elledecor– In the 17th century, Louis XIV began funding promising young artists so that they could study in Rome, creating one of the earliest artist-in-residence programs. Since then, the French government has established an academy at the Villa Medici in Rome, Casa de Velázquez in Madrid, Villa Kujoyama in Kyoto, Japan, and smaller cultural outposts in about a dozen other places around the globe.
In that grand tradition, Villa San Francisco recently opened to support French creatives in the City by the Bay. But rather than providing a monastic retreat, this residency—which is aimed at everyone from visual artists to writers and photographers—uniquely focuses on making connections, with colorful rooms that underscore that ambition. “The idea is to be outside the walls and meet with the people from many ecosystems here: the entrepreneurs, the university researchers, the artists, the venture capitalists,” says Juliette Donadieu, cultural attaché of the French Embassy in San Francisco, which is managing the program.
She and the nonprofit French American Cultural Society, which is funding the four- to six-week-long residencies, will help make those connections and arrange meetings with people working in each resident’s area of exploration.
The arrival of the first French artist, science-fiction writer Alain Damasio, has been postponed to next year. But recognizing that artists need support during the pandemic, Villa SF opened at the end of August (with a virtual ceremony, bien sûr) and began hosting micro-residencies for local artists.