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  • Writer's pictureArtists in Rise



While Jackson Pollock and Peggy Gugenhiem were disrupting the artworld in New York in the early 1940’s, artist William W. Cumming was serving in the Army War Art Unit in Alaska. During that time Cummings and his fellow soldier artist, Sidney Simon, came up with the concept for an art school that focused on the traditional, technical education of young artists.

Cumming’s and Simon were joined in their mission by painter Henry Varnum Poor (who had an established career) and sculptor Charles Culter. They had the idea, but where would they build this school? On a chicken farm near Skowhegan. Cumming owned this farm and the determined four artists renovated it into a campus. As they cleaned out chicken coups and converted farm structures into living quarters and studios, Cummings, Simon, Poor and Cutler created a curriculum that was committed to practitioners of traditional skills but was also in conversation with the contemporary movements coming out of the New York art world.

In 1946 Skowhegan opened as a place that would develop artists by offering an honest, supportive forum for divergent viewpoints. The first generation of Skowhegan artists, Alex Katz, Ellsworth Kelly, William King, Nancy Graves, and Janet Fish went on to establish names for themselves in the New York art world and introduced the Skowhegan experience to the city. Bill Cummings led the School through its formative years ensuring from the start that it welcomed a culturally and artistically diverse group of students.


Skowhegan seeks each year to bring together a diverse group of individuals who have demonstrated a commitment to artmaking and inquiry, creating the most stimulating and rigorous environment possible for a concentrated period of artistic creation, interaction and growth. Located on a historic 350 acre farm in rural Maine, the campus serves as a critical component of the program.

Neither a school in the traditional sense nor a retreat, Skowhegan draws its vitality from the community created through the talent and energy of the participants, and the distinguished Faculty of Resident and Visiting Artists who provide them with support and critical assistance. Founded by artists, and still governed by artists, the program provides an atmosphere in which participants are encouraged to work free of the expectations of the marketplace and academia.

While on campus, participants are given individual studio spaces, as well as access to a sculpture studio, a fresco studio, a media lab, a library composed of over 14,000 volumes, over 350-acres of farmland, forests, and lakefront, and a rich community of artists. Alumni often report that the intensity of the Skowhegan experience has had a profound effect on their work and their lives. In order to allow others entry, no participant is allowed to return for a second summer. It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.


Tuition is $6,000 USD. A number of scholarships are offered, including general and named fellowships, as well as matching school fellowships which are available to students who are currently enrolled in partner institutions.


Skowhegan is an intensive nine-week summer residency program for emerging visual artists established in 1946.



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