The Rauschenberg Residency @ Captiva

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Captiva. The Fish House. In 1978, Robert Rauschenberg bought the Fish House, one of several Old Florida cottages he acquired, preserved, repurposed, and maintained at what today has become the Rauschenberg Residency for visiting artists and scholars. In need of a studio-sanctuary, and originally designed with a drawbridge between the dock and the house, political cartoonist and conservationist J. N. “Ding” Darling built the Fish House in 1942. [Photo Augustus Mayhew]

“We have no idea what we will find when we are able to return,” Kathy Halbreich, the Rauschenberg Foundation’s executive director, told The New York Times, according to The Art Newspaper.

Until then, while awaiting the fate of the Rauschenberg Residency’s cottage colony, mindful of the area’s immeasurable losses and flood of television images of chaos and destruction, here are a few looks at the remarkable collection he assembled since he first arrived on Captiva during the late 1960s. As well as his art now found in the world’s museums, Rauschenberg spent four decades preserving the island’s buildings and settings, describing Captiva as “The foundation of my life and my work; it is the source and reserve of my energies.”

Since its inception in 2012, the Rauschenberg’s Residency program has hosted as many as 100 artists and scholars annually, until it was interrupted by the pandemic. Even though several years have passed since my visit to the 20-acre retreat, it is a place that never leaves your mind. The sky. The air. The light. The magic.


Weeks Cottage. In 1977, Rauschenberg acquired the adjacent four-acre bayfront parcel that included the Weeks Cottage. Renovated in 1982 as a guesthouse, the cottage serves as the resident artists’ gathering area and communal dining room where they often assist the guest chef in preparing their meals.
Waldo Cottage. A former worker’s cabin that became a writer’s studio, it was once located on a nearby bayfront parcel. Rauschenberg bought the cottage during the 1980s and moved it next to Weeks Cottage in 2004. These nearly century-old frame vernacular cottages make for the remote ambiance created to inspire visiting artists.
Bay House. Rauschenberg bought the Bay House property in 1966 with cash and artworks. In 1988, he moved the Bay House to its current location, raising it with pilings, making for ground floor studios and artist residency spaces above.
Bayfront perch. A fragile habitat in peril.

Along the Jungle Road

Zoned for 53-units and wanting to keep as much of property’s earliest plantings, Rauschenberg engineered the Jungle Road as a “meandering path,” from the barrier island’s Captiva Drive west to his Beach House on the gulf.

The Jungle Road, Captiva. A view from the main road west to the Beach House and Gulf of Mexico.
Along the Jungle Road.

Along the Jungle Road.
The Beach House. Acquired in July 1968, Rauschenberg lived here as a permanent resident beginning in 1970 when he utilized the ground floor as his studio. In 1990, he moved to a new house built on an adjacent beachfront parcel. The first floor accommodates three studios with living quarters above.
“Bob’s Chair” anchored at the beachfront end of the Jungle Road.
Beachfront morning. View west from the Beach House. On a clear day Rauschenberg might have imagined being able to see his hometown, Port Arthur, Texas.
Laika Lane Studio. Built in 1955, Rauschenberg bought the property adjacent to his Beach House in 1973, converting it into upstairs studio-administration space and ground-level fabrication areas.
Laika Lane Studio. In 2012, the upper level was converted into a dance studio with wood floors and mirrored walls.


Main Studio, 1990-1993. West elevation. 20 steps above the ground, built for aqua alta, the double doors lead into Rauschenberg’s open 3,200 square-foot studio with a gallery space called the Shotgun Studios, a digital printing area, a sound studio, and a full kitchen. The ground level area house wood and metal fabrication, a screen-printing area, and a dark room, with a separate studio area with a kiln and welding equipment.
Main Studio, 1990-1993. East elevation.

Rauschenberg Residency, Captiva. The Fish House. A Florida architectural treasure. An artist’s ultimate getaway.


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