The Alfred and Trafford Klots International Program for Artists provides time for uninterrupted work in an inspiring and historic setting made unique by Brittany's extraordinary light, distinctive landscape, and rich cultural traditions. The program awards successful applicants with free housing and studio space in the village of Léhon. Residents are responsible for most meals and incidental expenses. MICA charges no fees for application to or participation in the Alfred and Trafford Klots International Program for Artists.
The selection committee and program directors seek four to eight practicing American visual artists, regardless of affiliation. Applicants must not be students at the time of their application. We are looking for artists who can use the specific character of our Residency experience productively and whose mix of media, approaches, styles, and focus will create a dynamic and collegial community. The Residency is best suited for artists working in the traditional two-dimensional disciplines of painting and drawing. The natural landscape of Brittany and its historic (and prehistoric) built environment, to say nothing of the magical light in the west of France, are ideal for those artists working on site, en plein aire. Photographers using digital media will also find the Residency’s setting inspiring. Artists working three dimensionally might find our Residency useful if their Residency work takes the form of two-dimensional paintings or drawings produced as research or complements to later three-dimensional work accomplished in their home setting. We do not accept applications from artists proposing film, video, or other time arts projects. We offer large shared studio space that opens into the expansive Abbey gardens; however, the Residency has no kilns, darkrooms, tools, or technical spaces necessary for complex or large-scale fabrication.
Thanks to the generosity of Isabel Klots, the Residency’s founding benefactor, Resident Artists receive housing (separate bedrooms for each artist or artist-couple); Internet in the housing; studio space; some basic studio tools and supplies; occasional meals; local travel to important sites, art supply stores, and supermarkets; and participation in an end of residency show in the Abbey exhibition space.
There is no application fee.
The village of Léhon, which grew up at the site of a strategic ford used by the Romans, bears the coveted distinction "Petite Cité de Caractère" and is graced by a medieval abbey and its gardens and guarded by the ruins of the oldest fortress in Brittany, which was depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry.
Léhon has all of the important amenities of a French village (a café, a restaurant, a bakery) as well as Brittany's only heated outdoor public swimming pool. The village is a 20-minute leisurely walk to Dinan, itself a "Cité d'Art et d'Histoire." Dinan is a spectacular ancient walled town close to Dinard, Saint-Malo, Mont-Saint-Michel, and Rennes. The beaches and fishing villages of the Emerald Coast are approximately 30 miles away.
Here is what our artists have to say about their experience in Léhon:
Being a Klots resident was one of the most affirming experiences of my artistic career. As a perceptual painter, the harmonious beauty of the Breton countryside and towns provided some of my best painting encounters. Because the sun sets after 10pm, I had many long painting days, often working alongside my fellow residents until dusk. In this intimate community, the artists were all trying to get at something essential about the evocative environment we were absorbing. I think we all felt the place resonated with its mysterious ancient history, especially during the attenuated twilight. But it was not all about painting: it was also about the food, the wine, the culture, and the camaraderie, which also fed into the painting.
The generous and helpful support of the directors made the residents feel that painting is indeed an important endeavor, and they graciously did everything to enable a productive residency. They also promoted an esprit de corps among the residents, and within the local community, which I believe to be vital to creative endeavors. It was hard work, and great fun. I will be forever grateful to Isabel Klots, whom I was fortunate to have met, and to all of the people involved in making this experience possible.
My time at the Klots Residency was deeply meaningful and has had a lasting impact on my creative work. Having time to work in an uninterrupted and focused way is difficult for a college professor, even during the summer months with many things competing for one's attention. As I began my time in residence, I was able to focus on painting morning, afternoon, and evening only stopping to have lively discussions about art-making and other engaging topics during meal times. The richness of the Brittany landscape offered an immediately inspirational subject, and I was able to focus on aspects of paint application and color that, although I was in a different place, were continuations of ideas I had been exploring in the landscape back home. Having access to a studio space on days when the weather was bad or after dark was an advantage. If these things alone aren't a compelling enough reason to go to Brittany then certainly hearing a bit about the people and the culturally rich experience will tip the scale. The people in Brittany are warm and inviting, and experiences at the markets and historic sites have shaped me in subtle but lasting ways. Certainly, also, the friendships I formed with my residency mates and the directors of the program have lasted since my time in residence. The Klots Residency allowed me to create a body of work, form a number of friendships, and learn more about the spectacular region of France known as Brittany.
The significance of my Klots Residency experience is still having an impact on my work. Residencies can be tricky, the studio situation may not be what it's cracked up to be, and adjusting to new working conditions, for whatever reason, may take longer than anticipated. Christopher and Jane, as hosts, went above and beyond for us. They happily and dependably provided not only a bridge over the language barrier but rather sensitively fostered a working environment that was both social if it needed to be as well as intensely private when it had to be.
Every artist is mired in the ritual of their daily working process, which helps ease the often frustrating merge between the decision-making and creative processes. However, the safety of the daily can lead to thoughtless and automatic-looking work. And while the point of seeking out a residency in the first place is to escape that ritualizing, actually getting around to working when separated from your day-to-day process can be a kind of manic and exhausting and stifling chore.
I was, personally, experiencing this kind of thing after I arrived in France; however, being near other residents, who were themselves in an inspired and creative mood was like a jump start. Léhon, furthermore, is an impossibly beautiful town and an enriching and powerful setting to work in. There, among like-minded and talented artists, (who were themselves in the same boat looking for a creative respite), in an undeniably idyllic and electrifying setting, I was able to let go and access an experimental quality that was not a part of my work prior, and which has since become central to my working process.
I took my work outside and drew in the rain, I poured gobs of wallpaper paint over tediously handled graphite drawings. I stood on them, and walked all over them while I made them. I approached my work with a lightheartedness that Léhon itself empowered, and I was able to make a series of drawings that seemed to engage or take cues from the incredible depth of history that surrounded me, a history that was like a method for working; it informed my work with a destruction that was also its completion.
I think about what the MICA residency gave me every day. I remember hurrying over to the Abbey to assemble my painting kit. How we would get set up and get happily lost in the work and in daydreams of history and legend. I don't forget the color of ancient stones, the echoes of a human presence moving back through time not just hundreds, but thousands of years.
I know we all felt part of a continuum. making meaning and honoring beauty, not to mention enjoying an exquisite glass of wine and the end of a baguette after the weekly farmers' market, participating in serious work, relaxing at the end of the day with a sunset that lingered past bedtime. I remember and miss the conversations over a beautiful meal with the other painters, our local friends and Jane and Christopher, the directors who quietly set up a productive and fun environment
I still have some of the work from our stays. Each time I see one of the paintings it brings me back to the wonderful feverishness of the workdays—not just a sustained glimpse into another sense of time and history but stones worn smooth from centuries of use and care, place names both French and not French/more ancient. Perhaps this is an especially valuable residue for an artist: to have created my own example of a productive life to aspire to and to sustain back at home. At the Residency, inspiration was all around us: in the beauty the light, the history, the friendships and support. Each day my eyes emptied out and refilled with color, subtle form, and the sweetness of light.
The Abbey is a haven of enchantment. We are smitten. Coming into the Abbey, you pass through a cloistered courtyard where shiny green boxes of geraniums perch along the inner walls. The light plays over the surfaces, around the sculpted forms, and through the arches; the stones change color, warm to cool; lines and planes disappear and reemerge; someone is playing Chopin on a piano.
Within the walls is a Pissarro-like garden, beyond the garden the River Rance. I painted the giant orange-red poppies in front of the church, aflame in the misty atmosphere, and later as the sun came out I did a quick painting of the cloister. At the Abbey everything is well loved and well tended. The flower display is fabulous. Flowers, birds, smells, stillness, light, levitation-in the Abbey, LIFE is cherished.
Even the footpath from Léhon to Dinan is lined with beautiful places that overlook terraced vegetable gardens, little orchards, and magical children's hideaways. At one point, the levels seem to go down and down, under a canopy of fruiting and flowering trees.
The opportunity in France to be open, receptive but also really think about where my art is and where it is going and the influence of place on what I create, was one of the most important things to have happened to me in many years-in my career and otherwise. I just wanted to let you know that it was a very multi-dimensional experience, filled with sensations, thoughts and of course friends, and I am very grateful.
My summer painting in Léhon was a magical experience. I didn't anticipate how the beauty of Bretagne, the quiet of the Abbey, and the diversity of my group would challenge me to develop and grow as an artist. I'm currently working on a new body of work, which would not exist if not for my time in Léhon.
The Residency was a creatively validating and enriching experience, and the time working in the historic Abbey was magnificent. The creative energy generated by the other talented artists in the Residency gave me new ideas and techniques to add to my own work. The entire experience was more than I could have hoped for and my growth during and after my time there has given my career a boost at a perfect time.
Before my experience in France, I painted for two-month long self-guided pleine air "residencies" in Vietnam. Painting in France allowed me to research three key movements: French Indochina, French East India trading with Vietnam, and the French Foreign Missions Society. Serendipitously, I searched out rococo interiors near Léhon. The interiors I painted in Malouiniere's were owned by the Saint-Malo merchants of the 18th century. I continue to paint and make larger work thanks to my experience in Léhon. I am expanding my subject to reflect upon the colonialism (missionaries, merchants, governing bodies) that resulted (eventually) in the American Vietnam War.
The experience was a truly wonderful mediation on the glorious ability to paint from life with inspiration coming solely from what I saw, the paints I carried with me, the company of fellow artists (and hosts Christopher and Jane Shipley), and my past study which rests in my mind. The residency invigorated my belief in the strengths of pure visual communication.
History of the Residency
In 1989, Isabel Klots founded the International Program for Artists in Rochefort-en-Terre in memory of her father-in-law, Alfred Klots, and her husband, Trafford Klots, both artists, and of their hospitality to other artists. In 1995, Maryland Institute College of Art began administering the program.