Create in Tranquility
The Ora Lerman Charitable Trust is now accepting applications.
Due to COVID-19, this year’s application period is February 15 to April 30, 2021.
Soaring Gardens Artists Retreat in Laceyville, PA, offers visual artists, writers, composers, and instrumentalists a quiet country setting for two- to five-week residencies to focus on their creative endeavors. Spaces are available from mid-May to mid-September. Soaring Gardens has no fees, makes no demands, and there are no intrusions from the administration—only the studios, gardens, deer, other creatures, and time.
The residency is located in a farmhouse with an adjacent studio building and in a small nearby church. At any time, there are only a few artists in residence—usually three or four at the farmhouse and two at the church. Since residents share the living spaces, we encourage artists to apply as a group (a combination of artistic disciplines is fine), although applications from individuals are also welcome.
Residents need a car to get to Soaring Gardens and to use while they are in residence. There is no public transportation close by. Artists are expected to shop, cook, and clean up after themselves; a gardener maintains the grounds. As the purpose of the residency is to provide time for undisturbed work, no children, pets, or overnight visitors are permitted.
(click on images for larger view)
Due to Covid-19, the 2021 application period is February 15 to April 30, 2021.
top photo: Fred Gutzeit
On the twenty-three-acre property is a spacious farmhouse and studio building. The farmhouse has a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, dining area, and two living rooms on the main floor and three bedrooms, a study, and a bathroom upstairs. In the basement, there is a laundry room with a washer and dryer. Thirty feet from the house is a separate studio building with two 750-square-foot studios on separate levels. Depending on the nature of the residents’ work, the farmhouse can accommodate three artists. (If residents are willing to share the studio spaces, it can house as many as five.)
The farmhouse was built in 1850 by Frank Gay, who made his fortune in the California gold rush. The farmhouse and studio are surrounded by extensive flower gardens, which inspired Ora Lerman to name her property “Soaring Gardens.” The central focus of the garden is a “grand allée,” modeled after Monet’s garden in Giverny, where, supported by a grant from Reader’s Digest, Lerman was a resident in 1989. Nearby is a decorative pond. From the house and studios you can see the northern end of the Appalachian Mountains, which are one hour’s drive away.
A ten-minute drive from the farmhouse is the church, which dates from 1910, and has been remodeled into comfortable living and working spaces. Downstairs are the kitchen, bathroom, one bedroom with twin beds, and living room. The upstairs is divided into two spaces: one is 14 x 28 feet and the other is 14 x 26 feet, both with high ceilings. They can be used as either working or living spaces, whichever suits the residents. The church works best for two artists who are comfortable sharing the space together.
The church sits on a tiny plot of land surrounded by working farms, including one that raises goats. Some forty years ago it was converted into its current layout by the painters Cornelis Ruhtenberg and Jules Kirschenbaum, who gifted it to the Ora Lerman Charitable Trust in the fall of 2000.
Share Your Experience
“I can’t think of how I would improve the experience, it was pretty much the most idyllic set up for an artist and particularly a landscape inspired painter, like myself. Quite honestly, I can’t imagine how it could be any better.”
— Jessica Dalrymple, 2017
“I can’t wait to get in to the studio here at home and begin a new body of work based on all of the observational paintings I made over the past few weeks.”
– David Aipperspach
David Aipperspach at work behind the house and his painting.
“The most unexpected boon was the resplendent amount of wild edible plants- as a hobbyist forager, I was so delighted with the abundance of late summer, and every meal my week there was based on or augmented by something from the forest or fields- blackberries, raspberries, sumac, nettle, asiatic dayflower, yarrow, mint- the list goes on.” – Everest Pitkin
Suzette Marie Martin is laughing with joy after having made 17 large works on paper, 17 small studies, 2 canvases and 3 large scale drawings in four fast and happy weeks.
Brian D. Cohen
Anna Fine Foer
“The grounds and the landscape are gorgeous and inspired an important new direction in my work. Most of all, I valued the time and space to make my work and share in an extended dialogue with fellow artists.” — Wendy Kveck
Studio – photo: @pRODUCT614
Leah Claire Kaminski
Ji Yung Kim
“I had an incredible time at Soaring Gardens!!! It really was magical to spend so much undistracted time working and exploring a beautiful landscape. I was able to make over 30 paintings including this one.” — Ben Cowan
Ben Cowan, Soaring Gardens Church, 2017, acrylic on canvas, 16″ x 20″
Church (downstairs) – photo: C. Johnson
Kristina Marie Darling
Jason B. Kohl
“Thank you for the incredible experience we had at the residency in August. Last month was one of the most fruitful, inspiring, magical months of my life–we all made a lot of work, including several collaborations.” — Suzanne Stroebe
Cassandra Jennings Hall
“I am preparing (reluctantly) to leave Soaring Gardens today, and I’m sending this entirely inadequate email to express my gratitude for this beautiful gift of a residency with my collaborative fellow artists, Martha and Alice. Words cannot express how deeply touched I am by my experience here…I was also very touched by the church setting, which is bucolic and peaceful, and offered so much in terms of my own creativity – the goats, the horses, the winding gravel roads, the endless horizon. It was all magical…it was a transformative experience being here. For me especially, I found my thinking deepened and my creative process grew in leaps and bounds over the few short weeks.” — Nan Ring
Church (downstairs) – photo: S. Dydo
J. Stephen Dydo
“I can’t believe what a magical month it was, living and working at Soaring Gardens. Now that I am back in New York City, it seems like a beautiful dream. But I know it was real because I am home with tremendous work accomplished and a feeling of peace and renewal that is with me still.” — Susan Oetgen
Farmhouse and studio exterior – photo: D. Miller-Lanning
Alison Kendra Green
House (entry room) – photo: D. Miller-Lanning
“We also enjoyed meeting the resident at the church, Paul, and even arranged a reading one evening. The members of my writing group have already read the longest of the three essays I wrote this June, and several seconded the comment of one: “This essay has convinced me of the power of residencies.” I feel the compliment is yours.” — Alison Kendra Green
Studio (upstairs) – photo: D. Miller-Lanning
Nicolas Dumit Estevez
“My residency at Soaring Gardens was invaluable to my creativity, my body, and my soul. The four weeks spent there were like a year’s worth of experience and growth.” — Barbara Laube
House (living rooms) – photo: D. Miller-Lanning
“I was fortunate enough to be awarded a three week residency at the Church. It was one of the most powerful experiences of my life. I had never spent that much time in almost total isolation, just focusing on painting. My days quickly dissolved into what for awhile seemed like an endless continuum of creation, punctuated ever so slightly by a simple meal and sleep.” — John Adams
Farmhouse exterior – photo: S. Dydo
Heidi Marie van Leuven
Amanda Kalinosky Post
Melissa S. Pasterkiewicz
“The time I spent at the Church near Soaring Gardens was like a gift. While I was there, I deeply connected to spaces of quiet and solitude.” – Janell O’Rourke
Church exterior (rear porch) – photo: S. Dydo
Tobi Balin Grossman
Georgiana Cray Bart
“The residency yielded not only a new body of work, but also lent clarity to our individual practices and revealed a model for thinking, making and working in an environment of mutual respect. During that time our separate art-making methods “indeed our identities” were fused into something new that has become a meditation on the act of exchange, artistic process, and conversation.” — Kate McGraw & Ann Tarantino
Church (downstairs) – photo: C. Johnson
Barbara Kapalski Nichols
Behind the Church – photo: S. Dydo
Church – photo: Ben Cowan
Arden Bendler Browning
Laura Ann Haarmeyer
House (upstairs study) – photo: D. Miller-Lanning
Susan M. Herrestad
“Soaring Gardens was a magical environment, a place to wander, to dream. A place that allowed me to let the unexpected enter into my work.” — Walter Hnatysh
Allée behind the House – B. Moyer-Vinding
“The Church, with its open views of the rolling hills of Pennsylvania…was so compatible and seductive to working.” — Robert Zakanitch
Farmhouse exterior – photo: D. Miller-Lanning