The Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (VCCA) was established in 1971 by Virginia writers Nancy Hale and Elizabeth Coles Langhorne. After several years of providing residencies on estates around Charlottesville, VCCA settled at its current home on the grounds of Mt. San Angelo in 1978. Located in Amherst County and formerly owned by Sweet Briar College, the property includes a 13,000-square-foot 1930s Normandy-style dairy barn designed by Pendleton Clark and subsequently renovated for use as artists’ studios. The Fellows Residence, with bedrooms, a living room, dining facilities, and library, opened in 1981. With facilities accommodating up to 25 artists at one time, VCCA is one of the nation’s largest year-round residency programs and has served more than 6,000 writers, visual artists, and composers since its founding. VCCA was a founding member of the Alliance of Artists Communities and of Res Artis, the worldwide network of artists communities.
During the 1980s, VCCA expanded its offerings to artists by establishing exchanges with residency programs in Ireland, Germany, Austria, and Malta, sending artists who have previously been in residence in Virginia abroad and bringing international artists to this country as VCCA Fellows.
In 2004, VCCA established a second location in Auvillar, France, through the generous gift of two buildings from the Denver-based Donnell-Kay Foundation. Operated through our supporting organization, VCCA Abroad, the Moulin à Nef now provides residencies and lively community engagement to nearly 40 artists each year.
In recent years, the relationship between VCCA and Sweet Briar College has deepened, with a focus on enhancing the creative work done in both organizations. The two institutions regularly collaborate on programs that bring writers, visual artists, and composers to VCCA and Sweet Briar, such as the creation of the SBC/VCCA Teaching Fellowship, as well as programs like the SBC/VCCA Salons that give students and the Sweet Briar community access to Fellows and their work.
After leasing Mt. San Angelo from Sweet Briar College for 42 years, VCCA purchased all 412 acres of the property in 2020 — finally securing a permanent home on the eve of its 50th anniversary year in 2021.
About This Land
We are honored to call Mt. San Angelo home to VCCA’s artist residency program. We aim to be good stewards of this land, which has been a source of creativity, inspiration, and artistic retreat for many writers, visual artists, and composers since our arrival here in 1978. However, we must acknowledge a long history of violence in Virginia and the legacy of colonialism and systemic racism that paved the path for our current claim to this land.
VCCA’s artist residency program at Mt. San Angelo is located on the traditional territory of the Monacan Indian Nation. Today, the Monacan community centers around Bear Mountain in Amherst County, where the Monacan Ancestral Museum is committed to preserving the rich legacy of the tribe’s history and culture. We encourage you to visit monacannation.com and learn more.
We must also acknowledge the legacy of slavery woven into the history of Sweet Briar College, from whom VCCA rented and ultimately purchased Mt. San Angelo. On the site of the college is an Enslaved Workers Cabin as well as the Sweet Briar Plantation Burial Grounds where many enslaved people who built and worked on the former plantation are buried. You can read more about Sweet Briar College’s history at sbc.edu/about/history.