Grantee Spotlight: Art Omi's New Architecture Residency Gives Architects Time and Space to Flourish


Art Omi is a non-profit organization located in Ghent, New York that works to create a sanctuary for the artistic community.  The following Q&A with Art Omi’s Architecture Director, Warren James, explores their new architecture residency program.

What career development opportunities and activities will an Architecture Resident participate in?

At Art Omi the focus is on giving architects the time and the space to experiment while on campus. We create a new community of peers at Art Omi and this allows for new perspectives and insights. Its free of outside pressures. Nurturing and untethering creativity is an integral part of advancing the practice in architecture.   

What prompted the creation of this new residency program?

There was a void within the United States for an architecture residency. It is designed specifically for architects by architects.  Previously the only options were for architects to apply to artists residencies. Once there, of course, they were outnumbered and often felt like visiting guests in a community of artists.  The constellation of art residencies within the U.S. alone is vast. Since Art Omi already had dedicated residencies for musicians, dancers, writers, in addition to artists, adding a fifth one for architects felt copacetic.    

Art Omi Architecture Residents
Mitsue Kido (left) and Barbara Barreda (right) at Art Omi   Photo courtesy of Art Omi

How does the new residency program tie into Art Omi’s overall mission?

At Art Omi the Architecture program is integral to its mission. Its reach is comprehensive since it interacts with all the other programs and disciplines.  The Architecture Residency is just one of the four legs of the architecture platform now. The Architecture Fields, with sixty acres, where pavilions and installations designed by architects are deployed and experienced is the first. Then a curated series of indoor exhibitions at the Benenson Center is the second.  There is now an annual event programmed off-campus, in Manhattan, and this is a new effort to link theory and practice.  Finally, the new residency is the fourth and most recent additions.  All four pillars support the architecture program.      

How many applicants were there, and from where? Were a variety of early-midlevel career stages represented?

Architects applied from eight countries in addition to the applications we received from the United States and Puerto Rico.  This second year of the program saw a relatively equal number of applicants in their early careers and mid-careers. The Jury deliberated for a good amount of time to reach this year's cohort of ten.

What were the selection criteria for the residency?

The 2018 Jury determined the quality of the proposals to be worked on during the two-week residency was the key to selection. After considering the submitted proposals the other criteria included: sustained excellence in their respective practice areas, geographic and international diversity, and finally, the potential of advancing their work after the residency.   

Art Omi Architecture Resident at Work
Jesus Lopez at Art Omi  Photo courtesy of Art Omi

Are any New York State based architects participating this year?

We had architects from New York City, and from Beacon, New York.  Many more applied from all parts of our home New York State.  

What do you hope to contribute to the architecture field through these residencies?

I hope to establish a unique architecture and design experience by focusing on building a new community. While there are robust architecture and design networks worldwide, this one connects architects in a new way.   

Do many architecture residency programs exist? If not, should there be more? If so, what is distinctive about Art Omi’s program?

In the United States there are only two architecture residency programs specifically designed for architects, one in California and now this one in New York at Art Omi.  Beyond these, there is the American Academy in Rome, Italy.   

Why include an Architecture Critic in Residence, and what interaction between the architects and the critic is planned? Architecture and other artistic disciplines?

Architecture is the most public of the arts. We specifically invite one distinguished Architecture Critic who writes for the public in order to underscore this aspect of our work.  The Architecture Critics are the interlocutors, if you will, who advance the knowledge and understanding of architecture to a broader public.  In fact, the final presentations by the ten Architecture Residents are open to the public and are led by an Architecture Critic who has spent time on campus getting to know the architecture residents and their projects.    

Alex Schweder Ward Shelley
Alex Schweder and Ward Shelley, ReActor    Photo Credit: Richard Barnes


How has NYSCA funding helped make this project happen, and how has NYSCA support benefited Art Omi overall?

The NYSCA funding is both pivotal and transformative. It makes it possible to insure long-term sustainability of the founding vision of the Architecture program.  We are beginning to see the cross-pollination possibilities across not only the Architecture program itself, but across the spectrum of the field, from the learning to the practice.  NYSCA funding has now elevated architecture and design to align with the other arts.   

How does Art Omi’s Columbia County location benefit the creation of architecture and the effectiveness of a residency?

Columbia County and the Hudson Valley are the hinge on which architecture and art can pivot. Geography is destiny and we can now connect the dots. In creating a new focal point in the extended grid of architecture and design programs Art Omi promotes both the creation and the presentation of architecture to the public.    

How has your background as an architect and urban designer informed the design of the residency?

Architecture is the art and the science of building. It makes the invisible visible in a very public way. Designing an architecture residency from the ground up requires both a team effort and a singular vision to create what has not been created before.  That is what architects and urban designers are trained to do every day.  Having been educated and trained in New York State allows me to ask questions and design answers. 

How important was representing the field in its diversity in selecting residents? Is making the field more equitable an Art Omi goal?

Diversity has multiple dimensions and metrics, depending on the lens one uses.  From the perspective of architecture and within contemporary practices it is imperative to take action now. The Art Omi: Architecture Board, the invited Architecture Residency Jury, and the Architecture Critic-in-Residence are all part of the drive for inclusion and equitable access to architects and architecture. 


Cover photo courtesy of Art Omi.