The View from Ragdale: An Ideal Retreat for Artists
At Ragdale I walked the same meadow Audrey Niffenegger wrote about in her bestselling book the "Time Traveler's Wife" that will be released this summer as a movie . Pres. Obama's poet, Elizabeth Alexander, is a Ragdale fellow. I had conversations each night with accomplished writers whose published books were made available to us: playwrights, poets, novelists, 2 other visual artists and one composer although we were lucky to get a bonus composer who came for an event that occurred after our two weeks were up. Andrea Clearfield added even more to the experience of spending time with great minds and enormous talent in a space where everyone understood being driven and obsessive. No one said "Aren't you tired of working", "don't you want a break"? Everyone loved their process as much as I do.
Have you ever dreamed of getting away from everyone and everything to concentrate on your work?
Thanks to 3Arts I got that chance. I was nominated for and won a fellowship to attend Ragdale for two weeks in the studio you see here, located in Lake Forest, Illinois. I worked all day in the Meadow Studio, feeling I was a world away, but I was a mere 45 minute car ride from Chicago's north side. My only interruption was for the dinner that the chef serves. YES!!!!! You heard me! There is a chef!
I was assigned the Sewing Room for sleeping. I awakened early, as usual, showered in the down-the-hall bathroom, threw on work clothes, grabbed a banana and a bagel from the well-stocked kitchen, and then strolled the prairie path to my luscious studio that is bigger than most $1500.00 a month New York City apartments. I channeled architect Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe upon entering this sunlit, spacious room and I was right. Students attending Illinois Institute of Technology designed and built the studio in the meadow. Lit with treasured northern light due to the wall of glass doors and skylights, it has a screened-in porch with a rocking chair that I didn't use, and a lovely sitting area good for a nap after my occasional late night chat-fest with residents the night before. The studio also featured multiple work surfaces and tables, an easel and tons of wall space, my preferred work surface.
The high tech composting toilet called "Iggy", named after the kind, and attentive director Regin Igloria came with verbal and written instructions!
All the staff, from interns to administrators are wonderful. The chef, Linda, providing meals to us each night except Saturday, and enough leftovers that we did not have to cook for the two weeks unless we wanted to, leaving us more time for work! (If you need 4 weeks, apply for the winter.)
For me, a person who has always worked in some capacity while I worked at making art, this hiatus from worldly responsibilities exposed the possibility of where I could take my work if only I had the luxury of time (and money, of course).
And what about the company I kept, all those other Ragdale fellows? Do you have to spend time with them? No. It's your choice to go to the meals. My group made 6:30 p.m., when dinner began, an anticipated part of my day. Twelve fellows were in residence during my stay and that is close to maximum, so it's a fairly small crowd like when I was a student at Yale. We had twelve painters in my class.
I decided to start one new work each day and was able to keep to that promise spending up to 12 hours a day in the studio, without interruptions. I began some larger works, 6 feet by 3 feet, five were 30" x 40". Others were smaller...but I achieved my goal and a couple over. Now, of course I have to finish them.
Artists, writers, composers, this is a way to totally focus. Yes, I had to compete with other artists for the spot. Yes, I am behind on everything else, (I frequently can't keep up with all I try to do) but NO, I wouldn't trade the experience of Ragdale for anything.
And if you're not a visual artist, writer or composer, then you might make a donation.You will be invited to Ragdale events, readings, etc. and you will support a great retreat that is a special gift to the artists who attend.
This untitled, unfinished piece by Joyce Owens was begun at Ragdale...