The short answer? A way to get inspiration, space, and solitude.
These three things, which are crucial for making art, are often hard to come by in your everyday environment. Art retreats are an opportunity to gain them by getting away to a different location where you focus on making art. Unlike an artist residency, where you usually interact with the public through lectures, workshops, or exhibits, retreats are often a private experience or may include workshops you take to develop your skills as an artist. Another difference can be that residencies often provide room at no cost, and may even include a stipend, while you may have to pay for the time you spend at a retreat.
I had the privilege in August of last year to do an art retreat with Art & Soul Residencies and Retreats in Truth and Consequences, New Mexico. (Yes, that’s the real name of the town!) It was amazing! I took my sister with me for moral support and driving/cooking help. We stayed in a lovely adobe house in the middle of the desert mountain landscape. It was an inspiring landscape from which to create work. In addition to the inspiring environment, the house also had a dedicated art studio space. The studio was at the far end of the house and so I was able to spend 6 hours a day by myself in the studio painting or out in the garden making cyanotypes.
The sunsets and desert vista views from the porch inspired my work as did the plant life nearby, namely the yucca and cactus. White Sands National Park was only a couple hours away, so we spent one day venturing out to the dunes, which are full of subtle beauty in the lines and colors of the rolling sand hills. I was there while the pandemic was still going on and it was so nice to get away and be somewhere different – still isolating from people but in a different home with different views.
Art retreats refresh and refocus an artist. They are a time where you can put down other responsibilities you may have with family, pets, school, other jobs, etc. and spend uninterrupted time focused on your art, alone with your thoughts. I look forward to future art retreats – to inspiration, space, and solitude.
Yours Truly, Amanda Porter
(art retreat fan)