The Ucross Foundation, located in Ucross, Wyoming, is a nonprofit organization that operates an internationally known retreat for visual artists, writers, composers, and choreographers working in all creative disciplines.
Founded in 1981 by Raymond Plank, Ucross is located on a 20,000-acre working cattle ranch in northeastern Wyoming. The Big Red Complex, which includes the Foundation’s main offices and a renovated barn that houses a public art gallery, was built in 1882 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The name Ucross comes from the original brand of the Pratt and Ferris Cattle Company in the 1880s, which operated a large ranching concern with Big Red as its headquarters. Along with James Pratt and Cornelius Ferris, one of the early partners in the ranch was Marshall Field.
Residency and outreach
Through its Residency Program, art gallery, and associated activities, Ucross actively seeks to support an appreciation for vibrant human creativity and aims to cast a reflection into the future from the cultural mirror of our lives and times. The Foundation provides living accommodations, studio space, uninterrupted time, and the experience of the extraordinary High Plains landscape to competitively selected individuals, who are awarded residencies of two to eight weeks. Ucross seeks individuals whose work reflects innovative thinking, a depth of creative exploration, and the potential for significant future accomplishments. Up to nine individuals are in residence at any one time. The Foundation has four writing studios, four visual arts studios (including one with an Elephant etching press), and two composing studios, both with baby grand pianos. The renovated barn loft serves as a choreography studio. Approximately ninety-five individuals are supported annually.
Residents live in the historic Ucross School House or the Clearmont Train Depot, which have been renovated to include four bedrooms each, with the dining area, living area, and main kitchen in the School House. Lunch and dinner are prepared five days a week by a professional chef. Residencies are provided at no cost to the artist.
Ucross has hosted over 1,400 artists-in-residence from across the United States and the world. The Foundation participates in a number of long-term collaborations with other arts organizations, including the Sundance Institute Theatre Program, the Alpert Award in the Arts (administered by CalArts and supported by the Herb Alpert Foundation), and the Ernest Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award for First Fiction. Ucross also collaborates with the Alley Theatre, University of Wyoming's MFA Program in Creative Writing, the Pew Fellowships in the Arts, The Ford Family Foundation Fellowship for Oregon Artists, and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s Elaine Lebenbom Award for Female Composers.
The Ucross Foundation Art Gallery operates year-round at no cost to the public and typically features exhibitions by Ucross Fellows. The barn loft provides space for occasional conferences and public concerts. The Foundation was named a recipient of the Wyoming Governor’s Arts Award for Excellence in the Arts in 2005.
Fellows of note
A number of Ucross Fellows have been honored by such recognition as the Pulitzer Prize, the Tony Award, the National Book Award, the Guggenheim Fellowship, the MacArthur Fellowship, the Whiting Writers' Award, and inclusion in the Whitney Biennial and Venice Biennale, among many other achievements. Distinguished works created at Ucross include:
- Annie Proulx worked on her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Shipping News, and her first novel, Postcards, which won the PEN/Faulkner Award
- Elizabeth Gilbert wrote the bestselling Eat, Pray, Love and The Last American Man, which was nominated for the National Book Award
- Adam Guettel worked on his Tony Award-winning musical The Light in the Piazza
- Doug Wright wrote his Pulitzer Prize-winning play I Am My Own Wife
- Award-winning Emily Jacir's work was represented at the 52nd Venice Biennale
- Jason Moran won a 2010 MacArthur "Genius" Fellowship.
Other notable Ucross Fellows include: Ron Carlson, Lan Samantha Chang, Courtney Eldridge, Joshua Ferris, Robert L. Freedman, Perry Glasser, Francisco Goldman, Ricky Ian Gordon, Jessica Hagedorn, Ha Jin, Byron Kim, Verlyn Klinkenborg, Tania Leon, Steve Lutvak, Bill Morrison, Sigrid Nunez, Ann Patchett, Sarah Ruhl, Mark So, Andrew Solomon, Manil Suri, Jean Valentine, Paula Vogel, Terry Tempest Williams, Charles Wuorinen.
Ucross has also supported numerous conservation initiatives, including the planting of thousands of trees on the ranch and the placement of a conservation easement on over 12,000 acres of the ranch with the Wyoming Chapter of The Nature Conservancy. In 2010, the Ucross Ranch, currently leased by the Apache Foundation, was named a finalist for the Leopold Conservation Award, given by the Sand County Foundation. The newest land initiative at Ucross involves the creation of a community park that honors the Ucross founder’s commitment to land stewardship, along with that of his sons, Roger Plank and Michael Plank.