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This artist-in-residence program is a collaboration between VAE Raleigh and Rocky Mount Mills (RMM). The purpose of the residency is to use art for its natural ability to bring communities together and generate dialogue. VAE and RMM are committed to bringing conscientious and community-minded artists to Rocky Mount to use their artistic practices to create a stronger bond between the redeveloped mills and the surrounding community. The Rocky Mount Mills includes multiple facilities and mill village that are home to businesses, residents, and tourism in Rocky Mount.



Rocky Mount is located roughly one hour east of the Triangle with a population of approximately 57,000 residents. Settlement in the Rocky Mount area has always centered around the falls of Tar River, the natural result of the fall line between the Piedmont and Coastal plain. The land was consistently inhabited by indigenous people, specifically the Tuscarora people, for over 12,000 years before the arrival of Europeans. Rocky Mount Mills was the second cotton mill established in North Carolina and was operated with slave labor until the 1850s, after which time it was exclusively operated by white men and women until the passage of the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972 when the mill shifted back to being the largest employer of people of color in Rocky Mount. The mill, owned and operated by the Battle family, was one of the economic centers of Rocky Mount. Rocky Mount has three higher educational campuses including North Carolina Wesleyan College, Nash Community College, and Edgecombe Community College.

The general decline in the southern textile industry beginning in the 1970s eventually impacted Rocky Mount Mills, forcing it to close its doors in 1996. Since 1996, the mills have remained vacant. A variety of environmental and economic factors have impacted the current economic environment in Rocky mount.

The redevelopment of the Rocky Mount Mills and the surrounding Mill Village began in 2013 and includes residential, office, and event space for rent as well as a brewery incubator, several restaurants, and public spaces for concerts, film screenings, and festivals. This redevelopment marks a large investment in the economic development of Rocky Mount.

While the redevelopment of the mills could catalyze new employment opportunities and population growth, some residents remain skeptical. VAE and Rocky Mount Mills believe that having conscientious and community-minded artists on the campus will help to break down barriers, open lines of communication, and build trust between residents who have called Rocky Mount home for decades and new residents. Priority will be given to artists who submit proposals that show an understanding of Rocky Mount’s history and explain how they will use their talents to engage the community on at least one of the following key issues:
- racial and funding disparities in public education,
- racial division that is rooted in Rocky Mount’s history and culture in contrast with its majority minority population (71.2% of the population is non-white)
- or the misunderstanding and distrust between residents who have watched their town experience economic depression after the closing of major industries and recent development that seeks to offer new opportunities to longtime residents and attract new industries, residents, and increase tourism.


VAE and Rocky Mount Mills are seeking artists to be in residence at the mill for between four to eight weeks. All artists, practicing in any medium and discipline are encouraged to apply. Housing and studio space on the Rocky Mount Mills campus are provided to each artist. Artists will be compensated between $1,000 and $3,500 dollars depending on their material needs and length of residency. Artists are required to find ways to engage the community in their artistic process, attend one community conversation, collaborate in leading a second community conversation, and showcase their work for a First Friday reception.

SUPPORT: Each artist in residence will have contact with Rocky Mount Mills and VAE staff members in order to have the support needed to integrate into the community and access resources needed to complete their work.

PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT + RECEPTIONS: The artist will kick off their residency and be introduced to the community at one of the Mill’s popular community conversations. This provides the artist an initial chance to connect with a built-in audience to begin their community engagement. Each artist will work with Nicole Oxendine to plan a second community conversation that relates to their work. A public reception for the artist will be hosted in conjunction with this community conversation and the artists work will remain on view for the Mill’s First Friday event. Artists will work with VAE and RMM staff members to coordinate the installation of their work for public view. VAE staff will help artists install or otherwise ready their work for showcase before the public receptions.

PREPARATION: The best artists will approach this residency with the concept for their body of work or project already in mind. While we encourage artists to be flexible in their conceptual thinking, the residency period is too short for artists to dedicate time to generating concepts after arriving in Rocky Mount.

ARTWORK SALES: You do not have to create or offer saleable work during your time as an artist-in-residence. Should you decide to, VAE earns 25% commission on the sales of members’ works, and 35% on sales of non-members’ works. RMM requests to retain some piece of each artist’s work after the residency. This work will be displayed in the Mill as a visual representation of the artists who have shaped this project. VAE and RMM will work with each artist to find the best way to keep a visual representation of their time and work created at the Mill.


We suggest opening the application in a separate tab and referring back to these instructions as you work through the application.

Applications for the two remaining 2019 residency slots are due by 11:59PM on July 1.

APPLICATION MATERIALS include artist/project statement, resume, proposed timeline, image inventory/work sample list, 5-10 samples of your work, and $10/15 application fee. 

  • Your artist’s/project statement should be no longer than one page and should describe your artistic practice and address the following questions: What body of work do you plan to work on during your time in residence? How do you plan to engage the community in your work while in Rocky Mount? How do you see your work and methods for community engagement fitting into the larger conversations happening in Rocky Mount? (listed above)

  • Resumes should show prior artistic career history

  • Duration + proposed timeline should include the amount of time you foresee needing to spend at RMM to complete your work and the timing that would be most ideal for your residency. Please include any dates throughout the remainder of 2019 that you CANNOT be in residence at RMM.

  • Your work sample sheet should be a guide to the samples that accompany your application. Your inventory must contain the following information for each sample: the file name (“01_LASTNAME_TITLE.jpeg”), the piece’s title, the media/materialsdimensions, and date of completion. Upload your inventory/work sample sheet as a .doc or .pdf.

  • Upload 5-10 samples* of your work**. All files should be named like so: 01_LASTNAME_TITLE.jpg, 02_LASTNAME_TITLE.jpg, 03_LASTNAME_TITLE.mov, etc.

    • Still images should be uploaded as jpegs, should be at least 1000px at their widest dimension, not to exceed 2MB per image. Follow the filename format for works as indicated above.

    • Video samples should be edited to no longer than 2 minute excerpts. It is strongly preferred that video & audio artists submit their work online through clips or url addresses to online sharing formats like hulu, vimeo, youtube, or dropbox. Videos submitted as uploaded files should be submitted as Quicktime files whose width is no larger than 720px and file size is no larger than 10MB (as that is the largest file eligible for upload on our entry software). Please only submit video art or video documentation of an art piece that requires video to be fully experienced. Do not send video walk-throughs of static exhibitions or video slide shows. While web-hosted submissions are strongly preferred, video and audio samples. Follow the filename format for works as indicated above.

    • Audio: Audio should be submitted as separate MP3 files. Each track should be no longer than 2 minutes. Follow the filename format for works as indicated above.

    • Web-based: Web-based work should be submitted as a URL listed in the work sample list. Please only submit web-based projects. A portfolio website that features audio/video art and still images will not be considered.

*Artists applying with still images only should send 5-10 jpegs. Artists applying with video only, should send 5 samples maximum. Artists applying with audio or web-based work only should apply with 5-10 samples. If you are sending a combination of file types, keep in mind that one video or audio file is equivalent to five jpegs and adjust your sample number accordingly. Extra-submitted files will not be reviewed.

**If the work you are proposing to work on while in residence is still currently in progress, no problem! You can submit renderings of what you expect the work will be like, or you can rely solely on images of past work and your written narrative to describe the work you are proposing.

Incomplete or inaccurately assembled applications will not be considered. Notifications of acceptance or rejection will be sent via email. Please update your contact information if anything changes before you receive notification.


VAE is dedicated to being a welcoming organization for everyone, including people with disabilities. We strive to only create programming that is both physically and programmatically accessible to people with disabilities. The facilities that artists-in-residence will utilize for both living and studio space are physically accessible. If any applicant has an accessibility question, concern, or would like to have a conversation about the accessibility of this residency opportunity, please reach out to Brandon Cordrey: brandon@visualartexchange.org / 919.256.6856.