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ART | conservation

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The Shillim Foundation Mission

The Shillim Foundation promotes the conservation of wild places around the globe, forwarding a new understanding as conservation as a creative practice. The Foundation is directed by Margie Ruddick, internationally acclaimed landscape planner and designer and winner of the 2013 Cooper Hewitt National Design Award in Landscape Architecture, and Martin Brody, the Catherine Mills Davis Professor of Music at Wellesley College and former Arts Director, American Academy in Rome.

The Shillim Foundation is the global sister organization of the Shillim Institute, which is located at the heart of the Sahyadri Range, the centerpiece of India’s Western Ghats. The Ghats are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a biodiversity conservation hotspot.

Collaborative workshops, starting with the inaugural program at Shillim, will result in site specific artworks and guidelines to conserve the wild environments on site. During the workshop, artists and conservationists will work side by side, to produce a cross-pollination of ideas, practices, methods, and processes. The works that emerge will come to life in performances, exhibitions, books, manuals, and interactive media. The purpose of the programs will be:


01. ART

To produce works of art that help people read and see the landscape in new ways. Works in the fields of painting, music, photography, dance, literature will communicate qualities of the landscape that, along with the site’s ecology, make it unique. These will be used to convey ideas in a conservation manual/ artists’ book that will reveal the site in multiple ways as well as lay out guidelines for conservation.



To reframe the relationship between the arts and conservation, promoting the idea that breaking down the boundaries between art, science and policy will result in new approaches to winning conservation gains, in the fields of design, policy, media, and education.



To create conservation plans for safeguarding and inhabiting wild places that integrate ecology, culture, and economics. After the pilot program at Shillim, we plan to run program at sites around the world where the need for a fresh approach to conservation is critical. Ongoing retreats will take place at Shillim, where lessons learned and methods developed through will be shared.


Toward the Future of Conservation



Shillim is a place in the Western Ghats of India - Shillim is the name of a small village,  and it is the name of a retreat I have worked on for almost twenty years. For me Shillim is also a concept, a practice, and a promise.   It has been for me a place of restoration, renewal, as well as struggle and frustration.   Often Shillim is a place that I can venture to physically, or simply in my mind, when I feel I am losing myself.

We all have our Shillims - those precious landscapes that have formed us, nurtured us and possibly saved us.  We need to safeguard not only the landscapes, but the role all of our Shillims play in the lives of the human species.  We are increasingly distanced from wild places, where we connect with who we are as part of a larger natural system.  Shillim as a concept is that place where we can reconnect. As a practice it is the ability to move beyond the chatter and exhaustion of our everyday lives, to tap into the deep sense of renewal that a place like Shillim provides, and come back to ourselves.  As a promise it is this: that for our children and our grandchildren landscapes like Shillim will still exist.

Margie Ruddick, co-founder and director


Shillim is a concept, a practice, and a promise.

MARGIE RUDDICK   |  Co-Founder






Born in Mumbai, India in 1961. Denzil de Souza spent his working life developing the family business, P.N. Writer & Co. - a relocation company that was bought by his late father, Mr. Charles de Souza, in the late 1950's. Denzil joined the business in 1978, which was then under the management of his father and late brother, William de Souza. Their mentoring instilled values of excellence onto him and greatly influenced his work ethic and outlook on life. With William, Denzil transformed Writer from a single location, 20-employee, single service company into a multi-location, multi-business, with 5000+ employees. In 2005, the company expanded its operations across the Middle East, including Singapore, and has maintained these networks ever since. 

The start of 2013 marked the year that Hilton Shillim Estate Retreat & Spa, a project that had been planned for 20 years, was opened. The retreat is set in a massive nature conservation site with its focus on sustainability and wellness. 

In his spare time, Denzil likes to get involved with NGOs that support the rehabilitation of alcohol and substance users. He is also part of the Shillim Institute, whose goals are to preserve the ecosystem of the Shillim Estate and to incorporate art and culture into life at the retreat. Denzil is married to Consuelo Sanchez, a Spanish born national, and together they have two children names Lia and Dylan.




Co-Founder and Co-Director

For over twenty years, Margie Ruddick has been recognized for her pioneering work in the landscape. Winner of the 2013 Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award in landscape architecture, Ruddick has forged a design language that integrates ecology and culture. Ruddick has taught at Harvard's Graduate School of Design, Yale, Princeton, The University of Pennsylvania, Parsons School of Design, and Schumacher College in England. In addition to the Cooper-Hewitt, her many awards include the 1998 Waterfront Centre Award and the 1999 Places Design Award, along with environmental artist Betsy Damon, for the Living Water Park; her work has also received awards from the American Society of Landscape Architects and the American Institute of Architects. She shared a practice with Judith Heintz from 1988 to 1995; then worked on her own until 2004, when she became a partner at the planning and design firm WRT. Since leaving WRT in 2007 she has worked on projects independently, in addition to writing, lecturing, and teaching.

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The composer, Martin Brody is Catherine Mills Davis Professor of Music at Wellesley College, where he has been on the faculty since 1979.  He is the recipient of awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the National Endowment for the Arts, among others.  He has also served as Fromm Composer-in-Residence at the American Academy in Rome (2001), Fromm Resident at the William Walton Estate in Ischia (2004), and Roger Sessions Memorial Fellow in Music at the Liguria Arts and Humanities Center in Bogliasco (2006).  Brody was Heiskell Arts Director at the American Academy in Rome from 2007-2010.  He has worked as a film and TV composer, as well as a composer of concert music and is currently writing his third chamber opera.  He has also written extensively on contemporary music. Brody serves on the editorial boards of Perspectives of New Music and The Open Space, the Board of Trustees of the American Academy in Rome, and the Board of Directors of the Composers Conference and Chamber Music Center.

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Leeanne E. Alonso earned her PhD in Biology from Harvard University, where she studied under renowned biodiversity expert, Dr. E.O. Wilson. Leeanne has over 20 years of experience working in the biodiversity conservation field around the world, particularly in the tropics. As the Director of Global Wildlife Conservation’s Global Biodiversity Exploration Program from 2012-2015 and Rapid Assessment Program (RAP) at Conservation International from 1998-2011, Leeanne coordinated and led more than 45 biodiversity field surveys through which she developed her expertise in the collection and analysis of biodiversity data. These surveys brought together international biodiversity experts with local scientist and students, facilitating capacity building in-country and ensuring that the data were used for conservation action on-the-ground. Leeanne has worked in over 30 countries in North, Central and South America, Asia, and Africa. Although her conservation work encompasses many types of landscapes and species, Leeanne’s first love is studying ants, particularly to document their amazing diversity and to demonstrate their essential role in all terrestrial ecosystems.  

Leeanne is a Conservation Scientist for Global Wildlife Conservation, through which she is a founding member of the Women for Nature Network (WINN), which aims to strengthen the role of women in conservation and natural resource management around the world. Leeanne currently serves as a Biodiversity Consultant to the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private lending arm of the World Bank, where she advises private sector companies on how to minimize the impacts of their development projects on nature and the environment. She also does independent biodiversity consulting, focusing on raising awareness and capacity within the private sector to sustainably design and manage projects. 

Leeanne is excited to be part of the Shillim Foundation, bringing her ecological and conservation experience to design and conserve amazing landscapes of India and the world.

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leeanne alonso

Conservation Director



Karen is the Director of the Shillim Institute. She studied international business management and economics in Brussels and is fluent in French. Her calling to conservation and sustainability began nearly a decade ago with a growing interest in food. While working in Brussels with a renowned Michelin Star chef, she understood the relationship between sustainability and the production of quality ingredients. 

This realization led her to seek a deeper understanding of how to balance the impact of people on their environment. Karen subsequently worked on a project to restore native plant species in Southern California during a sever decade of drought and recently set up the organic farm at Shillim, applying the same balance of a forest ecosystem. 
Karen has a passion for horses and riding based on the principles of true horsemanship. She brings and furthers this deep knowledge to Shillim's equestrian setup.

karen de souza

Director of the Shillim Institute

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