Thursday, December 5, 2019

Winter Writing Retreat in Provence


Two women I adore and admire have teamed up to host a late-winter writing retreat in the South of France. Whether you’re already published, still aspiring or just curious, this five-night getaway in the beautiful Provencal countryside will be a journey of self-discovery and give you tools to help your writing spring to life, whether you’re interested in food writing, personal narrative, fiction or just about anything else. All levels are welcome!

The March 2 to 7 workshop will be led by Elizabeth Bard, the American author of the bestselling memoir and cookbook Lunch in Paris (Little Brown, 2010), along with two other books: Picnic in Provence (Little Brown, 2015) and her latest, Dinner Chez Moi: 50 French Secrets for Joyful Eating and Entertaining (Little Brown, 2017). Her articles on food, art, travel and digital culture have appeared in The New York Times, The London Times, Wired, Harper's Bazaar and The Huffington Post, among others. Elizabeth lives in Arles with her French husband Gwendal and their adorable 10-year-old son. 

“For me, writing is both a passion and a craft,” Elizabeth says. “Since I published my first book in 2010, I’m amazed at the number of readers who write to me saying they have their own stories to share. This week is about confronting the blank page – in writing and in life!” 

Your host for the week will be Kelly Goehler, an American (originally from Nashville) who landed in Provence after years spent working in the marketing world, in New York and Asia. Kelly owns and runs La Belugue Wellness and Wandering Retreats and La Belugue Cooking School, from her gorgeous, art-filled 18th-century farmhouse in the Southern Luberon. Her warm style of southern hospitality and her French culinary training make La Belugue the perfect, Provencal escape in any season. Kelly and her husband Philippe have made their home in the tiny village of  Beaumont-de-Pertuis since 2017. You can read what I wrote about La Belugue here

“I feel so lucky to be living this life and it makes me so happy to share it with others,” Kelly says. "This is a chance to learn about this wild, unspoiled part of the country...its culture, traditions, food, wine and more. And at the same time, to write your heart out guided by an accomplished author who knows the region intimately.”

The five-night retreat includes accommodation at La Belugue or a similar B&B in the same village, all meals (except two lunches and one dinner), daily writing workshops and one private coaching session with Elizabeth. Plus, plans include wine tasting, truffle hunting, a cooking class, a visit to Cezanne’s studio in Aix, a boat ride and bouillabaisse meal in Cassis and a hilltop picnic at a 12th-century chapel. You’ll enjoy aperitifs by the fireplace, sunsets over the vineyards, superb home-cooked meals with local wines and much more. 

Airfare and transfers from the train station or airport are not included. Pricing is 3000per person for a private room, 5400€ for a double room or 2700€ per person for a shared room. 

Day trippers (those living or staying in the area) are welcome for 1500€ per person; details of what’s included in that package appear here

I know from personal experience that creative getaways of this type can be completely life changing. In 1997, I signed up for a two-week photography workshop in Provence...my first visit to the region. I think it was on Day #3, after the jet lag had started to ease, that I realized two weeks wasn't going to be anywhere near enough. I returned about a year later, and that's when reality hit: my marriage to New York was pretty much over and my love affair with Provence was in full bloom. I went back to New York, quit my job, sublet my apartment, found a cute little stone house in St. Remy and have been blissfully happy here since. Who knows what may happen if you grab this chance to experience the magic of Provence while pursuing your passion for writing with a small group like-minded people? 

“Provence is such an inspiring place to write,” Elizabeth says. “The cuisine, the history, the landscape – there’s so much to get the creative spirit moving. I'm so excited to share that with you." 

All the retreat details are on the La Belugue website here

If you have specific questions for Kelly or Elizabeth, feel free to reach out:  kelly@la-belugue.com or elizabethbard@hotmail.com.

Photos: (1). You've arrived! La Belugue is surrounded by vineyards and yes, you'll drink the wines! (2) Elizabeth Bard. (3) Kelly Goehler. (4) Elizabeth's first book was the best-selling memoir and cookbook "Lunch in Paris." Two books have followed. (5) Once part of the village’s original farm, the 18th-century house that's now La Belugue was used as a shelter for sheep and for hay storage. While the exterior is simple and rustic, the interior is vibrant and colorful, with high ceilings, lots of light, art, sculpture and original architectural elements. Here Kelly has combined her passions for hospitality, local food, wine, fitness, nature, horses and more. (6) The tile was made by a local artist. (7) The area surrounding Beaumont-de-Pertuis is heavily agricultural, with beautiful farms and orchards producing high-quality fruit, veg, wheat, meat, cheese, flowers, olive oil and wine grapes...much of it organic. (8) In the 14th century, Beaumont-de-Pertuis was a prosperous market town with roughly 1,000 residents; it has not many more today. It's just 30 minutes from Aix, an hour from the Gorges du Verdon. (9) Cooking class at La Belugue. (10) Rolling hills and lush green valleys are dotted with historic villages and sites. The snow-topped peaks of the Alps are very often visible in the distance. (11) A goatherd and her flock pass by. (12) Guests love to gather at the fireplace for the apero before dinner. (13) Cheese, Bread, Wine: Kelly loves to support and promote local organic producers. "Everything in this picture was made within 20 miles of us," she says. (14) A guestroom at La Belugue. (15-17) Day trips and activities during the retreat will include a truffle hunt, a boat ride to see the gorgeous cliffs and coves of the Calanques and a bouillabaisse in Cassis (last photo courtesy of TootaCassis.fr).

Sunday, November 10, 2019

You're Invited: Thanksgiving in France 2019


Because I totally live to please you, once again I've rounded up a great selection of American Thanksgiving celebrations here in the South of France and in Paris. Who attends these gala soirées? Local expats of course, but also hungry French folks and other Europeans, travelers, house guests...whomever! With a couple exceptions, all nationalities are wanted and welcome! 

Over the years, many of my French friends have told me they love the idea of celebrating this American holiday...to meet new people, to sample unusual foods, to learn the history and traditions. At a friend's Thanksgiving in Provence a few years back, one French guest told me he loved how the various dishes were served all at once, all on one plate, rather than in courses. Another said he was looking forward to his first taste of cranberry sauce, which he called red fruits jam

While the literal translation is Action de Grâce, most French people just call it Thanksgiving...except for my friend Philippe who refers to it as Merci Donnant, which he says "means absolutely nothing at all." 

I’ve only listed the Thanksgivings that still had space available, as of today. Book soon because most have limited capacity and fill up. For a Thanksgiving meal on Nov. 30 at the American Church in Paris--the first American church established outside the United States, with roots back to 1814--seats will be opened up to non parishioners after Nov. 17 but there's a special service on Thanksgiving Day, open to all. 

Also in Paris, there's a Thanksgiving cooking class, with lunch or dinner, that sounds like great fun.

For those of you hosting your own Thanksgiving or sharing in the food prep, I've provided three sources for traditional ingredients. When it comes to the big juicy bird, the Paris shop called The Real McCoy sells them both fresh and already roasted; more info about that is below.

If you're hosting or know of a Thanksgiving celebration in the South of France that's not listed here, email me the info (provenceblog@aol.com) and I'll happily add it. 

And finally, a very heartfelt thank you to all of you: for reading and supporting my blog...for sharing it with your friends....for commenting on the stories you particularly enjoy. I wish you all the most joyous and delicious Merci Donnant, wherever you plan to spend it!

COTE D’AZUR

The American Club of the Riviera's Thanksgiving is a gala, annual affair...large, elegant and extremely popular. This year it's in the Salon Belle Epoque at the Hotel Hermitage in Monte Carlo on Thursday Nov. 28, starting with a 12:30 Champagne reception, followed by a luncheon feast of butternut squash veloute, stuffed turkey, sweet potatoes, sweet corn, grilled veggies and apple and pumpkin pies.  All nationalities are welcome but book quickly as this event always sells out; 150 people are expected and it's first come, first served with priority going to members and their families. Last call for reservation payments is Nov 19. All the info is on the ACR website here. Questions? secretary@americanclubriviera.com.

MonacoUSA will host its annual Thanksgiving dinner at StarsNBars (Monaco) on Thursday Nov. 28  starting at 7 pm. Seating is family style at communal tables in the main restaurant. The menu: Stuffed turkey with cranberry sauce, peas, creamed onions, sweet potatoes, corn on the cob and cornbread. Desserts will be apple tart, pumpkin pie, pecan pie and brownies. Also included: a glass of wine, beer or soft drink, bottled water and espresso.  Cost: 40€ adults, 25€ kids.  Space is limited, you must reserve through MonacoUSA at rsvpmcusa@gmail.com  and payment in advance is required; no payment at the door and no walk-ins allowed, sorry! All details are on Facebook here.

The MonacoUSA party (just above) is open to everyone but for those who don’t want to join the group, the all-you can-eat Thanksgiving buffet will be available at StarsNBars starting at 7 pm. Cost is 38€ for adults and 20€ for kids, excluding drinks. The restaurant will also be serving its regular menu that evening. Turkey will be served as the plat du jour at lunch, starting at noon, for 21€ (with a drink and dessert) or 15€ (main course only). To book: + 377 9797 9595. Questions: info@starsnbars.com.

The Riviera Chapter of Democrats Abroad invites you to a festive Thanksgiving pot luck at Holy Trinity Church Hall, at 11 rue de la Buffa in Nice, on Nov. 28 from 6:30 to 8:30 pm. It’s open to members, Americans in the region and accompanying guests. Seats are limited and they’re filling up quickly so RSVP soon!  DA will provide the turkey and asks all guests to bring a prepared salad, vegetable or dessert to be shared. (Sorry, no cooking facilities available on-site). The closest parking is Palais de la Méditerranée or Grimaldi and there are several bus stops in walking distance. For a map and details, click here. For more info, to RSVP or questions: daf-riviera@democratsabroad.org. *NOTE THIS EVENT IS NOW SOLD OUT, SORRY!

PROVENCE

Once again, the Anglo-American Group of Provence welcomes the community to its annual family-oriented  Thanksgiving in Aix "with a spirit of appreciation for all that we share."  The dinner is Sunday, Nov. 24 at 4 pm (aperitif) and 5 pm (dinner) at Restaurant Le Verguetier, 7 chemin d'Eguilles in Celony (Aix), across from the Maison de Ste-Victoire. They'll have all the traditional foods: turkey with stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, green beans, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie with whipped cream. Cost: 20€ for members, 10€ for their children under 12; 36€ for guests and 18€ for their children under 12. This includes aperitif, the meal with dessert, wine and coffee. To reserve, send a check payable to AAGP to Michel Parisot, 5 rue Emmanuel Brunet, 13080 Luynes.  Please make sure to specify the number of adults and kids (with ages). Reservations will be made upon receipt of your check, which must be received by Nov. 18. Questions? bobkeltz@aol.com or 06 37 83 80 45.

Once again the Avignon Chapter of Democrats Abroad will celebrate Thanksgiving with a family-style pot luck at the Cavaillon home of Joan and Charlie Jarowski. The party’s scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 24, from 1 pm to 5 pm. Expect turkey of course but also baked ham, leg of lamb, sausages and all the typical sides including an Impeachment Pie for dessert. Guests are asked to make a small financial contribution and also to bring a starter, side, dessert or drinks to share. *NOTE THIS EVENT IS NOW SOLD OUT WITH NO WAIT LIST.

At the restaurant L'Epicerie de Cecile in Beaucaire, chef/owner Cécile Guillo is all fired up to host her annual Thanksgiving fête, at lunch and dinner, on Saturday Nov. 30. Seating is communal at large tables for 12. Expect to pay 25 to 30€ per person (with a couple glasses of wine) and there will be live music in the evening. Cecile is also happy to offer her traditional Thanksgiving meal on the day itself (Thursday Nov. 28) but only for groups of 10 or more.  To reserve: 07 85 40 38 20. The restaurant has no website but they’re on Facebook here. Questions? niefchristine12@gmail.com.

Near Forcalquier, the restaurant Le Bistrot de Pierrerue in Pierrerue celebrates its annual Thanksgiving on Friday Nov. 29 and Sat Nov. 30 at 8 pm. On the menu: an amuse bouche, brined and roasted turkey with dressing (made from bio sausage and chestnuts), homemade gravy and cranberry chutney, mashed potatoes, roasted local Brussels sprouts,  pumpkin pie and chocolate pumpkin-seed torte with vanilla ice cream. Price is 25€ per person, without drinks. To book: 04 92 75 33 00, maryvonne.kutsch@orange.fr.

Once again my friend Jon Chiri, an American chef with 20+ years experience working in Provence, will offer a Thanksgiving lunch at Cuisine Centr'Halles, his cafe and cooking school at Les Halles, the wonderful indoor food market in Avignon. On Thursday Nov. 28, Jon invites you to join his family for a special holiday lunch from 11:30 am to 2:15 pm. (The market officially closes at 2:15 pm so be sure to seated by 1:30 pm latest.) The Thanksgiving Plat du Jour (turkey with Jon's version of accoutrements) will be 24€ ...or 30€ with pumpkin pie. Wine and soft drinks are extra. To reserve: contact@jonathanchiri.com, 06 46 89 85 33.

Biocoop - La Coumpagnie in Aix (840 ave. du Camp de Menthe ) will host two Thanksgivings on Thursday Nov. 28: a lunch at the store and a dinner at the restaurant BioChef, near the center of Aix. The lunch, owner Rick Harrison says, ''is mostly for our curious French clientele and always our biggest lunch turnout of the year!" It’s 18.50per person and reservations are not necessary.  Then comes the main event: a dinner starting at 7:30 pm. at BioChef (4 rue Pierre de Coubertin, 13100 Aix). "We have a wide diversity of Americans, French and English people excited to attend," Rick says. "The meal will be 100% organic, 0% GMOs and 100% homemade from American family recipes.” The evening starts with spiced wine and appetizers, followed by turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, candied yams, green bean casserole (with cream of mushroom soup...yes!), pumpkin and pecan pies and a classic cheesecake. Prices are 29€ adults and 19€ kids under 12; wine and beer are available for purchase. Reservations are required for dinner; reserve soon as there’s less availability than last year, due to the change in venue. To reserve: 06 81 34 85 74, rick@biocoop-lacoumpagnie.fr. 

On Friday Nov. 29, Cyril Giordano, chef/owner of the restaurant BioChef in Aix (see listing just above) will present his own Thanksgiving dinner. Like the one the previous night, it will be 100% organic but this will be quite a bit more gastronomic. It’s 37€ per person (kids or adults); drinks are extra. Seating starts at 8 pm and reservations are required: 04 42 93 26 05. BioChef is at 4 rue Pierre de Coubertin, 13100 Aix.  

PARIS 

Celebrations Hosted by Clubs

The American University Clubs of France (which promotes networking, cultural and business-related events for all American University alumni in France), invites you to their traditional Thanksgiving dinner on Tuesday, Nov 26 at 7 pm at the Ecole Militaire. Founded in 1750 by Louis XVI for the training of military officers, the Ecole Militaire is an important heritage site that’s normally closed to the public so this is rare opportunity to enjoy exclusive access. A four-course meal will be served, starting with an aperitif and ending with pecan pie. Wine and soft drinks are included. Price: 59 for AUC member; 69 non members. Registration is limited so be sure to reserve soon, by clicking here before Nov. 12; registration closes after that date. For security purposes, you’ll be asked to provide official ID to enter the building. Questions? contact@aucfrance.com
The American Club of Paris will hold its annual Thanksgiving at the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature (Paris 3ème) on Friday Nov. 29 at 7:30 pmThis private hunting and nature museum in the heart of the Marais has been described by Smithsonian Magazine as "one of the most rewarding and inventive in Paris." The evening includes pre-dinner Champagne (accompanied by Lionel Patrix at the piano), an elegant Thanksgiving dinner and after-dinner drinks in the bar. The dress code is evening attire/black tie optional and roughly 50 people are expected. Members 150€; non-members and guests 175€. All the info and registration is hereQuestions? contact@americanclubparis.org01 47 23 64 36.
Restaurants
There seem to be more and more Thanksgiving celebrations in Paris restaurants each year, ranging from the very-casual one at the Hard Rock Cafe  (Nov. 28 at lunch and dinner; reserve here or call 01 53 24 60 00) to the very-posh one at Ralph's in Ralph Lauren's elaborately appointed store on the Blvd. St.-Germain (dinner Nov 28, with a set menu at 135€). Reservation by email only please: restaurant.ralphs@ralphlauren.com. Questions? 01 44 77  76 00.

On Thursday, Nov. 28, chef Fabienne Eymard of the Michelin-starred Parisian bistro Benoit invites you for free-range turkey stuffed with wild mushrooms, cranberry and gravy (46€). Details and reservations are here. restaurant.benoit@ducasse-paris.com01 42 72 25 76.

This year, the restaurant Sunday in Soho (at 7 rue Saint Marc, hello@sundayinsoho.com) will offer Thanksgiving for three nights (Nov. 28, 29, 30), with two seatings per night. The 55€ adult price includes appetizers, the Thanksgiving feast, desserts and one glass of Champagne or the house cocktail. Kids prices upon request. Reservations are online only, here.

Not what you’re looking for? Thanksgiving is also being celebrated at Joe Allen, Verjus, Harry’s Bar, Breakfast in America, Ô Chateau and Treize au Jardin

A Paris Church

At the American Church in Paris (65 quai d’Orsay), Thanksgiving will be celebrated on Saturday Nov. 30 at 5:30 pm. A traditional turkey dinner with all the trimmings is 20€ for adults, 15 € for kids. The event is currently open to parishioners only, but any remaining tickets will be available to the general public sometime after Sunday Nov. 17 on a first-come, first-served basis, at the church and possibly online. Also, a special Thanksgiving service will be held Nov. 28 at 12:15, with music, a speaker and a reception afterwards. For more info: reception@acparis.org, 01 40 62 05 00.

Cooking Class with Lunch or Dinner

La Cuisine Paris is once again offering their popular Thanksgiving Cooking Class; in fact this year they’re hosting two! On Thursday Nov. 28 you can choose between a lunchtime or evening class and enjoy the festivities! Find out more and snap up a space here. Info: contact@lacuisineparis.com01 40 51 78 18.

SUPPLIES

MyAmericanMarket.com sells lots of things you’ll likely need to prepare your holiday feast: cranberry sauce, canned pumpkin, cornbread mix, gravy, corn syrup and more. They also have ingredients and treats for other holidays, too, such as eggnog and candy canes. They are 100% online and will deliver pretty much anywhere in the world.  The company uses various couriers but plan to order by Nov. 14 to get your goodies sent to you anywhere in France  in time. Specific Thanksgiving foods are on a special page herecontact@myamericanmarket.com, 05 34 50 47 36.

The Franco-American owners of My Little America, Todd and Anthony, hail from Ohio and Brittany and launched their mail-order business to make it possible for Americans to find their favorite foods easily, wherever they might live....and to help French people discover these new products. Today they import a wide range of American foods and ship them throughout France and Europe. For Thanksgiving, they sell cranberry sauce (whole berry and jellied), stuffing mix, turkey gravy, corn muffin mix, corn syrup (light and dark), graham crackers, canned pumpkin, cut sweet potatoes and more. See their Thanksgiving selection here. Their special items for Christmas are already available online too. Plus they sell classics such as Kraft Mac & Cheese, Toll-House Chocolate Chips, A-1 Steak Sauce, Jif Peanut Butter, A&W Root Beer and more. Questions: contact@mylittleamerica.com.

The Real McCoy is the Parisian go-to for American foods, particularly at holiday time.  In their shop (no mail order) they’re selling fresh farm-bred turkeys...or they’ll even roast and package it for you with stuffing and roasting juices. (Be sure to order at least a few days ahead.) Their roast turkeys average 4 to 7 kilos each; they request a 30€ deposit and then charge 11.50€ per kilo. The Real McCoy also sells pecan and pumpkin pies, cheesecakes and a wide selection of Thanksgiving products such as fresh cranberries and canned cranberry sauce, turkey gravy, stuffing mix, cornbread mix, pie crusts and fillings, yams, turkey bags, basters and more. They’re located at:  194 Rue de Grenelle, 75007 Paris, 01 45 56 00 00, us.food@wanadoo.fr. No website but find them on Facebook here

Above: The much-loved, often-parodied painting is Norman Rockwell's "Freedom from Want" from 1942. Everyone in it was a Rockwell family member or friend; they were photographed individually and painted into the scene. Learn more about the painting and artist here

Monday, October 28, 2019

Apply Now! The Prize is Provence...


If you've ever dreamed of pursuing your artistic, literary or other creative passion in Provence but found the experience beyond reach, here are a few marvelous opportunities that might just change your life. I found three organizations that are currently offering fellowships or prizes which will let a few lucky folks stay and work in Provence, in a fabulous setting with like-minded creatives, at little or no cost. Make sure to check the application dates; one deadline is as soon as November 4. Note: In addition to what you'll see below, due to a last-minute cancellation there's also a free three-week residency open starting Friday Nov 1; contact info for Nicky Ginsberg appears below. Good luck and you're welcome!

A Scholarship from Workshops in France



Workshops in France is offering a scholarship to a young or deserving artist who would like to paint in France next year but wouldn't be able to without financial help.

The scholarship can be used for a premier painting workshop or art retreat. It includes instruction where applicable, food and accommodation. Airfare is not included. The company will select the workshop or retreat based upon availability; it's valued at between $4000 and $5000 USD.

The scholarship is open to all nationalities and ages but anyone younger than 18 would need to be accompanied by a paying adult. 

According to artist Julie Snyder, programs director at Workshops in France, the winner will not necessarily be chosen on merit but will be someone deserving who's "actively pursuing art goals" and whose attendance would change and boost their artistic growth.

"We're looking for the right recipient, young or mature, whose career would be positively influenced by attending a workshop," Julie says. "We understand the advantage and inspiration that comes from mentoring and instruction when working side-by-side with other artists. If I had had this opportunity when I was younger, my life wouldn't have gone completely sideways and I'd have found the road to my true purpose a lot smoother." 

For more info and the application, click here. The deadline is November 4, 2019.

The Brown Foundation Fellows Program 
at the Dora Maar House


The Brown Foundation Fellows Program, based at the Dora Maar House in Ménerbes, France, offers residencies of one to three months for mid-career professionals with established reputations in the arts and humanities, to concentrate on their fields of expertise. The fellowship includes round-trip travel expenses, a private bedroom and bath in this historic hilltop home, a study or studio in which to work and a grant based on the length of your stay. 

This 18th-century town house was purchased in 1944 by Pablo Picasso for Dora Maar, the artist and Surrealist photographer who was his companion and muse in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Maar (1907–1997) owned the house until her death, after which a resident of both Houston and Ménerbes bought and renovated the house to transform it into a retreat for writers, scholars, and artists.

Applications are now being accepted for fellowships beginning July 1, 2020 or after and ending no later than November 30, 2020. Applications are due by February 15, 2020. If you're unable to pursue those dates, more fellowships will be offered in Spring 2021, with an application deadline in October, 2020. Applications are accepted online only and all the info is here.


Opportunities at NG Art Creative Residency



NG Art Creative Residency is once again offering free art residencies in Provence to a few lucky artists or other creative types. There are two and three-week prize placements, designed to "discover and celebrate emerging and established creative talents from a variety of disciplines." 

The artists' retreat is also looking for someone to do a four-month internship. Here are the details on everything.

The Stanley Quek Art Prize, is a contemporary art award for international emerging and established artists. This is a wonderful opportunity to win a three-week stay (in February, 2020) at Mas des Pelerins, in the charming and historic Provence village of EygalièresThe prize includes board and lodging, mentorship and residency-related outings, valued at up to €2,000.

The winner will have access to a large studio space and four hectares of natural plein air beauty to ignite his or her imagination. You'll explore the region, learn the native tongue (good luck!), try your hand at traditional Provencal cooking plus engage with fellow creatives and the local artistic community at evening soirées and special events. In addition to "being immersed in the cultural and historical landscape of Provence," the winner will enjoy mentoring and guidance from NG Art Creative Residency founder/director Nicky Ginsberg and benefit from her wide experience and intimate knowledge of the commercial art world.

The winner will also have the opportunity to exhibit his or her work in the 12th-century Eglise St. Laurent Eygalières, for a three-week exhibition in May 2020. The application deadline is November 18, 2019 .

A similar prize, this one called the Parker Harris Art Prize, is a two-week residency (funded by NG Art) that also takes place in February 2020. The deadline for this prize will be announced soon, on Instagram and the NG Art website.

Additional two-week prize placements are also being offered for spring, 2020.  Like the prizes above, the two-week opportunity includes board and lodging, mentoring and residency-related outings. This is open to artists, writers, poets, musicians, performers, filmmakers, photographers, academic scholars and other creatives "who seek to enrich their process, embark on imaginative endeavors and immerse themselves in an environment of reflection and creative freedom."

For those who don't win free residencies, there are paid opportunities as well. "Our pride and joy is to facilitate opportunities for all creatives and offer them every possible international opportunity," Nicky says.

To be considered for any of the prizes above, please email Nicky to request an info package: creative@ngart.com.au

Finally, the retreat is seeking an intern for a period of four months between February and May 2020. You'll work five days a week in return for airfare to France, full board, lodging and an opportunity to work and collaborate with artists, to expand your network and immerse yourself in European culture.  You would be responsible for all administrative tasks associated with the residency and work to ensure the smooth operation of the program. The role also involves marketing, social media and PR; liaising with international creatives, media, galleries and institutions; and project development and research. You'll also help with the organization and installation of an exhibit featuring the work of Nicole Kelly and Alan Jones (Sydney, Australia) in Eygalières, in April 2020.

To apply for the internship, email Nicky at ng@ngart.com.au and supply relevant experience, biographical details and a CV. Be sure to illustrate why this position would benefit  you and what you could offer to support the residency. 

Photos: (1) Photo courtesy of Workshops in France. (2) Guests from  the Workshops in France "Glorious Provence" trip (Sept 2018) came from from the Philippines, Australia, Scotland, Canada and USA. (3) A 10-day retreat near Aix in 2020 is designed to take advantage of lavender in full bloom. (4) The painting "Robert" by Susan Lyon, who will teach a Masterclass at the gorgeous Moulin de la Roque in Provence May 24 to June 2, 2020. (5) The village of Menerbes in the Luberon (photo by Patrick Bombaert via WeLoveProvence.fr). (6) The Dora Maar House where you'll live and work if you win a place in the Brown Foundation Fellows Program. (7) Artist Marie Ducaté from Marseille, at Dora Maar in summer 2013. Marie works works in paint, ceramics and other mediums. (8) American dancer Daniel Gwirtzman was a fellow at Dora Maar in 2016 and blogged about it here (9) "I taught dance to Menerbes and its neighbors!" Daniel writes. "Terrific turnout. Nothing like this has happened prior in the Salle des Fetes or in Menerbes." The event made the popular regional newspaper La Provence. (10) Mas des Pelerins in Eygalieres is home to the NG Art Creative Residency. (11) Meals at Mas des Pelerins are inspired by traditional Provencal gastronomy based on local, seasonal ingredients. (12) A collage by Australian artist Cathy Shugg, a former resident at Mas des Pelerins.

Friday, October 11, 2019

My Wild and Precious Friend


Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
         --From “The Summer Day“ by Mary Oliver (1935 - 2019)


One of the many things I've loved about living in Provence is how it attracts a steady stream of fascinating, accomplished people from all over the world. If you're here for any reasonable amount of time and open to it, you can have the most-wonderful experiences with a whole gamut of humans, with experiences vastly different from your own.

Susie Rheault and her husband Gil Williams are a perfect example. I have no idea how we first met but we bonded instantly. With their kids grown and having families of their own, Susie (now 70) and Gil (81) were splitting their time between Boston, Martha's Vineyard, Provence and Africa. Susie was still working and Gil was theoretically retired (his field was organizational development after many years as an elementary school principal), and together they were involved  in various projects on three continents.

Besides their gentle warmth and general adorableness, one of the many things that drew me to Susie and Gil was their devotion to do-gooding. They seemed to be continuously nurturing a large group of people including friends, family, clients, neighbors, colleagues and more. But the thing that really got me were the stories they told about Tanzania and the work they were doing there with extremely vulnerable children.

The short version is, they had found a small "desperately grim" orphanage that needed help...and they had jumped in.  

If you want the longer version you're in luck because Susie tells the whole remarkable story in her just-published book, My Wild and Precious Life: A Memoir of Africa (Bush Baby Press, September 2019).

psychologist with a specialization in organizational development, Susie has spent her 30-plus year career working globally, with senior execs across the private and public sectors. Since 2007, she'd been a Special Advisor for the Clinton Foundation Health Access Initiative supporting field offices in Ethiopia, Tanzania, Malawi, Lesotho and Swaziland. In each of these countries, she trained local staff to accelerate HIV testing and treatment using a grassroots team-based approach.

The years Susie spent working in sub-Saharan Africa with the Clinton Foundation had made her even more hungry to help others. She had been longing for a long-term project, something where she could see real sustainable results over time.

"I started in Africa in '07," she recalls in a podcast here. "I worked for the Clinton Foundation off and on for the next five years. I'd bounce back and forth on these trips that were pretty exhausting, on flights of 16 hours or so. The more I traveled to other countries, the more I missed Gil who was keeping the home fires burning. And I was...tired of trying to learn a different African language with each visit. I started to say to myself, what if we could find a smaller project where they need us, where we could stay put and see what noodles stick on the wall?"

And then one day in tiny, rural Nshupu, Tanzania, she and Gil stumbled on the Precious Orphan's Childrens Home: two small, very-spare concrete buildings that was home to nine kids, all of whom had been orphaned or abandoned. "There were no toys, no books, no blankets," Susie remembers, "nothing except these kids bouncing around on a bunk bed. We were just stunned. We couldn't believe they were as animated as they were, living under such dire circumstances. There were dirt floors...there was no running water...nothing!"

A local school teacher named William Modest had started the orphanage after having watched his own mother die of AIDS when he was a teen. He and his wife Sarah--also a teacher--were running it single handedly, having given up their other jobs. "All they had for funds were handouts from the local church," Susie continues, "which meant a bag of maize every so often but nothing like a predictable meal plan."  Susie and Gil formed an alliance with William and Sarah in 2011 and launched the Precious Project.

What's been accomplished there in just eight years is astounding and deeply inspiring. "Precious" has grown to include a new home for 21 children, a 10-room primary school, am elementary school with 350 students, a working organic farm, a library, a community/dining hall, a dorm and two women's empowerment groups.

Today William and Sarah manage day-to-day operations, Susie and Gil handle strategic development and a board of directors provides wide-ranging expertise. A dedicated group of roughly 45 employees includes five education administrators, 12 teachers, cooks, childcare providers, bus drivers, a gardener, a librarian, volunteers, "mamas" and more.

It was an uphill battle, to say the least. "We had never run an orphanage, we didn't speak Swahili, and we had never done any fund-raising," Susie says. "But we jumped in with both feet. I was convinced that somehow my experience crisscrossing the continent would inoculate us from making the most egregious mistakes, but of course that wasn't true. It's been a roller coaster of hope and hard learnings! We would be mildly euphoric with a sense of renewed purpose but then, time and again, regularly humbled by the undertow of desperation that poverty engenders."

While it continues as an orphanage, the key focus at the Precious Project is now education. "We see that as highly important work in the world," Susie says, "and it's making a huge difference in the lives of these children, the leaders of tomorrow."

Today Susie and Gil live half the year in Africa, where they work closely with William and Sarah. The rest of the year they're back in Boston with occasional visits to Provence, although having sold their home in St. Remy, they're around much less than they used to be. From what I can tell though, the couple could not be happier.

"It's never too late to live a life of purpose," Susie proclaims. "It's never too late to have adventures and stretch yourself. People who have a deep sense of purpose live longer and live better. This, I guess, is the third chapter of my life and it's been the most deeply rewarding. This is definitely my life's calling.

"Each time we return to Tanzania," she continues, "we see the children we have cared for since 2011 sprouting up and becoming extraordinary people. It's so deeply gratifying...everyone deserves a chance!"

My Wild and Precious Life is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. A portion of proceeds goes to the Precious Project.

To learn more about the Precious Project and donate in any amount, click here.

You can also follow Precious on Facebook, see their videos on YouTube and listen to Susie being interviewed here.

To connect with Susie, reach out on LinkedIn or email her directly: susie@rheault-williams.com.

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