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Creative Access Residency Awards Application Now Available

Fellowship Opportunities for Visual Artists & Writers with Spinal Cord Injury Will Expand to Include Twelve Residency Stays at Four Host Sites.

The Vermont Studio Center, with consortium partners at the Alliance of Artist Communities, PLAYA, the Ragdale Foundation, and the Santa Fe Art Institute (SFAI), is thrilled to announce a $270,000 three-year grant generously funded by the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation, to offer Creative Access studio residencies for artists and writers with spinal cord injury (SCI). 

The Neilsen Foundation’s Creating Opportunity & Independence Project Grant will fund the 2017-2019 Creative Access Residencies Program, which will greatly expand opportunities for artists and writers with SCI, furthering their creative careers and championing accessibility and inclusiveness for artists with SCI and other disabilities within the larger sector of artist communities/residencies.

This three-year partnership will make the personal creative development, career advancement, artistic exchange, and life-changing experience of a 2- to 8-week studio residency available to as many as 36 talented artists and writers living with spinal cord injury, at one of four residency centers: PLAYA (Oregon), Ragdale (Illinois), SFAI (New Mexico), or VSC (Vermont).

VSC began a partnership with the Neilsen Foundation in 2010, to offer Creative Access residencies to two artists or writers living with SCI. This is the fifth and largest award the Neilsen Foundation has granted VSC, and has grown to support twelve Creative Access residencies per year. In 2015, VSC invited two partnering artist residency centers, the Ragdale Foundation and the Santa Fe Art Institute, to work together to expand accessibility and opportunities for talented artists living with SCI. This pilot program allowed artists and writers to choose a site from the three residency centers to best serve their creative needs. The current consortium builds on that success.

Beyond the fully-subsidized studio residency experience (studio, housing, meals, etc.), the program includes generous stipend support for each artist, as well as room, board, and travel stipend for a personal care assistant (PCA) if necessary.

The collaborative nature of the project and inclusion of the Alliance of Artists Communities as a partner presents a strong catalyst for far-reaching and sustained changes to improve standards of accessibility and promote a broader level of program inclusivity throughout the artist residency sector. In the words of 2015 VSC Creative Access Fellow Brom Wikstrom,

“As an artist with high-level quadriplegia I have painted with a brush in my mouth for nearly 40 years and can state unequivocally that this 4-week residency has been the most rewarding experience of my professional life….Being able to visit the studios of other residents and having them visit my studio has been an especially exciting aspect, and the ideas generated will inform my work as I move forward…I believe many of my fellow residents gained special insights into how seeming limitations cannot only be overcome but integrated into strategies for creative problem solving.” 

In 2017, the Creative Access Residencies Program will offer 12 fully-funded studio residency fellowships to artists and writers living with SCI. The application portal is now open at the Alliance of Artist Communities: . The deadline for applications is March 1, 2017. The unified application is free.

Applicants will need to submit a CV/resume, work samples, and a short description of their SCI and the impact it has had on their art process. All submissions will be juried by consortium members.


Craig H. Neilsen Foundation has been tireless in supporting both programs and scientific research to improve the quality of life for those affected by and living with spinal cord injury.  Following the vision and values of Craig Neilsen, the Foundation focuses the majority of its grantmaking on furthering the promising advances in the field of spinal cord injury research. It supports research in areas of investigation relevant to improving recovery and works to coordinate its efforts with those of other federal and private funders.

The Foundation’s research funding is directed across a broad spectrum, including mechanistic, translational, clinical and psychosocial research, with a goal of opening innovative areas of inquiry and emphasizing progress across the entire translational spectrum. Another main funding priority is the Creating Opportunity & Independence Portfolio that assists individuals affected by spinal cord injury today and builds stronger community and rehabilitative support.

The Foundation provides educational grant programs including postdoctoral research fellowships, Spinal Cord Injury Medicine Fellowships, and Neilsen Foundation Scholarships for students with spinal cord injury at selected colleges and universities. In addition, selected Special Projects related to spinal cord injury and Vision and Values Projects grants support other programs that reflect Craig Neilsen’s philanthropic interests.


The Alliance of Artists Communities is a national and international association of artists’ communities and residencies—a diverse field with thousands of programs worldwide that support artists of any discipline in the development of new creative work. The Alliance gives a collective voice on behalf of its members, small and large, that leverages support for the field as a whole; promotes successful practices in the field; and advocates for creative environments that support the work of today's artists. Their role will be to coordinate outreach, to host a unified (and free) application for artists, and shepherd sustainable impacts of this program by publishing a report at the conclusion with case studies and best practices. (

PLAYA is a nonprofit organization supporting innovative thinking through work in the arts, literature, natural sciences and other fields of creative inquiry. Located in the Oregon Outback, Playa’s 75–acre property includes six fully-equipped and spacious cabins, two fully-equipped live/work studios, three studio/research spaces (including one shared living quarters), a large open shed, and outdoor field-research areas. Access to most facilities is barrier-free, and PLAYA has hosted programs specifically for performing artists and dancers who use wheelchairs. Residencies offer the gift of time and space to eligible applicants, and span two multi-month sessions each year. The intention of all of PLAYA’s programming is to support creative individuals who are committed and passionate about their work, and who will benefit from time spent in its inspirational remote location. (

The Ragdale Foundation is a non-profit artists’ community located on architect Howard Van Doren Shaw’s country estate in Lake Forest, IL, 30 miles north of Chicago. Begun in 1976, Ragdale

annually hosts more than 150 artists, writers, choreographers, and composers at all stages of their careers for 18-25 day residencies. Ragdale offers a retreat setting where at any given time, a dozen

creative individuals experience uninterrupted time for dedicated work, a supportive environment, dynamic artist exchanges, 50 acres of idyllic prairie, and a family-style dinner each evening.

Ragdale has a universally accessible studio in the Barnhouse. The Chandler studio, a live/work space with a wheelchair-accessible private bath, accommodates visual artists or writers. The space is adjacent to the kitchen and dining facilities. Ragdale welcomes artists at all stages of their careers and seeks to create a mix of various experience levels in each group of residents. (

 Santa Fe Art Institute (SFAI) is a cultural organization that cultivates creative practices, engage with diverse communities, and address the most pressing social issues of our time.  Approximately 10 artists per month receive private living quarters with a private bath and working space, which is centrally located within Santa Fe’s vibrant and diverse cultural community. The SFAI facility, a nearly 17,000 square foot complex designed by Ricardo Legoretta, includes gallery and exhibition spaces, sky-lit studios, a growing contemporary art library, courtyards, laundry facilities, communal kitchen, and dining and living room areas. Visual artists are provided with a semi-private studio space as well as access to a large communal work space. Writers are welcome to use the library for writing and reading, as well as their own private rooms equipped with desks. SFAI’s facility meets all ADA requirements with complete accessibility for wheelchairs to studio and living spaces. Two resident rooms are equipped with bathroom facilities for wheelchair access, and since SFAI’s complex is one level, there are no stairs or barriers. (

 Vermont Studio Center (VSC) is the largest international artist residency center in the US, hosting 55 artists and writers per month, year-round, in the northern Green Mountains of Vermont. VSC’s 15,000 alumni come from every state in the nation and 140 countries. Art and writing residents are  provided with private studios with wireless internet, private rooms, three chef prepared meals per day, access to shops (sculpture, ceramic, traditional and digital photo), critique consultation/mentorship with 6 Visiting Artists and Writers per month, gallery openings, art and literary libraries, Open Studios, readings and lectures, and opportunities for meditation and yoga. In summer of 2017, VSC will be opening a new wing to our largest residency housing, with six additional private ADA and universally designed rooms open every month of the year. VSC welcomes creatives at all stages of their careers, and has offered Creative Access fellowships to artists and writers with mobility and sensory issues since 2002. (

Photo at top: Melissa Allensworth, a painter from California, at the Vermont studio Center.