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“Creative thinking and ideas are so important, but acting on those ideas makes a life.” — Sally Lucas, Lifetime Trustee

Mission & History 

The Sally and Don Lucas Artists Residency Program (LAP) is designed to offer artists from a range of disciplines an environment conducive to individual and collaborative creative practice. Seeking to stimulate an energetic exchange of ideas between culturally diverse Fellows and across varied artistic fields and scholarly disciplines, the residency has earned international recognition as a model of curatorial practice supporting the development of new and challenging contemporary work. 

Located amidst a 175-acre natural landscape, Villa Montalvo was built by the late Senator James D. Phelan in 1912. Upon his death in 1930, the Senator gifted his beloved estate to the San Francisco Art Association to be maintained “as a public park [with] the buildings and grounds immediately surrounding... to be used as far as possible for the development of art, literature, music, and architecture by promising students.” After assuming trusteeship, the Art Association announced their intent to launch an artist residency at Montalvo, the third program of its kind in the United States. In 1939, Montalvo’s residency opened with five artist studios and a small gallery in the historic Villa. At the official opening, Dr. Stephen Pepper, head of the art department at the University of California, Berkeley stated, “Through the cooperation of artists and the community, Montalvo in its silence and beauty, will become one of the creative forces of the world.”

Lucas Fellows

Lucas Fellows are identified through an international nomination process that ensures support for highly qualified artists who have the potential to become major voices in the next generation of creative thinkers. The residency also seeks to support underserved artists who might not find their way into a residency program. Nominated artists are invited to apply for a Fellowship; all applicants are then juried by professionals in their respective fields. Selected artists are offered a 1-3 month Fellowship.

The LAP welcomes sixty artists a year into the program. Residencies are offered in all contemporary artistic disciplines including the visual arts, design, literary arts, film, choreography, performance art, music and composition, and teaching artists. The LAP welcomes artist’s collaborators from overlapping fields, including science, technology, and other scholarly research. The Program is the first in the United States to offer an annual Culinary Artist Residency.

While at Montalvo, Lucas Fellows are granted time for solitary exploration, creation, research and contemplation, as well as the opportunity to engage with fellow residents, colleagues, and the wider community of Silicon Valley. The Program’s international focus fosters a rich cultural and ethnic diversity that supports a variety of perspectives within a global framework. Communal activities provide artists opportunities to participate in stimulating conversations, exchange of ideas, and develop collaborative partnerships that extend beyond the residency.


Lucas Fellows enjoy unique access to the resources of the Arts Center, enabling them to present their work to Silicon Valley and Bay Area audiences. Engagement with the general public is encouraged both formally and informally. Montalvo Arts Center offers an annual thematic arts program developed through the LAP. Current and past Lucas Fellows are invited to respond to the annual theme through exhibitions in Montalvo’s Project Space Gallery and Art on the Grounds program, performances, literary events, Open Access events, as well as screenings, workshops and outreach. Often these opportunities take the form of newly commissioned works and projects that engage both Montalvo’s natural and built environments as well as its diverse communities.

On the last Friday of each month, Montalvo offers the public a sneak peek into the LAP as one Lucas Fellow presents his or her creative process and work through conversations, lectures, performances, or demonstrations. These presentations allow artists an opportunity to reflect on their practice.