Our Story

The Croft Residency was founded by Benjamin Cheney in Northern Michigan in the winter of 2018, under the name Crojik’s Croft, to provide a nature-based residency for artists. It is inspired by his experience at other artist residencies across the US, and by his deep commitment to nurturing the links between the land and those of who draw from it physical, spiritual, and creative nourishment.

The residency is designed to provide a platform and refuge where visiting performance, dance, and other movement-based artists can develop new work, hone and rework developing projects, and draw inspiration from the variety of nature that is both part of and surrounds The Croft. For example, during the 2018 season, one resident company specifically focused on the relationship between land and water made numerous visits to and performed at the nearby Fisherman’s Island State Park, located on the shores of Lake Michigan.

Other companies have developed new work using grand old trees on the residency property almost as adjunct company members. The residency strives to provide a meeting space where artists, audiences, and the community engage with each other. The performing arts are often perceived as inaccessible to a broad audience. Our residency seeks to shatter that illusion. Our artists engage directly with the community, hold workshops for young dancers, and often involve audience members in their performances.

The residency is a culmination of 10 years of research on communal living, movement and balance, and site research. The current site was purchased in the summer of 2016 and after two years of planning and integrating the residency with the land, brought 5 groups of artists to Northern Michigan in 2018.


Our Staff


Artistic Director

Benjamin Cheney is 30 years old performer and designer from Northern Michigan. He is the founder and Artistic Director of The Croft Residency. His personal dance practice centers on moving meditation, with a focus on somatic, intentional, and metaphoric improvisational movement. He uses the tools of Body Mind Centering (BMC) and the Tamalpa Life Art Process (TLAP) as lenses and languages to engage in his explorations and facilitations. His recent performances include the New York premier of Bienvenue, with Company SBB in New York in May 2017, The Nutcracker with Crooked Tree School of Ballet in 2018, and a performance at Mass MoCA with Dance The Yard on Valentine’s Day 2019. His most recent work with an artist residency program was at The Yard as the Production associate, in 2016, facilitating the onsite needs of incoming artists in residents for performance. He was also an artist educator while at the yard, facilitating classes in schools, senior homes, and at community venues. He also ran the inaugural season in 2018 as Crojik’s Croft. This summer he will be running The Croft Residency, assisting with tech at GLCFA, and helping BLOOM with installs for events.

Technical Advisor

Hannah Bianchi is the Technical Advisor for The Croft Residency. She has over 5 years of experience as a Stage Technician, Lighting Designer, and Stage Manager. She has worked as a stagehand at places such as The Great Lakes Center for the Arts and Tiles Center for the Performing Arts. She most recently designed the lights for The Crooked Tree School of Ballet The Nutcracker. Last year she designed the lights for the informal showing of, unPacking Pina, by LMnO3. Her Stage Management work includes running a Purchase Dance Company show at New York Live Arts. 

Organizational and Stewardship Advisor

David King is the Organizational and Stewardship Advisor for The Croft Residency. David has over 30 years of experience in management and organization of non-profit, governmental, and for-profit environmental organizations. He cares deeply for our relationship with the land. As the Chief of Staff for the District of Columbia Office of Planning in Washington D.C. he formulated and executed legislative strategy for the establishment of the Anacostia Waterfront Corporation, a government- chartered corporation responsible for the redevelopment and environmental restoration of Washington’s Anacostia River waterfront. He is now helping us build connections between artists, the land, and the community. 

Our Board

Benjamin Cheney, The Croft Residency’s board President.

Sylvia Jania, The Croft Residency’s board Vice President, a graduate from Western Michigan University, has over 4 decades of professional dance and performance experience, including work with Erick Hawkins Dance Company, Wellspring Dance Collaborative, Sankai Juku, Deborah Hay, and Steppenwolf Theater. She is a dance and theater educator, having launched the Concord Academy’s dance and theater programs in 1994 and leading those programs until 2013. 

Shawn Lefevre, The Croft Residency’s board Treasurer, graduated from Western Michigan University in 2012 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, Emphasis in Sculpture. He then moved to New York City and worked in arts management for 4 years, including at Sotheby’s as well as at a private contemporary art collection, where he oversaw a 15,000 sq.ft. warehouse renovation. In 2016 Shawn began work at The University of Maine Museum of Art as a registrar, and in 2017 he and his family moved back to northern Michigan. 

Natalie Lefevre, The Croft Residency’s board Secretary, graduated from Western Michigan University in 2011, Magna cum laude, with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, Emphasis in Painting. In addition to pursuing her own artistic endeavours, Mrs. Lefevre has many years of experience in retail management and operations, as well as experience in educational administration.