Register for summer programs at Renaissance House

Abigail McGrath is the daughter of Helene Johnson and the niece of Dorothy West, writers of the Harlem Renaissance. — Lynn Christoffers

Renaissance House, a retreat for writers and artists, celebrates its 21st anniversary by establishing three writing programs for issue-oriented writers, writers of color, and writers of social justice issues this July. In addition, according to a press release, the Sustainable Arts Foundation funds a full scholarship to a parent to spend a week at the Renaissance House Retreat for Writers. 

A Renaissance House Daytime Writers Workshop will be held July 12 to July 18, and July 19 to July 25. Martha’s Vineyard visitors and residents will have the opportunity to workshop their writing projects during the day from 9 am to 4 pm at Renaissance House. The program includes workshops by local celebrity writers and invites to Renaissance House Salons.

A Renaissance House Writer’s Retreat is also planned for July 19 to July 25. This one-week retreat workshop gives writers the opportunity to focus on their writing projects while staying in the historic Oak Bluffs home once owned by Harlem Renaissance writer Dorothy West, author of “The Wedding.” The press release says that the retreat includes room, meals, lectures, trips, classes, workshops, and salon receptions by noted Martha Vineyard writers. Arrival is on Sunday and departure is on Saturday.

For young people, the Renaissance House Youth Writers Workshop is scheduled for July 27 to July 31. This program for youth ages 13 to 17 allows students to write creatively without the restrictions of an academic setting. It also helps high school students with writing college admission essays. Held at Renaissance House from 9 am to 4 pm, the instructors are award-winning author and editor Elizabeth Benedict, founder of Don’t Sweat The Essay; Dr. Kathleen Gillespie, a scientist and poet who will conduct a STEM program about Poetry in Science, and Alejandro Cardozza Grant, winner of the Afaa Weaver Award, and instructor at Kids Interaction and Neurodevelopment Lab Research. Local Martha’s Vineyard celebrity writers will also be involved. 

“I am excited about offering these writing programs on Martha’s Vineyard this summer,” said Abigail McGrath, founder of Renaissance House, in the release. “I am thrilled that Renaissance House is welcoming writers of all ages to our creative workshops.

“I would like to thank the Sustainable Arts Foundation for bestowing the Tony and Caroline Grant to assist the Renaissance House’s commitment to helping a parent with a child gain creative time.”  

Renaissance House admits writers to the program who span different stages in their careers, McGrath says in the release, from emerging writers to notable award winners.  

“The point of the program is to give artists ‘alone’ time, away from their families and their jobs and the everyday chores that make up a life. The retreat provides time in which to create new works or finish existing ones. There are workshops in memoir writing, journalism, poetry and many other aspects of the written word.”

The Renaissance House program’s salons have featured talks with Martha’s Vineyard residents such as Jill Nelson, Jessica Harris, Kate Feiffer, Susan Klein, Robert Hayden, Marty Nadler, Nat Benjamin, Shirley Craig, Brooks Robards, Janet Hill, Justen Ahern, Daniel Waters, Mike West and others.

In July, Renaissance House will present the podcast, “Martha’s Vineyard Renaissance House,” featuring writers from the retreat.

The deadline for applications for the programs is April 30, 2020.

For an application to attend, contact Renaissance House at Visit or call Renaissance House at 917-747-0367 for more information.