Bliss for me is the gift of weeks at a colony: endless time to write, other artists busy with their own creating, good conversation over dinner, meals made by often excellent cooks, the start of deep lasting friendships, and the chance to explore a new part of the country.
Below are the colonies I’ve had the good fortune to attend, along with a bit of annotation. I’ve included the dates I was at each one, as of course, things might have changed. A great over-all resource is: http://www.artistcommunities.org/residencies.html. I hope Red Room writers add information and notes about your own experiences.
If you’re going to apply, some questions to ask yourself are: do you prefer to be only with writers, or to be with artists working in a wider range of disciplines? Do you prefer small groups or large? Is it important to have meals prepared for you? Do you need free room and board, or can you afford to pay some money for your stay?
Anderson Center for Interdisciplinary Studies, Red Wing, MN http://www.andersoncenter.org/ (September, 1996). This was my first colony, and I wrote an entire draft of my Disguised as a Poem in the month I was there. I started each day with a bike ride along the Cannon River, a short distance downhill from the house we all stayed in, and walked along the river again just before dinner. Residents are asked to spend a few hours doing something for the community, and I taught at the continuation high school on the same site as the Center.
Centrum, Port Townsend, WA http://www.centrum.org/residencies (November, 2000). I was only there a short time, sharing a bit of the residency of a visual artist friend. Centrum is on an old military base, and the housing was slightly depressing. But Fort Worden has amazing views of the Straight of Juan de Fuca as well as the Olympics and Cascades, and the walk into Port Townsend is gorgeous.
Blue Mountain Center, Blue Mountain, NY www.bluemountaincenter.org (September, 2001). Blue Mountain is the favorite colony of most of my artist friends. The house is so upper class – what they call in the Adirondacks a “camp.” Blue Mountain Lake is right there, with canoes and a small pier to swim from. The colony has strong leftist values. I’ve never listened in on dinner table conversation as brilliant (informed, engaged, and witty) as at BMC.
Hedgebrook for Women, Whidbey Island, WA www.hedgebrook.org (October through mid-December, 1996) This is my own died-and-gone-to-heaven favorite, though it’s only for women, only for writers, and there are only six residents there at one time. Each resident has her own beautiful cabin (larger than the San Francisco Bay Area apartment I live in). The main house looks out over Puget Sound.
Ragdale Foundation, Lake Forrest, IL www.ragdale.org (September, 2003) Ragdale residents live in one of two houses, right by a restored prairie. I found Ragdale a wonderful place to write, and a warm community to be part of. I also loved taking the train into Chicago. I hope to go back this coming September.
Virginia Center for Creative Arts, Amherst, VA www.vcca.com (September, 2007) VCCA had the largest number of residents of any colony I’ve been to (22), and it’s the only one I’ve attended where writers (as well as visual artists and composers) have their own studios separate from the small rooms they sleep in. I wrote 110 pages in 3 weeks, and still had time for long walks and great conversations.
Writers Colony at Dairy Hollow, Eureka Springs, AR http://www.writerscolony.org/ (September, 2004) I had one of the best months of my life at WCDH, but the place might not be everyone’s taste. I absolutely loved the funky room I was given. I wrote and wrote and walked and walked.
Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, Taos, NM www.wurlitzerfoundation.org (mid-August through early October, 1997) The Wurlitzer is the only colony I’ve been to that I might not recommend. However the director has changed, and I’ve heard things have dramatically improved. No meals (and no automatic way to gather with other residents), but who can complain about being given a house in Taos and walking each late afternoon to the Morada?