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The Sybil Shearer Studio Opens at Ragdale

The Morrison-Shearer Foundation and the Ragdale Foundation marked the opening of the Sybil Shearer Studio in the new Studio House of Dance and Music 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, artistic director of Kristina Isabelle Dance, that led guests through the late summer gardens of the Ragdale campus, culminating at the new Studio House of Dance and Music, site of the new Sybil Shearer Studio.

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

The new Studio 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 by Rosborough Partners, Inc. The construction of the new Studio House of Dance and Music was made possible by a $1.5 million one-time grant from the Northbrook-based Morrison-Shearer Foundation to the Ragdale Foundation, along with $400,000 from the Ragdale Foundation.

The Ragdale 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 and approximately 30 miles north of Chicago.

The Studio House of Dance and Music 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 Morrison envisioned creating a tranquil location where artists could hone their skills and advance their artistic self-expression free from distractions..

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

Dancers and musicians take their bows outside the new Sybil Shearer Studio.
Photo by Bob Laemle

After several years of working closely with the Ragdale Foundation, the Sybil Shearer Studio at Ragdale is open in Lake Forest. The MSF gift of 1.5 million dollars was significant at a time when arts funding is floundering, and made it possible for the development of both the dance studio and an adjacent composer’s studio. Woodhouse-Tinucci Architects and Goldberg General Contracting worked on a very tight schedule to complete construction of the Studio in the Fall of 2021. As part of the Ragdale artists’ community, the Studio now provides an inspiring space for the creation new dance and movement projects – a living legacy of Sybil Shearer and Helen Balfour Morrison. For more information, click here.

A documentary film committee, chaired by Trustee Liz Kidera, commissioned Bob Hercules and Media Process Group to create a short film about the work of Sybil, Helen, and the dance studios. The film, titled A Space to Create, premiered following the opening of the new Sybil Shearer Dance Studio at Ragdale in September of 2021.