Call for Artists: Conservatory Art installation

Emily Dickinson Museum


Homestead Conservatory Art Installation


Organization Information:

The Emily Dickinson Museum's mission is to spark the imagination by amplifying Emily Dickinson's revolutionary poetic voice from the place she called home. The Museum comprises two historic houses in the center of Amherst, Massachusetts, associated with the poet Emily Dickinson and members of her family during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The Homestead was the birthplace and home of the poet Emily Dickinson. The Evergreens, next door, was home to her brother Austin, his wife Susan, and their three children.


Project Overview:

The Museum seeks to enliven the Homestead conservatory with an art installation in the summer of 2019—a time when visitors from around the world travel to Amherst to see this cultural heritage site. An art installation will draw attention to the importance of this diminutive space in the life of one of America’s greatest poets, and will enhance the visitor experience by integrating contemporary art in a historic setting. The Emily Dickinson Museum has undertaken several restoration projects since it was founded in 2003, with the goal of returning the Homestead interior and exterior finishes to the significant period of interpretation: 1855-1886. In 2017 the Homestead library and conservatory were restored. The conservatory is a small glass house on the south façade of the Homestead where the Dickinsons cultivated plants across the New England seasons. Today, the conservatory holds period-appropriate plants in every season but summer, when the plants prefer to be outside. 


Site Information:

The conservatory is an important space in interpreting Emily Dickinson’s life. It was constructed in 1855 by the poet’s father Edward for his daughters. In this small greenhouse Dickinson maintained her link to the vibrant natural world during the frigid New England winters. She tended flowers "near and foreign," as she wrote to Elizabeth Holland in March 1866, in a space six feet deep and seventeen feet wide where she had "but to cross the floor to stand in the Spice Isles." The deep connection between Dickinson and her horticultural pursuits permeated her poetry and daily life. Imagine dirt under the poet's fingernails as she wrote the poems that immortalized flowers blooming in her garden, home, and Amherst’s fields and woodlands. The conservatory allowed her to follow this passion year round. Through its windows, Dickinson could view the gardens and orchard that she frequented in the warmer months. From the native species and fragile exotic specimens she grew inside would come the blooms and bouquets sent with letters and poems to her beloved friends in even the coldest months of the year. Though the original structure was dismantled in 1916, many original components were preserved and the 2017 restoration features original sash, the exterior door, and shutters.


Images of the conservatory may be found at this link:


Artist Eligibility:

·        Artist may submit work in any medium or mixed-media

·        Artist must demonstrate both artistic excellence and consideration of the space as it pertains to the poet Emily Dickinson

·        Artist must be present to install and de-install the work her/himself with minimal support from Museum staff

·        Artist would ideally be comfortable speaking with members of the public and would participate in one or two public programs showcasing the installation (i.e. artist talks)


Project Profile:

·        Installation must be comprised of original artwork that fits in the conservatory space (6’x17’)

·        Installation must celebrate and enhance the conservatory by being both highly visible in the space and welcoming to a diverse Museum visitorship

·        Installation must adhere to site limitations: Due to the historic nature of the structure, no holes may be made in building fabric and no adhesives may be applied

·        Installation must be installed safely and securely and be able to withstand warm summer temperatures, sunlight, and humidity inside the green house

·        There is access to electricity in the conservatory and this may be utilized for the installation

·        Shelves currently in conservatory may be used to support installation elements, reconfigured, or removed entirely

·        As will be stated in the project contract, all title to the artwork remains with the artist and installation components will be returned to her/him at the conclusion of the exhibition


Artist Stipend: $3,000 (all inclusive of cost of materials, travel/lodging, and time)


Project Timeline:

Proposals accepted: April 1, 2019 – May 1, 2019

Interviews of chosen proposals: May 6 – 10, 2019

Artist announcement: May 13, 2019

Installation: week of June 17, 2019

Soft Opening: June 21, 2019

Duration: 2.5 months

De-installation: week of September 9, 2019


Please include the following in your proposal:

·        Resume with current contact information

·        One-page artist’s statement

·        3-5 images of past work

·        Detailed description of proposed installation in no more than two written pages

·        Concept drawings or renderings, traditional or digital (sound or video if applicable)

·        A list of proposed components and a description of anticipated installation requirements

·        Names and contact information of one or two reference/s who are familiar with your work


Submit proposals/inquiries:

E-mail: with subject line: Conservatory Art