The dream began in early 2016 when I auspiciously came upon photos of Chateau D’Orquevaux on Instagram. A new residency program was being developed for artists to “get away from it all, make art, meet other artists, and explore France” at an 18th-century chateau in the Champagne-Ardenne region of France. The owner, Ziggy Attias, originally from New York, is methodically restoring the property with a long term vision that has no limits.
Two- or four-week residencies were offered. As the program took shape, each month I addictively followed groups of 8-10 artists arriving, doing art, and having fun in this historic chateau, set in 40 green acres on a hill in a tiny French village. Most of the artists were young, exploring abstract and otherwise unconventional approaches to art. I didn’t dare apply, for fear of being rejected, but by that time I could mentally walk through every room and studio in the chateau, sleep in a luxurious bedroom with a marble fireplace, pet the resident goats and taste the croissants!
I convinced an artist friend from Virginia to follow the chateau on Instagram, and at the very last hour of the last application date in December 2017 we applied individually for a one-month residency in September. In late January we were each accepted and then had to wait eight months until we could step up on those chateau stairs that I had climbed every day in my daydreams.
And what a joyful experience it was! First of all, to escape from our present reality was healthy and refreshing. The beauty of the surrounding hills, the sound of waterfalls, the sunrises and sunsets over the pond were solace for the soul. Secondly, the opportunity to interact with eight other artists of various ages and from different cultures, each exploring their own artistic journeys was both motivating and validating.
Most of all it was the personal artistic challenge that was most fulfilling. No critiques, no competition and no comparisons. And a chance to focus without daily distractions and perhaps to find new directions.
My friend and I were the only en plein air artists, so we got a huge well-lighted studio on the ground floor, complete with tapestries and chandeliers. It was as large as a ballroom. The other artists had individual studios on the non-renovated third floor, perfect for large canvases and possible dripping paint!
When not painting, we took long walks around the pond, fed the resident goats, and meandered through the little village of 84 residents. A few of us took day trips to larger towns, flea markets and centuries old castles and abbeys. Most of our food was provided, but we all had the experience of shopping in French for goodies and wine at the supermarket 10 miles away. During the evenings we got together for luscious dinners and conversations with our host, Ziggy. We even read Grimm’s fairy tales in the cemetery one night!
I am still black and blue from pinching myself! A dream come true! Don’t hesitate: Apply! The deadline for 2019 is very soon. Tell Ziggy that Paula sent you!
To learn more about the Artist-in-Residence program at Chateau D’Orquevaux, visit the official website . The deadline for 2019 residencies is December 17, 2018.