The Whiting Foundation previously supported a limited number of residencies and fellowship programs that, each in their own way, protect a fertile solitude but ease its loneliness and create new opportunities for collaboration. These organizations, and many others like them, offer writers the transformative power of dedicated time and space, and the pollinating contact of other creative minds.
Although resource constraints led us to sunset this program of grants, you can learn more about these crucial nodes in the literary ecosystem in the following descriptions, drawn from their websites:
Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady founded Cave Canem in 1996 with the intuition that African American poets would benefit from having a place of their own in the literary landscape. In Cave Canem, emerging poets find sustenance, a safe space to take artistic chances. The organization's community has grown from a gathering of 26 poets to become an influential movement with a renowned faculty and high-achieving national fellowship. In addition to an annual writing retreat at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg, programs include two book prizes with prestigious presses; workshops in New York City and Pittsburgh; Legacy Conversations with such poets and scholars as Lucille Clifton, Rita Dove, Arnold Rampersad and Derek Walcott; a Poets on Craft series; nationally based readings and panels; and the publication of anthologies.
Hedgebrook is a women-only residency on Whidbey Island, WA, that emphasizes community among its writers. Hedgebrook also hosts a screenwriters’ lab and a women playwrights’ festival, and makes a series of micro-grants for local engagement available to their international alumni. One example is a series of filmed interviews with writers in Colombo, Sri Lanka, where there is little encouragement for women to work in the arts.
At its founding in Peterborough, Vermont, in 1896, the MacDowell Colony was an experiment with no precedent. It stands now having provided crucial time and space to more than 6,000 artists, including such notable names as Leonard Bernstein, Thornton Wilder, Aaron Copland, Milton Avery, James Baldwin, Spalding Gray, and more recently Alice Walker, Alice Sebold, Jonathan Franzen (Whiting 1988), Michael Chabon, Suzan-Lori Parks (Whiting 1992), Meredith Monk, and many more. In 1997, The MacDowell Colony was honored with the National Medal of Arts — the highest award given by the United States to artists or arts patrons — for “nurturing and inspiring many of this century’s finest artists” and offering them “the opportunity to work within a dynamic community of their peers, where creative excellence is the standard.”
Located on a 20,000-acre working ranch on the High Plains in Wyoming, Ucross offers residencies to writers, visual artists, composers and choreographers. The multidisciplinary nature of residencies is valuable to writers from all over the world. Ucross is a vital literary and cultural presence in a remote region, building an intense creative community in a majestic and vast landscape. The organization also helps sponsor and host readings, educational programs, conferences and other special events at its public art gallery.
Writers OMI, a residency amidst a sculpture park and thriving arts center in the Hudson Valley, has a strong international focus. Bringing writers together from all over the globe, it takes advantage of its proximity to New York to draw visiting speakers from the publishing industry. It also conducts a yearly translators’ lab to enable translators to work directly alongside its writers.
I haven’t felt closer to myself for a long time and yet I’ve been constantly aware of how privileged a thing it is to be part of this community….I abundantly realize the value of the time this fellowship affords: time to think and rethink, to write and rewrite.
Fine Arts Work Center
I think this was the first time ever in my life that I felt fully supported and given unqualified permission to be an artist, without regard to what practical purpose that might be put. I know myself now as a writer better than ever.
Man will perish unless he learns that the web of the universe is a continuous tissue.... All arts, all artists, are somehow connected. Cezanne paints a new picture in his studio in Aix. Overnight, through the rest of France, thousands of paintings begin to fall off the walls, and all at once, poets waking look out of their windows at a landscape that they had never seen before.
Keynote Speaker, 2001
When you started writing, it was in response to the wondrousness and humiliation of being alive. Remember? You were fifteen and standing beside a river in wintertime. Ice floes drifted slowly downstream. Your wool hat smelled like a wet dog. Your dog, panting by your side, smelled like your hat. You were being told to pay attention.