Villa Albertine: A new cultural institution reinvents artists' residencies across the United States

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Villa Albertine: A new cultural institution reinvents artists' residencies across the United States
Villa Albertine headquarters. Photo: © John Bartelstone.

PARIS.- Welcoming more than 60 artists and thinkers for its inaugural season, this new French cultural institution in the U.S. is reinventing the traditional French residency model seen in the Villa Medici by hosting residents in 10 major American cities and exploring intersections between culture and the urgent questions of our time.

The French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs has announced the creation of Villa Albertine in the United States – the fourth international French Villa. Three hundred and fifty years ago, France created the first artists’ residency of modern times, The French Academy in Rome – now known as Villa Medici –, a global center for artistic and intellectual residencies that inspired the creation of the American Academies and many other residencies throughout the world. This fall, following those in Italy, Spain (Casa de Velázquez), and Japan (Villa Kujoyama), France’s fourth major villa abroad will open in the U.S., with a novel concept to extend the residency location throughout the territory of residence, with a permanent presence in ten major U.S. cities to foster explorations of an entire country-continent. Villa Albertine expands France’s global cultural footprint to its most significant form yet by creating a novel cultural institution and residency program anchored in 10 major American cities (Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, New Orleans, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.); partnering with major French and American cultural institutions; and welcoming 60 residents per year, from France and around the globe.

Villa Albertine is a cultural project of unprecedented scale that strives to overhaul the concept of artists’ residencies by breaking with the historical model of a single location: it instead develops flexible formats, in order to capture the vastness and diversity of the United States and to respond to residents’ individual needs. The Villa aims to amplify the voices of emerging artists and thinkers who examine the key issues of our time, while better accommodating their creative aspirations through a tailored approach. Present throughout the United States and benefiting from a network of top-tier French and American cultural partners, the Villa offers an annual program of individual residencies, lasting one to three months, and intended for creators, thinkers and cultural leaders. Villa Albertine also offers more than a dozen professional programs crafted to promote exchange between French and American creatives. Additionally, the Villa will have its own magazine and content platform as well as a robust public-facing roster of events, including highlights such as Festival Albertine and Night of Ideas.

The inaugural season, curated by 40 French partnering cultural institutions, will kick off with the arrival of the first residents in the fall of 2021. Among the first group of residents, some will be based in a city, such as writer Constance Debré (New York); visual artist, performer and writer, Josefa Njtam (Los Angeles); and bass player, singer and composer Sélène Saint Aimé (New Orleans), while other will explore multiple cities such as filmmaker Alain Gomis (New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles), photographer and visual artist Nicolas Floc’h (in residency along the Mississippi River); and cartoonist Quentin Zuttion (in residency on board a train between New York and Los Angeles). Transforming the traditional concept of a Villa entails a bespoke approach: the specifics of each participant’s experience at the residency will be defined according to their projects. The first season will welcome a diverse selection of artists working across a wide array of mediums. Addressing the digitization of the world, the future of space exploration, environmental emergencies, and the reinvention of urban communities, each residency will respond to its specific location and tackle fundamental societal issues through a creative lens, bringing French and American perspectives together.

“Conceived during the pandemic, Villa Albertine was born out of the conviction that, in a world in crisis, artists not only need support, but can also help us understand and solve major contemporary challenges.” says Philippe Étienne, French Ambassador to the United States and Chairman of Villa Albertine “A new kind of think tank, which seeks to amplify the voices of those who think and create, Villa Albertine is counting on the transformative power of customized residencies, designed to foster exploration, questioning, and exchange, and open the minds of both the residents and those who cross their paths.”

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