A 10 Year Challenge:Reflecting on the loss of a artist residency due to past criminal convictions.
I felt devastated as the room once filled with hugs, warm handshakes, smiles, jovial small talk, endless affirmations of support and encouragement grew cold. Although I have become less affected by the sudden change in tone, the unfiltered judgement and internal reflections happening behind slightly withdrawn eyes still stings. I was surprised that they had not run a background check before this point.
The residency application like most housing applications featured verbiage about background checks, but I didn’t let it stop me from applying. If they rejected me due to my past I could always use it as an opportunity to speak to my personal experiences. I never thought that I would make it past any sort of screening. I’ve not successfully applied for housing in ten years. When I was confirmed as a semifinalist I was sure that it was either a mistake or someone thought I deserved the opportunity.
When it was announced that I was one of the three residency recipients, I was fully convinced that they wanted me there. I was certain that my vision and artistic expression across multiple mediums, high quality documentation, up-to-date website, engaging social media presence, recent artist talks, community building and civic engagement styled projects had paid off. It did, but didn’t. I won, but lost.
I may not have the residency any longer, but I still have the validation of having won it. As much as I wish I would’ve had the opportunity to choose when to have this conversation, I’m glad that I don’t have to run from it any longer. This experience highlights a system that does not allow me to reach my full potential and continually forces me to find a way to circumnavigate traditional pathways.