The Sybil Shearer Studio at Ragdale

After several years of working in close collaboration with the Ragdale Foundation, the Morrison-Shearer Foundation helped to plan and build the Sybil Shearer Studio at Ragdale in Lake Forest, Illinois. As part of the House of Dance and Music, the studio provides an inspiring space for creativity in dance and movement – a living legacy of Sybil Shearer and Helen Balfour Morrison.

The partnership marked the opening of the Studio with “Space to Move,” a celebratory event held on National Dance Day, Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. The event featured a promenade-style dance performance, directed by Kristina Isabelle, that led guests through the late summer gardens of the Ragdale campus to the site of the new Sybil Shearer Studio.

The construction of the House of Dance and Music was made possible by a $1.5 million, one-time grant to Ragdale from the Morrison-Shearer Foundation, along with an additional $400,000 raised by Ragdale. The campus is located on the verdant 5-acre historic grounds of the former country estate of architect Howard Van Doren Shaw, not far from Lake Michigan, approximately 30 miles north of Chicago.

The Sybil Shearer Studio at Ragdale brings about the realization of the dream of modern dance pioneer Sybil Shearer (1912 – 2005) and her longtime artistic collaborator, photographer Helen Balfour Morrison (1901 – 1984). Shearer and Balfour Morrison envisioned creating a tranquil location where artists could hone their skills and advance their artistic self-expression free from distractions.

Andrew Weeks Photography © 2023 PARA.MAR Dance Theatre

The state-of-the-art Sybil Shearer Studio and adjacent composer’s studio provides artists with space for contemplative creativity and the opportunity to explore their practice within a group of other artists with housing and meals provided during their residency.

The roughly 2,500 square foot building houses both the Sybil Shearer Studio and a composer’s studio. The Sybil Shearer Studio space boasts a 30’ x 50’ sprung wood floor, flexible lighting options, and audio-visual equipment. Both studios are accompanied by fully accessible, private sleeping spaces and bathrooms. A key design element of the Sybil Shearer Studio is a series of large windows that immerse resident artists in expansive views of nature as Shearer experienced in her original Northbrook studio.

The House of Dance and Music was designed by Woodhouse Tinucci Architects; the general contractor for the project was Jake Goldberg of Goldberg General Contracting, Inc. and landscape design was by Rosborough Partners, Inc.

For information on Ragdale’s Residency and Fellowship programs, visit their website at