Atelier Austmarka Residency Profile
The Residency Profiles are reports of places I have visited, either as an artist in residence or as a visitor. They provide you with an overview of the residency, some practical information and a short interview with the people who run the residency. They are not reviews or ratings of the residency, instead they are meant to give you an general idea of what to expect in this place.
In November 2016, I was an artist in residence for three weeks at Atelier Austmarka in the east of Norway. The residency is located in a small village of about 200 people, and it has a fascinating backstory. The owner-Astrid-had bought an old church in this little village, intending for it to be her own house and atelier. About six months after she moved in however, an electrical malfunction caused a fire and the entire building burned to the ground, with all of her things in it. Luckily Astrid herself was unharmed, and with the money from the insurance she decided to rebuild the church as a modern version of the old house of prayer, with a beautiful studio with large windows all around overlooking the village and the river running through it.
She decided to open it up as an artist in residence, to allow artists to come and enjoy the beauty of the Norwegian forest and the life in a remote village, to fill the house with good, kind hearted energy suited to an old prayer house. You can read more about Astrid and the thoughts behind this beautiful residency here in her interview, it’s truly inspiring how she created this place. You can see photo’s here on their website of the rebuilding process.
The story behind the residency is fascinating, but for me, the main reason to come was the beautiful nature of Norway. When you think of Norway, the image you might get in your mind is the majestic fjords of the west, but the forests of the east are beautiful too-they’re mystical in a way. I hope the photo’s on this page and on Astrid’s interview give you a bit of an idea of the beauty of this place.
Life at Atelier Austmarka is quiet, there is no push to create something and for me that is usually when the ideas come. The forests are right on your doorstep, and you only have to look out of the studio windows to see the beauty of nature. I visited right at the time when autumn moves into winter, and it was beautiful to see the change of the seasons so much more clearly than you normally see it in the city. If a slow pace of life and being surrounded by nature is something that inspires you, I feel that this would be a good place for you.
Living and working
The house consists of a large studio, a kitchen, bathroom and Astrids’ rooms downstairs and a living room and guests private rooms upstairs. The studio is a large space with huge windows, so the amount of natural light you get is amazing. For the evening, there are large studio lights which do a good job of lighting the space. The best moment is twilight, when you leave the lights off until it’s almost dark and animals come near the house and you can watch them as you work. The studio has all the basic equipment you need, plus some materials and things other artists left behind, but since this is a remote area make sure to bring all the art materials you need as you can’t be sure that you can find any in Kongsvinger.
Astrid lives and works at the house as well(or did when I visited), she’s available if you have questions but she generally leaves you to do your own thing. She’s a very friendly person and she has something about her that just makes you relax and feel at home with her. When I visited, I was the only artist at that time so it was just the two of us and her adorable poodle. You have to be able to work by yourself if you come here, because you can’t always be sure there will be other artists there at the same time. This is not a place for networking or building your career, it’s much more a place of developing ideas, producing new work and for silence and contemplation.
The kitchen is well equipped with everything you need, there is a laundry machine and a large fridge and the upstairs rooms are simple but again, they have everything you need. When I was there in the late autumn, I used the extra heaters to heat my room and it was comfortable-there are plenty of blankets to keep you nice and warm. The internet at the residency is excellent-internet can sometimes be an issue at more remote places, but not here-it worked all the time and very fast as well.
In the area
Austmarka is a small village, only about 200 people live here and it’s quite spread out so it doesn’t feel like that ‘many’ people. The people themselves are friendly, in general Norwegians speak good English and the villagers are used to artists coming to the village-they’re curious and friendly. There is a church, a school and one small supermarket. The supermarket is quite well stocked for such a small place and the man who works there speaks excellent English(and he’s very friendly, always up for a chat!).
For more shopping, you can go to Kongsvinger which has multiple supermarkets, cafe’s, a library and even a fort on a hill you can visit! When I was there in late autumn, there was no one at the fort and I just roamed around by myself. I didn’t leave Austmarka all that often though, I didn’t need anything the shop didn’t sell and I went to this specific residency because of the nature and because it was so remote. There is no liquor shop in Austmarka, which is probably good for your wallet since alcohol is notoriously expensive in Norway!
Speaking of costs, Norway has a deserved reputation for being expensive. I’ve found that some things are much more expensive than others-for some reason, the potatoes, broccoli and carrots were quite reasonably priced, but frozen pizza’s were literally four times the price they are in the Netherlands! Needless to say, I ate quite healthily during my time in Austmarka. There is only one shop in the village though, so there is nothing much to spend your money on. In the end, I spend the same amount on groceries as I did in the Netherlands, simply because at home there are so many options and in Austmarka there was just the one shop. If you want to travel around or go to Kongsvinger or other towns a lot, this will obviously change as public transport is also quite expensive.
If you’re content to spend your time in and around the village, there are many beautiful trails you can walk in the forests and there is a river running through the village which you can see from the studio. You can walk along a path next to the river and go to the little islands, there are places there for making a fire and in the summer people spend lots of time there, just hanging out, making a fire, enjoying the summer.
My time at Atelier Austmarka was relaxing and productive at the same time. You remove yourself from the outside world in a way, since it’s in such a remote area and you adapt to the village life. It may sound a little woo-woo to say the house has a kind and positive energy, but that is the best way to describe it-there is something about the place that relaxes your mind and leaves it open for new ideas to come. The area is beautiful and quiet and I found myself falling in love with it a bit, it became a little home very quickly. It was actually here that I decided I wanted to become nomadic, and I think it says something that when I thought of creating The Residency Project, one of my first thoughts was to contact Astrid to ask if I could interview her and write about Atelier Austmarka! It’s just that special. If you want to experience life far away from the city in a very special place, I absolutely recommend it.
When I visited the residency, I had just finished a big project that enabled me financially to pay the full price to visit. If you can get a grant or can afford the full cost, I would encourage you to do so as it is simply the price that is needed to keep the place running and to help it grow and sustain itself. If you can’t pay the full price or you can’t get funding, don’t hesistate to contact Astrid and see if you can work something out-it would be a shame if finances are the only reason you can’t come. For tips on funding, read the how to fund your residency article on this site and I hope it will give you some ideas and inspiration if you’d like to go to Norway!
Where: Austmarka, Hedmark, Norway
How any artists can stay: There’s a maximum of eight if it’s a group, but six if it’s individuals.
How much does it cost:
It depends on the length of your stay(the longer you stay, the more discount there is), you can view a current overview of the prices here. The residency wants to have a system where people pay what they can pay, but the prices listed on the website are the actual costs of running the residency. Therefore, keep these prices if you’re going to apply for a grant or if you can afford to pay the full amount, but if not, contact Astrid to see if there is something that can be done to make your stay possible.
Who is it for: Visual artists, writers, researchers, they are open to many different kinds of art.
What’s the outcome: There are no pressures about the outcome of your work. After your stay, if you can send a short text with some pictures to the residency that they can use on the website, that is appreciated.
How to apply: Through the application form on their site
Good to know: The owner of Atelier Austmarka is dyslectic, so she requests you to keep your questions and your application short and simple.
How to get there:
Austmarka is located about 26 km away from the town of Kongsvinger, and getting there by public transport can be a little tricky. First, you need to get from Oslo Gardemoen airport to Kongsvinger. Luckily, this is not that hard-I went by train and that was quite straightforward. I took the train to Lillestrom and transferred there to the train towards Kongsvinger. Tickets can be bought beforehand through nsb.no or from ticket machines at the airport.
You can read more about the bus on the Atelier Austmarka website, but here’s my findings:
You’ll need to take bus 515 from Kongsvinger station(stasjon in Norwegian) to Austmarka Skole. At the moment of writing the bus went three times a day(in the morning, afternoon and early evening)and costs 53 Norwegian Kroner. Check the route planner at the Hedmark Traffik website to map out your journey before you go. However, as Astrid mentions on the website, the bus is notorious for doing it’s own thing and what you research today might not be accurate on your actual day of arrival.
What I would recommend is to use Rome2Rio to map out your trip before you go, and check the Hedmark bus site to see if the bus still runs on your day of departure. Make sure your train arrival time connects with a bus departure time, as the bus only goes three times a day. Also, make sure to go to Austmarka on a weekday, rather than the weekend as the bus doesn’t go at all during the weekend.
If all this stuff with the bus is too much hassle for you, you can try to arrange with one of the volunteers to pick you up for a fee, or-if you have too much money-get a taxi. Taxi’s in Norway are really, really expensive though, so I would suggest to try the bus first.
Keep in mind that the earlier you book your train ticket, the cheaper it will be! Train tickets released 3 months before departure will be cheapest.
A few practical questions for Astrid, the host and owner of Atelier Austmarka:
How many people can stay at the same time?
It depends. If you are a group, there are six bedrooms and you could be here with eight people, but that would be crowded. But if you’re going a project with eight people, it would be possible. I feel four or five people is best.
What is the most popular time of year to visit?
It’s late autumn and winter.
Really? I would think it was summer!
No, it’s winter.
Would you say the experience is very different in the different seasons?
Yes, it’s very different. A lot of people come here because they want the cold, they’re coming from a warm country and they want to experience the winter cold and the dark. Artist come with different reasons than tourists, they want to experience the darkness, they want to experience a day with almost no light.
What makes a good application?
That it’s concrete and short, and that they have visualised what they are doing. Also, I need to know they can work by themselves. This is not a residence where you can be sure that there will be other people so it’s important to know that the applicant can work by themselves and be by themselves, that they don’t need a group. Some other residencies assume you’ll be part of a group, so if someone feels like they need that, that could be a reason for not coming.
What’s important for people to know before they are coming?
That Norway is an expensive country.
I remember..alcohol is very expensive!
Alcohol and cigarettes! If you want to have a drink, buy it in the tax free shop before you arrive. That kind of stuff is good to know. If they’re coming in the winter, it can be very icy to walk on the roads, that’s something people sometimes don’t think about.
Is there stuff people tend to forget to bring? Like big, warm sweaters…
No, I just make sure the house has things they’ll need, like sweaters and blankets and things like that. This house should just have enough of that, so people don’t have to worry about it.
Norway is pretty expensive. Do you have budget tips for visiting artists? Besides not drinking?
Haha! Hmm..maybe bring some dried foods, like rice, if you can. They should realise also that Austmarka is in a remote area. It’s easy enough to come to Oslo Gardemoen airport, but then you have to take the train and the bus to the village and that can get expensive so you need to budget for that. Taxi’s are very expensive, and the bus does not come in the weekends, so try to come on weekdays. If you arrive in Norway in the weekend, spend your money on a weekend in Oslo and come here on a weekday, because the taxi is so expensive it’s going to be cheaper and more fun to spend a weekend in Oslo. What is the use to buy a cheap flight ticket if you’re going to spend all your money on a taxi?
I think staying in a place like Austmarka is already a good way to save money, because there’s only one shop, so there’s not much to spend your money on anyway.
True. Norway is expensive, but there is nothing to use money for here. You save money because you don’t use it.
What is your favourite thing to do in the area?
My favourite thing is to be part of the nature. We have the river that runs through the village, you can see it from the studio, with the islands in it. You can go to the islands, make a fire and be a part of nature. I like to do that, to just go outside and enjoy the nature.
These are some questions I asked Astrid about the practical things surrounding the residency, but if you’d like to read the full interview with her, go here! In this interview, we go more in depth about the backstory of Atelier Austmarka, her experiences with running a residency when she didn’t even know residencies existed before she started her own and about her vision for the future of Atelier Austmarka. And of course, if you want to know more or apply for a residency, check out their website.