Renaissance House is an artists and writers retreat sponsored by the Helene Johnson and Dorothy West Foundation For Artists In Need. Both women were writers of the Harlem Renaissance.
“The retreat provides the time in which to create new works or finish existing ones. Renaissance House is one of the few retreats designed for issue-oriented writers, writers of color and writers of social justice,” explained Abigail McGrath, founder and director of Renaissance House. “The program is offered to artists who do not have the luxury of time.”
At Renaissance House: A Retreat for Artists and Writers, a resident can stay for one or two weeks. The fee is $700 per week and includes room, meals and workshops. There is no application fee or reading fee.
Helene Johnson was a poet and summer Martha's Vineyard resident, who had to stop writing in order to support her family. Her cousin, novelist and short story writer Dorothy West, was a year round Martha's Vineyard island resident who worked at Harbor Side Restaurant until Jacqueline Kennedy spotted her writing in the MV Gazette and gave her the opportunity to simply “stare at the trees and do nothing.” This enabled West to write “The Wedding,” a best-selling novel based on the life of Helene Johnson's daughter, Abigail McGrath, founded Renaissance House in 2001 in their honor. “The Wedding” was also produced as a television mini-series by Oprah Winfrey and starred Halle Berry.
The Renaissance House program includes formal sit down dinners and presentations by local and visiting writers, such as: Jill Nelson, Jessica Harris, Kate Feiffer, Susan Kline, Robert Hayden, Marty Nadler, Nat Benjamin, Shirley Craig and Brooks Robards Janet Hill, Elisabeth Benedict and others.
Other features of the Renaissance House retreat include Silent Wednesdays, in which nobody speaks all day and Thursday readings, where a professional reader comes in to read works aloud. On Fridays, there is a special Renaissance House Open House in which the residents present the work that they have created during the week to the public. Check out the website at:
“Renaissance House admits writers to the program who span different stages in their careers—from emerging writers to notable award winners,” explained McGrath. “The point of the program is to give artists "alone" time, away from their families and their jobs and the everyday chores that make up a life. Artists who need "a room of their own.”
Easy Application Process
Simply email a sample of your work along with a one page maximum letter telling why you need to get away. Mail a hard copy to:
Att: Abigail McGrath
PO Box 3048
Oak Bluffs, MA 02557
Writing samples and the cover letter can be sent via email to: Renaissancehse@