Colonial Power: An exploration of America’s most prominent artist colonies

The website sponsored by the Alliance of Artists’ Communities is broken down by disciplines. Not all colonies have the facilities for composers—when space is limited, pianos become noisy liabilities. But the list is still quite long, and there are plenty of opportunities. Some colonies have a different setup: the wonderful Atlantic Center for the Arts, for example, allows young composers to work with older, more experienced “master” artists for a finite period of time, and includes a performance by a major ensemble. The Wellesley Composers Conference, an important and influential summer session, acts more like a mini-Tanglewood, with seminars, lessons, and one top-notch performance by a group of not-to-be-believed freelance musicians. These are not necessarily places to work, but more places where the work you have already done can get noticed, broken down, and heard very well.

And there are, of course, the famous summer festivals, like the Tanglewood Music Center and the Aspen Music Festival and Schools, geared for younger people. They are like major conservatories with better views and more hiking trails, but are, for those still in school (or just out) rare opportunities to work and learn and to hear your music—not to mention making connections with the cream of the young performer crop.

Two American Academies are available for the more advanced composers, career-wise, one in Rome and the other in Berlin. The former, offering the coveted “Rome Prize,” is perhaps the top honor available in the field; the latter, newer and less-established, still grants residencies to those of more advanced professional standing. If accepted, you spend a full academic year in either of these great cities, where you are offered space and facilities to write and concerts of your music are performed.

Other lesser-known (but still viable—space is space, after all) places are the 18th Street Art Complex, the Anderson Center for Interdisciplinary Studies, ART/OMI, ArtPace, the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, the Byrdcliffe Arts Colony in Woodstock, the Emma Lake Kendrine Campus, the Exploratorium, the Gell Writers’ Center of Finger Lakes, the Hall Farm Center for Arts and Education, the Headlands Center for the Arts, the Julia and David White Artists’ Colony, the Mattress Factory, Montalvo, the Northwood University Alden B. Dow Creativity Center, the Ragdale Foundation, the Red Cinder Creativity Center, the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology, the STUDIO for Creative Inquiry, and the Ucross Foundation Residency Program. Be sure to look into available facilities—some of these places are more about interdisciplinary work, and may not have a piano (should you require one).

By the time you read this, it is likely out of date. More colonies spring up yearly, of varying quality and resources, which certainly is encouraging to know. They exist in virtually every state of the nation (a dream of Aaron Copland, who lobbied to have many MacDowells) and in other countries as well—too numerous to even list. But the list above is a good start.

From Colonial Power
By Daniel Felsenfeld
© 2003 NewMusicBox

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