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:

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 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 (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: