Sam Rit Residency, Thailand • www.samritresidency.com
Elysha Rei, Director, Sam Rit Residency
Sam Rit Residency is a flexible, inclusive and authentic cultural residency program based in the small rice farming community of Sam Rit in rural northeastern Thailand. Contributing to the food basket of Thailand, the villages of Sam Rit base their income on agriculture in rice, tapioca, sugar cane, market greens and farm animals. Farming families in the village have an income limited to a biannual return with the harvest seasons, but face an ongoing outlay of expenditure for seed, fertilizer and labor. Located in an area away from the international tourist trail, Sam Rit sees limited foreigner engagement and economic benefits from tourism.
A need for introducing an alternative income streams for locals, coupled with a gap in the international artist residency market for a flexible and accommodating residency for artists, led to the formulation of Sam Rit Residency. Introducing flexible duration options and date periods, along with affordable tiered fee structures and facilities for families and children, this residency program is designed to welcome artists who have to fit a residency around their family and work-life commitments. With mutually beneficial objectives in mind, this program provides an exchange of cultural, creative, personal and community outcomes for both the residing artist and the community.
For artists in the program, creative benefits include the opportunity to gain inspiration from a diverse and beautiful history and landscape, time and space for research and development, studio space for production of work, and the opportunity to exhibit locally. Personal benefits for artists include the opportunity for new perspectives and challenges that inspire growth and provide inspiring experiences. Although this program is set up with all needed facilities, the program encourages artists to experience life outside of their comfort zone, and life in other people’s shoes.
The community of Sam Rit also benefits greatly, through a mix of daily interactions and scheduled events to festivals, the temple, school and family gatherings with visiting artists. With English considered a foreign language in Thailand, Sam Rit Residency has provided the sole source of direct foreigner engagement for students and community members. The program also creates valuable opportunities for cultural and skill exchanges through presentations, workshops and family gatherings.
The program operates at a local level, providing employment to four young village members who were previously out of work. For everyone from the program manager to casual cleaners and maintenance staff, Sam Rit Residency has created economic benefits within the community, building the skills capacity of local people to empower and take ownership of the program as a community-driven project.
With plans for facility expansion in place, Sam Rit Residency will continue to welcome international artists and their partners and families, providing the time and space for inspiration and creativity within an authentic rural Thai experience. This grassroots, independent model has proven to be successful in providing mutually beneficial opportunities for invited artists, the organization and the community of Sam Rit.