Creating Something Special For The VCCA Guest Blog Susi Smither

Being half American is very dear to me especially when that ties me to Virginia, where my Mother was born in Lynchburg. I've always felt at home there especially as an escape from the frenetic pace of London so you couldn't have a better location for an artistic retreat. At the end of a long winding driveway, tucked amongst lush woodland with the Blue Ridge Mountains on the horizon you'll find the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (VCCA). Since I've been collaborating with them on an auction lot to raise funds during their Fête Champêtre on Saturday April 29th 2017, I was delighted to have the chance to look round their grounds, hear how things are run and even meet a couple of their residents last time I was in town.

“One of the leading artists communities in the world with locations in Amherst, Virginia and Auvillar, France, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (VCCA) has as its mission advancing the arts by providing creative space in which our best national and international writers, visual artists and composers produce their finest creative work.”

Every year across both of their locations at Mt. SanAngelo in central Virginia and at the Moulin à Nef in France they host over 500 professional artists selected by a peer review panel from the applications they receive. Each is deemed to be at a point in their artistic journey which would merit their time there and are working on important or innovative work in their artistic field whether they are poets, fiction writers, nonfiction writers, playwrights, performance, film and video artists, painters, sculptors, photographers, installation artists, composers or cross-disciplinary artists. They are given the space to create, be that a large airy studio, a room with a writing desk and comfy chair or a music room with a grand piano but more importantly they are given the mental space without distractions as well as board and 3 meals a day. 

At the VCCA in Virginia, which I visited, they have up to 25 residents at one time with 9 visual artist studios, 3 composing studios and 13 writers rooms. Part of the magic of their time there is the community created with the resident coming together each evening for dinner - a chance to talk through their projects, get fresh insights or spark off new ideas. So many of their past fellows are so moved by their time there you can find their pieces of art dotted around the grounds or hanging proudly on the walls. 

During our visit we were lucky to be able to meet a couple of the visual artists currently in residence:  Chris McEvoy from Oswego, NY and Colleen Garibaldi from Washington, DC.Both were preparing for an upcoming show and brimming over with enthusiasm. It's not often you get a glimpse into that very personal creative space with each still distilling down their ideas, experimenting with the direction they are taking their work and paint still wet on their canvas. 

To take a look at both their work please visit their websites:

With such a creative and unique place we wanted to come up with an equally creative lot for their auction and curated a special suite of gemstones for the highest bidder to win - but it doesn't stop there. This is just the beginning, as we will work with the winner to create a completely bespoke item of 18K gold jewellery encompassing these stones. They will be involved in each step so that the piece is exactly to their taste and size. 

To view the entire package, please go to: (password: "unlocktherocks") 
If you're interested in placing a remote bid, please call VCCA by 5:00PM on Friday, April 28th.


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