Posted by: Liz Massey | June 24, 2009

A sampler of summer arts retreats

Photo courtesy SXC.

As the temperature goes up after the arrival of the summer solstice, it’s a good time to think about worthy projects to focus one’s attention on, and which allow one to engage in “deliberate practice” to build skill and proficiency in a chosen discipline. Retreats or workshops are one way to fulfill both of these goals at once.

Here are a few intriguing-sounding retreats or classes coming up in the next few months. Feel free to use them as a springboard to find an educational experience that suits your fancy, as well as your budget!

Art & Soul: Two Heads Are Better Than One
This intriguing mixed media arts retreat, whose full title is “Two Heads are Better Than One: Collaboration as Creative Fuel,” will be taught July 21 and 22 at the Portland Airport Embassy Suites by Misty Mawn and Stephanie Lee. Participants will build and decorate plaster and painted human forms as they learn to, in the words of Mawn and Lee, “honor all the facets of creativity and the gifts of inspiration we receive from creative souls around us.”

In part one of the retreat, Lee will guide the students through the techniques and process to create a sculpture of expressive human form with plaster and plaster-like products. In part two, Mawn will gently guide students through her non-intimidating process of adding emotion, light and shadow to the sculpted forms using various mediums including the addition of embellishments (i.e. lace, fabric, beads, buttons). Students will explore the many ways to paint portrait-like expression using acrylic paint, pencil, artist crayons, inks and image transfers.

The retreat sounds like a wonderful example of the collaborative process in action!

Creative Expression & Contemplative Practice
This retreat, slated for Sunday, July 12 through Tuesday, July 14, will be led by Christine Valters Paintner, a registered expressive arts consultant and educator. It will be held at The Palisades Archdiocesan Retreat & Faith Formation Center in Federal Way, Washington. Paintner, who runs the deliciously spiritual Abbey of the Arts blog describes the retreat this way:

Lectio divina (sacred reading) is an ancient Christian practice that allows us to enter into silence and let the depths of scripture speak to our hearts. Moving from silent prayer into various forms of creative expression can offer remarkable insights into the images stirring within. Participants will be guided in the practice of lectio divina and then in accessible art-making focused on the process and the journey of discovery.”

No previous experience with lectio divina or the arts is necessary, according to Paintner. For those who wish to explore this form of contemplative practice or revisit the relationship between their faith and their creativity, this retreat may be just what the doctor (or the Doctor Within) ordered.

Vistanuova Art Retreats
This retreat center, located in Italy, is perhaps one of the iconic “dream destinations” that can inspire from afar until one is able to find a way to incorporate an international getaway into their artistic development plans. Vistanuova’s process combines self-inquiry and transformation with immersion in an authentic Italian lifestyle.

All of the retreats include a dinner and a cooking class with Cinzia Gilbert, an internationally recognized chef and restaurateur who shares her love of local cuisine. Retreat packages include lodging, breakfasts and dinners with free wine, transportation to and from painting sites, basic art supplies.

Vistanuova, which means “new vision” in Italian, is offering classes this summer with lively titles such as “Van Gogh’s Shoes,” “Painting Circus,” “Creative Labyrinth,” and “Family Affair.”

Arts for the Soul
Is it too hot to think where you live? Maybe you just need to get away to a cool mountain retreat to recover your creative mojo.

Arts for the Soul, a part of the Steamboat Springs, Colorado, All Arts Festival, begins this year on Thursday, August 20 and runs through Sunday, August 23. Workshops offered will include oil painting, drawing and watercolor classes; chamber music ensemble sessions and private lessons for strings, piano and woodwinds; a creative writing workshop that includes sections on fiction, nonfiction, poetry, writing for children, and nature journaling; classes in color and black-and-white photography; and for the singers in the mix, private voice lessons and choral ensembles.

Retreat organizers explain that collaboration is at the heart of the Arts for the Soul process:

“We firmly believe that the uniqueness of (our workshops comes from) the blending — the collaborative energy — that emerges from a community of artists and art lovers supporting one another on all levels of expertise and experience in all aspects of artistic endeavor. (We believe) that masters benefit as much from the open-eyed, trying-their-wings pilgrims as pilgrims do associating with writers who’ve penned novels, musicians who’ve played symphonies, or painters who’ve shown in galleries….

“For those with less experience, Arts for the Soul will provide you with opportunities and occasions to connect with your creativity. These will come through the guidance of patient, understanding and confidence-enhancing instructors as well as from companions who will be on the same artistic journey as you.”

In addition to blending experience levels, attendees can also blend creative work with plenty of playtime. The workshops allow afternoon time to soak in the town’s world famous hot springs, go on bird watching tours, ride horses on the beautiful trails surrounding Steamboat, hike, biking, play golf or tennis, or swim.

Squam Art Workshops
OK, a workshop/retreat scheduled for Sept. 16-20 just barely qualifies as a “summer” event, but you’ll want to check this one out, even if just to file it away as something to plan to attend in 2010.

The setting for Squam is the Rockywold-Deephaven Camps in Holderness, New Hampshire, a compound spread over 115 acres and two peninsulas that was built at the dawn of the 20th Century. It has been a family camp for generations and has remained essentially unchanged (except for some modern amenities) for over a hundred years.

The staff at the workshops are first rate and classes for the September rendition of the camp cover topics such as flash fiction, temporary earthworks, conscious intention’s role in the creative process, mixed media techniques, “painting without paint” (really), etc.

The questions to you…

Are you going to an arts retreat/workshop this summer? Where? What has motivated you to go? Answer in the comments field below.

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