You’re an artist. You live for art. You love to find inspiration and often times find it while in the company of other people. Collaboration entices you and you find yourself carousing the cafes at night in search of other artists. What should you do? Well, that’s easy! You should move to an artist colony.
Artist colonies have been a somewhat popular option for artists for the past 100 or so years. Some were founded at the turn of the 18th century, others are brand new. They seem to exist in every continent, in most countries.
Artist colonies are intentional communities for artists. They are places where artists agree to live and work together. They can be urban or rural but always have one thing in common: permanent or semi-permanent co-living for the purposes of collaboration, community and inspiration.
I had the opportunity to visit three in my life. Two are now defunct, the other is also a school operating to this day. There are many well-known artist colonies, no doubt responsible for priceless works of art. Many were home to the most famous artists in history and of today.
I visited this former artist colony, just outside of Moscow, Russia, in 2002. It was winter time and I remember the feeling I had in my body when I stepped foot on the property, which now functions as a museum. Chills ran up and down my spine because I knew what great artists had once called the place home. Some of my favorite writers, including Isaac Babel and Boris Pasternak, had cottages there.
The artist colony is set up like a little village, with common areas. I specifically recall visiting the kitchen as I still have some lovely photos of it. Walking around the grounds I could feel the ghosts of artists that once walked the same paths. It was a surreal feeling.
Although the place is beautiful, it does have tragedy as well. Isaac Babel, a well-known dissident writer was found and arrested while staying at his cottage in Peredelkino. He was later taken to the notorious Lubyanka prison in the heart of Moscow and shot in the head. This was the fate of many Soviet writers of that period. Luckily, the place survived despite such terrible luck and we can still enjoy it nearly 100 years after it was founded.
Monte Verità, Switzerland
One other now non-operational artist colony is located about five miles from my current town. I pass by often and it always inspires me because of the absolute beauty and pull the place still gives off. In Ascona, Switzerland, this ex-colony stands on top of a small mountain, named Monte Verità, or mountain of truth.
Founded in 1900, this artist colony has been a part of the local scene until this day. The original founders, Henry Oedenkoven and his companion, Ida Hofmann, started the vegetarian colony to try to reacquaint with the human spirit in the time just after the industrial revolution.
Many artists and intellectuals came, mostly from Northern Europe, attracted not only by the magnetism of the mountain but also the surrounding nature. Gaining inspiration in the company of great minds, no doubt many great works of art were the end result.
Today, Monte Verità is a hotel and restaurant with a special Japanese tea garden on the premises. There is also a museum where one can peruse the art collection of the former owner, Baron Von Der Heydt, who bought the location as a private residence in 1926. And who can miss the famous “Russian House”, now part of the museum grounds, which housed Russian students after the Revolution of 1905?
If you enjoy the thought of visiting a place where famous artists such as Herman Hesse, Paul Klee, and Isadora Duncan once called home, you will enjoy a stroll here among nature, taking in all the intellectual and artistic energy from great minds of the past.
Ox-Bow, Michigan, United States
I visited Ox-Bow many years ago when I was still a senior in high school. After all these years, I can still remember the inspired feeling I had when I entered the grounds. It’s located in Saugatuck, a quaint little town on what is known as the “Art Coast of Michigan”. This artist colony has a school, a museum, a summer camp for children, and of course, still functions as a colony for artists to live and work together.
Ox-bow, originally known as the Summer School of Painting, was founded in 1910 by a group of artists from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The location is perfect for artists seeking isolation and retreat from the big city. Shel Silverstein spent time at Ox-Bow, maybe he found the motivation he needed to write his countless children’s books while surrounded by sand dunes and endless nature.
Throughout its long 128-year history, things may have changed, but one important aspect has remained: the feeling of inspiration that comes from living and working in common. And as an added bonus, this artist colony is also an accredited school so it’s possible to get college credits as well.
How’s that for inspiration?
There are hundreds, possibly thousands of artist colonies in the world. For those that need a boost of inspiration, I suggest visiting one for a day or a weekend. For those that need a more permanent solution, why not seek out an artist colony and benefit from all it has to offer? Who knows, you might end up with a beret or a pencil-thin mustache!
About The Author…
Erin is a travel-loving friendly introvert that lives in Europe. She has an undergraduate degree in Russian Studies from Grand Valley State University and a Master of Arts in Russian Literature and Language from SUNY at Albany. Originally from Michigan, she now spends most of her year in Switzerland. She loves art, history, art history, music, cats, vegan food, and speaking out about injustices. She has three adorable children and one feisty feline. Erin joined the team at The Quiet Nonsense to get reacquainted with technology and gain editing and writing experience. Someday she would like to start her own blog or do professional editing.