The concept for this coalition-based approach to safety hosting for at-risk artists was designed and developed by ArtistSafety.Net (formerly Freedimensional). Led by artist, writer, and cultural producer Todd Lester and visual artist, journalist, and community organizer Siddhartha Joag, ArtistSafety.net is a hybrid consultancy and volunteer network that provides case management for artists at risk, as well as information services to projects and organizations in the arts, free expression, journalism, and human rights fields. Over the past decade, ArtistSafety.net/Freedimensional activated a small group of residency programs that could be tapped into by artists at risk and managed to get at least a dozen artists out of harm’s way.
Lester and Joag have worked closely for years with Residency Unlimited, a New York City-based visual artist nonprofit, with experience working with visiting artists from more than 40 different countries since 2009. The Carroll Gardens-based organization does not offer housing but activates an extensive array of resources – work/studio space; hands-on assistance in the development of the artist’s work; networking with professionals, curators and other artists to meet, engage, and dialogue about their practice; as well as public programming including events, exhibitions, and screenings. Residency Unlimited is making these resources and opportunities for professional development available to the New York City Safe Haven Residency Program’s artists.
Another critical service is legal representation for at-risk artists seeking to enter and stay in the United States. Artistic Freedom Initiative (AFI), a program of the SDK Foundation for Human Dignity, provides pro bono immigration representation and facilitates resettlement assistance for international artists at risk who wish to travel or immigrate to the United States; they assist with artist performance and cultural exchange visas, asylum petitions, and refugee visas for artists facing persecution or censorship in their home countries.