes the way they think about their practice, like, if I can create this work in a 3-hour flight, what can I produce in more time at my studio?’”
The residency includes airfare, overnight lodging, meals and a materials stipend. The application fee is only $10 in order to minimize the cost barrier for artists. In the previous round, AIR AIR received more than 70 applicants from around the country. Previous artists include Stacie Rose, Elise Williams and Joe Dreher of Atlanta, Lily Kuonen of Jacksonville, Michelle Miller of Chicago, and Amy Smoot of Tuscaloosa.
The residency takes place twice a year, in the spring and the fall. Barker selects the artists, who then choose flights departing from their closest airport and embark on a 24-hour trip of flying, layovers, and creation. The itineraries are designed to keep the artists in the air for as long as possible during the one-day period, with Atlanta being their final destination. Artists are asked to restrict their art-making only to their flight and layover time, meaning no additional tinkering once they land in Atlanta. They usually only have about 10-12 hours to prepare before the exhibition opening, which includes getting the pieces framed, mounted, and installed in the space, and maybe a shower and a shot of caffeine.
Applications for round 4 will be available this summer.
The AIR AIR residency exhibition will take place at the bar Mother in the Old Fourth Ward, on May 4, from 7 to 9 pm.