Skowhegan, an intensive nine-week summer residency program for emerging visual artists established in 1946, seeks each year to bring together a gifted and diverse group of individuals who have demonstrated a commitment to art-making and inquiry to create the most stimulating and rigorous environment possible for a concentrated period of artistic creation, interaction and growth.
The founding and development of Skowhegan in 1946 is deeply connected to the explosive energy and elan that characterized post-war American culture. In the mid-1940s the art world was in ferment; what was to become known as the New York School was yet in its formative stages. Willard W. Cummings (1915-1975), a New England portrait painter, shared his vision for enriching and educating the practical art experience of young artists with a friend he met while in the Army War Art Unit, Sidney Simon (1917-1997). Along with Henry Varnum Poor (1888-1971), already an established presence in the American art scene, and Charles Cutler (1914-1970), a New England stone sculptor, these men founded an American summer art school that would ultimately achieve an enduring place in the development of American artists of all persuasions: the Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture. Though Cummings, Simon, Poor, and Cutler were committed practitioners of traditional artistic skills and saw these skills as forming the core of Skowhegan's original curriculum, their design of the program reveals a uniquely capacious vision. They did not intend Skowhegan to be a retreat into the countryside to simply nourish their own artistic philosophies and fend off change, but to be a place that would develop artists by offering an honest, supportive forum for divergent viewpoints.
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 support and critical assistance for them. Founded by artists, and still governed by artists for artists, the program provides an atmosphere in which Participants are encouraged to work and explore free of the expectations of the marketplace and academia.