Ragdale breaks ground on a new dance studio named after Sybil Shearer

On Tuesday, members of the boards of the Ragdale Foundation and Morrison-Shearer Foundations gathered to celebrate the construction of the Studio House for Dance and Music at Ragdale, a North Shore artist residency program founded in 1976. Constructed alongside Ragdale's properties on the 5-acre Lake Forest estate, the Studio House includes a composer's suite and dance studio. The latter is named after Chicago modern dance pioneer Sybil Shearer. Lake Forest mayor Honorable George A Pandeleon attended to commemorate the occasion.

The new building, designed by Woodhouse Tinucci Architects and constructed by Goldberg General Contracting, Inc. with landscape design by Rosborough Partners, Inc., is supported by a one-time $1.5 million grant supplied by the Morrison-Shearer Foundation, with an additional $400,000 contribution from the Ragdale Foundation. Long the site of artistic retreats for artists of all genres, the new project will specifically support dancers and musicians via customized spaces. The 30x50-foot Sybil Shearer Studio boasts a sprung dance floor and flexible capacity for multi-genre audio-visual experimentation. Both studios will include sleeping quarters and are fully accessible to artists with disabilities.

The studio's namesake, Shearer (1912-2005) and her artistic partner Helen Balfour Morrison (1901-1984) envisioned an artists' refuge free from the distractions of Chicago. According to the Morrison-Shearer Foundation, an organization founded in 1991 to preserve the legacies of both artists, the Northbrook residents had ties to architect Howard Van Doren Shaw, who designed and built Ragdale in 1897 as a family summer home.

“The new Sybil Shearer Studio will be firmly rooted in the past, alive in the present moment, and has its vision focused on the future of this beautiful art form," said Chicago Dancemakers Forum executive director Ginger Farley in a Dec. 2020 statement. "The opportunity for dance artists to experience creative retreat in a supportive space and to be in dialog with artists of all sorts provides a critically needed resource for the field.” Former Morrison-Shearer Foundation board president Carol Doty says the inspiration to house the Shearer Studio at Ragdale was prompted by Farley.

The Studio House for Dance and Music's grand opening, planned for fall, 2021, will include the premiere of a new documentary about Shearer by filmmaker Bob Hercules, among other yet-to-be-announced events.


For construction updates and additional information visit ragdale.org.