Friday, September 29, 2006


Wow. Something to dream about...Jen and Mark at Art Camp...

What I Did at Summer Writers’ Camp

For writers, nothing compares with that rare feeling of isolation and immersion where work begins to seep into every corner of your life. Hence that most coveted retreat: the artists’ colony. Part monastery, part summer camp, colonies give writers a clean, well-lighted room of their own, three square meals a day and a few dozen creative types to share them with. It’s a strange chemistry — artists alone, together. And just imagine the possibilities for capture the flag! Abstract vs. figurative painters, writers of nonlinear narratives vs. composers whose chords never resolve, nature poets vs. urban photographers. Quirky and bucolic, artists’ colonies have given rise to friendships, rivalries, and more than a few torrid love affairs.

In the United States, the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, N.H., and Yaddo in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., are considered the gold standard. With its 32 cabin-studios in the woods, MacDowell is said to foster an austere New England work ethic, while Yaddo, on a 400-acre estate not far from the Saratoga racetrack, has a more urbane feel. Both provide room and board for 30 or so artists, including writers, visual artists, musicians and composers at all stages of their careers. They are accepted for residencies of up to two months a year based on a sample of their work and letters of recommendation, and attendance is free. (MacDowell and Yaddo, like most colonies, are nonprofit organizations that rely on private philanthropic largess.) They have limited phone and Internet access and don’t allow guests, children or pets; significant others can attend only if they’ve also applied and been accepted.

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