I arrived at Ragdale Foundation on a brisk February afternoon to a warm welcome by residency manager Amy Sinclair. Now, my residency is coming to a close after a month of support that included not only time but delicious food, a beautiful setting, collective creative energy, and a tangible sense of being honored.
I want others to have this experience and they can. After two years of uncertainty due to the pandemic, the application period is once again open.
On my second night in residence, author Rebecca Makkai (The Great Believers) joined artists for dinner. She’s the chair of the curatorial board and when I asked about the process, she kindly offered advice and encouragement.
Rebecca explained that about two dozen artists from different disciplines make up the curatorial board—poets, fiction writers, dancers, creative nonfiction writers, musicians, composers, visual artists, and filmmakers. Two curatorial board members working in the same field as an applicant read and score materials on a 20-point scale with a combined total of up to 40 points. The board then meets with Amy and together makes final decisions, and awards fellowships, residencies, and scholarships. Individual stays are 18 or 25 days. Themed residencies for collaborative stays are six days. “We offer these opportunities regardless of an artists’ ability to pay,” says Amy, although there is a suggested sliding fee schedule for 2023.
Typically Ragdale receives around 400 applications for 150 residencies plus 30 Fellowships which include a stipend. During the pandemic, the odds have been longer with about 200 applications for 40 residency spots and only seven fellowships during the last application cycle.
Tips for Getting In
Although the foundation has no publication, exhibition, or performance requirements, it’s clear on this: Applicants should be working at the professional level in their fields.
Rebecca says that work samples bear the most weight – half of all points. The artist’s statement and project description account for the remainder of the points. The board has recently eliminated the requirement for recommendations. “When I was starting out, it would have been hard for me to get two recommendations,” says Makkai. “
Applicants rank sessions for the calendar year according to preference and availability with spots for the summer months the most competitive. To increase the chance of acceptance, Makkai recommends sticking with the off-season. She also says a clear focus on a project or work plan gives applications an edge.
A resident listening in our conversation said, “I applied three times before I was accepted.”
“If you don’t make it the first time, keep trying,” says Makkai.
Application for 2023 opens March 1 and closes May 15th, 2022.