Inside the world of creative residencies

We speak to alumni from Benetton-backed Fabrica and the Design Museum’s Designers in Residence programme about the allure of doing a creative residency, and how the experience has influenced their practice

The concept of the artist-in-residence dates back to the early 20th century, when art-loving benefactors would offer up studio spaces to artists, allowing them to reflect, research and produce work outside of their usual environment. Over the course of the last century, cheaper and quicker means of travel and the advent of the internet age has seen the scope of these residencies broaden out to encompass an array of different creative disciplines in locations all over the world. For those on the outside of the residency scene, however, the true nature of these schemes remains a bit of a mystery. So what exactly does go on behind closed doors?

Established in 1994 by United Colors of Benetton founder Luciano Benetton and photographer Oliviero Toscani, Fabrica is one of the longest-running and best-loved residencies around. Based in the province of Treviso in Italy, the research centre’s annual residency invites creatives aged 25 or under from around the world to partake in its renaissance-inspired programme.

Fabrica’s notable list of alumni, colloquially known as the Fabricante, speaks to the multidisciplinary nature of the residency. Launched during the pandemic, its ongoing virtual lecture series Fabrica Creative Labs features talks by former residents including illustrator Joshua Ray Stephens, artistic director Arianna Rinaldo, copywriter Andy P Smith, director Bradley Hasse, and stylist and creative director Deborah Latouche.

Top and above: Fabrica research centre in Treviso, Italy