Arctic Circle Residency

I was so excited to be accepted to be accepted to the Arctic Circle Residency and the geography of the trip is very beautiful. However, there were so many things wrong that I wanted to let others know. First of all, the Arctic Circle residency does not provide any funding at all; it is completely self-funded – they charge $6,500, but additional costs run another $3,000; gear, travel, hotels, etc. This is probably the same cost if you got some friends and organized a similar trip yourself, something that the shipping company offers.

The worst part is that the director was very abusive to many people. Participants (each trip has about 25) were not allowed to ask any questions. If they did, they were met with a tirade. My heart went out to a 22 year old who “had the audacity” to ask him a question.

The trip is billed as a two weeks on a ship but is actually 10 days. That comes out to about $950 a day. 3-4 days were spent on land in a bunkhouse. It makes sense to get there one day early, but not at all interesting to waste time on land for $950 a day. People who left early were harassed and made fun of. That part could have been optional or they could have been up front about the actual itinerary.
Director claim to offer studio space on ship, but that turned out to be the same space as the dining area. They pressure you for $100 for a tip just before leaving the boat. What not be upfront about costs? I did a fundraiser for the $6,500 but had to spend much more than expected. Everyone thought the trip was being subsidized too – something important to know as some grants match received funds.

I understand not wanting to waste- everyone was assigned one cup only and cups were only washed once a day, if that. Of course that was hard to keep straight so when one person got sick, many people got really sick.

The program also claims it is for artists and scientists, but there are no scientists are on the trip. That would have been very interesting.

Participants are invited to stay up as late as they like drinking – that’s how the ship makes extra $$. Not to be a fuddy-dud, but if you want to make use of the time s studio time, that is not realistic. Why not close the bar at midnight for example? The bar is in the studio space/dining room – maybe convenient for some!!, but makes it hard if you really want to use the time well.

The boat crew members were very nice, but smoked liked chimneys. Though they only smoked on deck, smoke got everywhere. However, to close on a nice note – the other participants were great.

  • Anonymous

    I agree with the original poster. Much is promised in this residency that is not delivered. No scientists on board. It is sponsored by a shell org that was set up by the individual director. This is not a research expedition, you will motor around the fjords in a boat that can be hired for pleasure cruises and there is not enough room or time to make artwork. Requesting time / space for work will result in the director yelling. He bullied the sailing crew and captain too. The location is amazing, and the idea is great but I would choose a different scenario that is not so personality driven and doesn’t promise what can’t be delivered – maybe rent your own ship for the same cost?

    • Anonymous

      Dear All,
      This poster is clearly an imposter.
      For starters, our program director is a woman, and has been in the position for a decade.
      Don’t be fooled by the trolls of this world. Instead, we invite you to get to know The Arctic Circle, our 15 years of history, the work we have enabled, and our (now) 600 international alumni.
      And feel free to contact us.

      A. O’Connor
      The Arctic Circle

  • Anonymous

    Hi, I came across this post by accident and was very saddened to read it. I was aboard the SV Antigua on this residency in 2017 and have nothing but praise for the whole experience. We had 4 excellent guides who were very supportive of our different project needs and went out of their way to share their knowledge and experience with us. The ship was comfortable and don’t forget, it is a ship, so space is limited, but that is part of the challenge and experience. The food was delicious, I felt embarrassed to be so comfortable in this extraordinary and breathtaking environment. The crew were efficient and I felt safe at all times, the 1st mate took time out to explain all about sailing a tall ship to us, complete with chalk drawing on the deck of all the sails! We were also encouraged, but not pressured, to help with the sailing if we wished. We were on land one day at the beginning, then 13 days at sea, followed by two days together ashore at the end. I elected to stay longer and pre-booked a room some time in advance at a very reasonable rate. I was happy with my decision to stay longer and experience Longyearbyen more quietly. I completely agree with the original author that the other participants were lovely, we got to know each other well and many of us are still in close contact to this day. Yes, there are costs involved, it is not cheap, but most participants had funded their experience with a combination of grants, fundraisers and awards. I feel it was good value for money given the expertise from the guides and crew, and the opportunity to meet and share this experience with others from around the world, of all ages, whose work is focused on raising awareness of the Arctic. On my expedition there were no scientists, however, there was a historian researching women scientists and a variety of arts practitioners and educators with extensive knowledge of the Arctic, and climate change. I am sad this individual has had an unhappy experience, however, this was certainly not my experience. My time in Svalbard was extraordinary and was greatly enhanced because of this residency and what it offers.

  • Ron Wild

    I was on the 2016 Summer Expedition and had an outstanding positive experience. This is a tall ship adventure that you won’t get anywhere else. Yes, it is expensive, AND worth every penny. I would highly recommend it to artists who are prepared to be part of a tight group in close quarters as near to the North Pole as you will ever get in your life time. I’ve done other residencies in Canada, France, and Spain, but the Arctic Circle remains my favourite. Email me if you want my artist perspective on any of your questions or concerns.
    Here you can zoom in my experience;

  • A. O’Connor

    As the director of this program, I welcome constructive criticism but must respond here to this poster’s multiple, intentional inaccuracies.

    To anyone interested in this residency, you are encouraged to learn more by reaching out to any of its 400 past participants 2009 to 2018, all profiled on the residency website,

    This residency, for many years running, has been listed in the Top Ten residencies in the world, resulting from multiple reviews and votes. see;

    The residency duration is 17 days; 14 at sea, and 3 on land in the high-Arctic outpost of Longyearbyen, Svalbard. The program is a working expedition, not a pleasure cruise. And if a prospective resident does their research they will know this. The dedicated team that runs this program has an excellent record of enabling art and science projects while overseeing safety and logistics in Arctic waters.

    The above poster and this Blog have done a disservice to a respected organization by publishing untruths, anonymously. Readers, please do your own research and come to know a wonderful program.

    A. O’Connor

  • Anonymous

    I was interested in this residency and hoping it would be a quiet, reflective experience in nature, but verbal tirades, drinking and smoking sounds like the opposite of what I’m looking for… Thanks for sharing this info!

  • Helen

    Thanks for that report. I looked into that Arctic Circle “residency” seven years ago, then compared it to a regular adventure travel cruise to East Greenland offered by Quark Expeditions and realized that the Quark Expeditions trip would take me to the kinds of places I wanted to photograph and would cost me around half what Arctic Circle was asking (plus, they GIVE you a parka that you keep after the trip and lend you wading boots — the only things I bought were base layers and rain pants, which I still use on occasion). Now that I read your account, I am even more convinced I made the right decision. From the food to the excellent and experienced guides I felt in good hands. The people ranged in age from their 20s to their 80s and were all seasoned travelers and active, intellectually engaged people (the kind of people who sign up for a boat trip to Greenland are not divas). I’m still close friends with the woman I shared a cabin with. I’m sure there are other outfits besides Quark that are also reputable. You can also check out Expedition Trips, a travel agency that helps people find trips to Arctic regions.

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