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It's a Retreat, Not a Resort

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Dear editor,

I am currently a resident at Ragdale. My experiences during both this residency and one last year prove that Gina Frangello's attack on Ragdale published last week ["Room With No View," November 15] is not only undeserved but also inaccurate. Contrary to what Ms. Frangello says, Ragdale staff members are professional, friendly, and helpful. They are people who focus their efforts on providing an invaluable resource to artists and writers seeking to produce work. Ragdale residents (though Ms. Frangello is not necessarily an example of this) are generous and respectful of one another. They recognize that Ragdale is a safe haven from all the usual trials with which an artist must otherwise contend.

On some other points: there has never been a quiet rule at Ragdale, and there is no rule that you can't leave whenever you want to. The food is delicious. And before arriving at Ragdale prospective residents receive a detailed orientation packet to help them get the most out of their residency. Among the items included is a warning that the paths on the prairie are muddy and duck boots are recommended.

It is a rare gift that places like Ragdale exist. What is disturbing is that Ms. Frangello chose to undermine rather than support it. What is the purpose of an artist assailing an arts institution that really is above reproach and which has the best interests of artists at heart? Ms. Frangello acknowledges the benefits that came of her time at Ragdale. Why attack it? It's challenging enough for even excellent institutions like Ragdale to ensure their financial stability, particularly in the current economic and political climate. Why make that task more difficult? Why make her own life as a writer harder? Why make it potentially more difficult for other artists and writers to enjoy the privilege she had access to?

Puzzling, and disturbing that the Reader chose to participate by publishing her piece.

If Gina Frangello wanted to write an expose of an institution that does damage to society or the arts, I am sure she could have found more than one deserving target. But Ragdale is certainly not one of them.

Liz Chilsen
Forest Park

Gina Frangello replies:

Liz Chilsen is correct about one thing. The "rules" cited in my essay against leaving the grounds for long periods of time and talking or making excessive noise before dinner are only recommendations for the behavior of Ragdale residents, not express commands.

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