Spotlight On: Ragdale Foundation


Ragdale Foundation

Tucked back from busy Green Bay Road in Lake Forest is the well-known, interdisciplinary and historic artists’ community, Ragdale. What is not as well-known about Ragdale is the impact that it’s having on underserved students and schools in Lake County through its Ragdale in Schools program. The program is providing high-quality art experiences to children who live in communities that have limited access to art.

Ragdale in Schools is connecting creative professionals from around the world to local teachers and students. At the core of this program is Ragdale’s 30 fellows. The nonprofit annually awards 30 fellowships to artists who are selected from nearly 200 artists-in-residence that come to Ragdale to focus their time and attention on creating new work. The residents and fellows are chosen for their excellence in their creative discipline based on the “quality of an artist’s work; its impact or potential impact; and its capacity to broaden the reach, scope and voice of the arts.”

Ragdale in Schools is a four-part, year-long series of educational services that begins and ends with a two-day teacher retreat. At the start of the program, the teachers interact on-site with the artists and fellows; strategize and set goals for the year; broaden their support network; and engage inpersonal and creative revitalization. At the end of the program, the teachers come back to discuss lessons learned, reflect on their goals and changes throughout the year, and again interact with the artists and fellows.

The students also have two opportunities to connect with the fellows. The teachers return to Ragdale with their students for Arts in Nature Week where they observe, create and collaborate with the fellows. In addition, the 30 fellows complete 30 school visits; each is matched with a school based on the its needs to provide “tools for healthy self-expression, community engagement, cultural exchange and career development.”
At the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year, Ragdale hosted a retreat for faculty from LEARN 6 and LEARN 9 charter schools in North Chicago and Waukegan. The teachers took part in workshops that included bookmaking, a sound walk, photography and yoga. When they returned with their students, the teachers were noticeably excited to be back on Ragdale’s campus and to share their experience with their students. That day some of the students were involved in a poetry, nature and yoga workshop, while others had the opportunity to tour an artist’s paper-making studio and watch as she went through the paper-making process. The students also were going to be doing a bookmaking project (as did their teachers during their retreat), so each was able to take a small piece of the handmade paper with them to include in their book.
The Ragdale in Schools program isn’t the only opportunity for students to be exposed to the Ragdale campus and its residents and fellows. For more than 10 years, Ragdale has been hosting an intensive summer High School Arts Week, which offers students opportunities to develop their creative abilities and experience an artists’ retreat. This summer, the program will focus on creative writing, puppetry and the visual arts.
Both Ragdale in Schools and High School Arts Week are removing as many barriers as possible and are increasing students’ access to art. Relating through art, seeing and being part of the diverse artist community demonstrates a path of creative and emotional expression and helps students connect to a world beyond their own community.
Ragdale Foundation Success Story: For the 2018 High School Arts Week, Ragdale was able to accept a high school student with disabilities. This student was unable to speak, and she used a feeding tube to receive nutrients. Ragdale invited her sign language interpreter to accompany her in the classroom. Ragdale staff were responsive and supportive to her many special requirements. As a result, she was able to engage with the other creative students, find commonalities, and make many new friends. At the student presentation on the final day, she took the stage with her peers and fully participated with her body language while her interpreter spoke her words to the cheers of the audience. The removal of barriers allowed this student to “find her people” and blend into the creative environment with her like-minded peers.

Ragdale Foundation By the Numbers: 

In 2018,
27 Ragdale in Schools programs engaged 897 students in 12 Lake County schools
70 percent of the students served through Ragdale in Schools experience significant inequality in access to
valuable arts instruction                    
In 2018, Ragdale hosted 13 faculty from LEARN 6
and LEARN 9
for a personal
and creative
revitalization retreat  
44 students from
27 high schools attended Ragdale’s intensive High School Arts Week
in 2018                      
Ragdale’s 30 fellows conduct 30 on-site school visits each year

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