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FAQs & Guidance for Artists

List of FAQs

What is Special Dispensations?

Special Dispensations is an artist residency programme delivered from a vending machine, based in Norwich, UK. This means it's different from traditional artist residencies, because the focal point of the residency is the work which is being vended from the machine, rather than the time the artist is spending in a studio or other space. We still choose to describe it as an artist residency programme because it has a clear focus (create works to be dispensed), extended duration, and the programming changes regularly.

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Where is Special Dispensations based?

Special Dispensations is currently located in the foyer of Norwich Playhouse, 42-58 St George's Street, Norwich, NR3 1AB.

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How does a residency with Special Dispensations work?

The first step to any Special Dispensations residency is the proposal. This is submitted by email, in an informal process to gether ideas for the work(s) you would like to dispense, the concepts and ideas connected to your work(s) and anything else you'd like to get our of your time as a resident.

On submitting a successful proposal, the dates for install, deinstall and any postal deadlines applicable will be discussed and agreed. Once all of the details are in place, you as a resident artist will need to prepare the materials you intend to dispense, as well as a front image (delivered digitally and printed by a local printer) and assets for the Special Dispensations website. On the day of install, either you will meet a member of our team at the vending machine itself, or we will head down on your behalf (depending if you are a local artist, or participating remotely). We will then deinstall the previous resident, and install your works in the machine. Then you'll be up and running! We will also swap over the 'current resident' page on our website to discuss your works.

If your works sell out, we will place a 'SOLD OUT' banner on the front of the machine. At the end of the month, we will deinstall your works at the same time as the next artist is installed.

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How do I become an artist in residence with Special Dispensations?

Send us a proposal, including the title of your piece, a bit about yourself and what you'd like to achieve through the residency. This can be as loose or as detailed as you like - but if we like the sound of it be prepared for us to ask you some more in-depth questions! Everything is finalised over email. Our email address is submissions@specialdispensations.net

Please note that we receive a large number of submissions and have a limited capacity for installing artists. If you have not received a response to your proposal it does not mean we don't like your work, but we might not have capacity to programme an additional artist at the moment. We keep all submissions on file and return to them when making programming decisions for the future.

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Who can become an artist in residence?

Anyone who feels an urge! No really! We have no requirement to see a previous body of work, though we will ask you who you are and why you want to be involved. If you have an ongoing practice do show us, but it's not a prerequisite. You don't need to consider yourself an artist, practitioner, or other creative, in order to take part. It's all about the idea you bring to the table now, not what you've done in the past.

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What happens to the money Special Dispensations takes?

We split all proceeds from the machine 50:50 between the artist in residence and our running costs. This is because we do not receive any external funding to keep this project up and running. We will check the machine weekly (if we can!) to count the sales to date and keep a running total, which we will report back to the artist at the end of their residency.

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What happens to works once the residency is over?

Works left over at the end of the residency are put up for sale on the Special Dispensations webstore. Funds from the webstore are split with the artist in the same way as from the machine, once cost of postage has been covered.

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Do you offer remote residency opportunities for people who live further away or can't easily participate in person?

ABSOLUTELY. The vast majority of residents have participated remotely, posting their work to the machine. You can be from anywhere in the world, bearing in mind that postage costs are the responsibility of the artist as we are unfunded.

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What kind of vending machine is Special Dispensations?

The vending machine which houses Special Dispensations is a coin operated fully mechanical Beaver Flat-Pak vending machine. It was designed to dispense stickers and temporary tattoos, so can only vend flat objects which are able to flex, like a piece of paper.

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Where did the idea to run a vending machine based artist residency programme come from?

During a trip to Utah in 2019, we visited the UMOCA (Utah Museum of Contemporary Art) which had a vending machine selling artist-made stickers in its front lobby. The act of buying the stickers from the machine was so charming, it planted a seed to do something similar as soon as the opportunity arose. In summer 2021 we sourced a machine on a vending machine reseller's website which arrived on a comically large palette the next week. We then began the task of finding a local venue who would put up with having a vending machine in their lobby, and Norwich Playhouse happily volunteered. And here we are now!

Special Dispensations was conceived to be something different and specific with a proper curatorial agenda, rather than just having a machine which was permanently selling a selection of the same artist's works, which is how the idea to run it as a residency programme solidified.

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Does Special Dispensations receive any funding?

Special Dispensations is entirely self-funded. This means we don't receive any funding from the Arts Council, local councils, or other organisations to maintain or administrate the project. For this reason, we split all income from the machine 50:50 between the artist and administrative costs.

We have a page on Open Collective, a site which allows anyone to support a project transparently and openly. Due to our cashflow being - well, mostly cash - we can't use its inbuilt system to post exact expenses, but anything submitted via this means will go to paying the artists and us for our time.

Click here to support us on Open Collective

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I can't afford to fund my own production run or pay for postage, are there any options available to me?

If we decide your idea is curatorially suited to Special Dispensations, we may be able to suggest alternative paths towards funding your participation. This can involve an agreement on a bespoke split of the proceeds to meet your needs, reimbursement of postage fees, or suggestions on alternate and lower-cost ways to produce the works in question. Depending on the piece, we might be able to print the works in house from a digital image, which will reduce overheads. If you are in a position where you would like to apply but feel you cannot cover the upfront cost of participation, do send us a proposal and note this in your email.

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Help! I put my 50p in and nothing came out. What do I do now?

Send us an email at admin@specialdispensations.net including the date and time you experienced a failed vend and we'll send our maintenance folks down to check it out. We can also arrange a refund via bank transfer or PayPal, or you can donate the fee towards the running costs of the project.

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I have some other question that's not on this list!

Email us at admin@specialdispensations.net, and we'll get back to you as soon as you can. As this project isn't funded, we have limited resources to put towards admin, so it might take a while to get back to you. If it's really urgent, give us a call on the maintenance number which is posted on the side of the machine.

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Guidance for Artists

Special Dispensations is based in a specialised mechanical vending machine designed to vend flat objects, between the size of a business card and postcard. Due to the mechanism and dispensing slot, this means works installed in the machine are limited in their dimension. The maximum dimensions for allowable works are as follows:

  • Width 74mm
  • Height 106mm
  • Depth 600gsm, or approximately 8 sheets of standard printer paper.