Ellen walked around the registration table, put her arms around a woman and squeezed tight. She had a smile so wide and her excitement was palpable. She was a first timer. She was on her own. As she gathered together her registration pack, I turned to greet the next artist. She was one of our alumni but the hugs and welcome were no less intense or meaningful. We introduced our alum to our “newbie” and within moments they were gone, off to connect over schedules and art.
Our family was assembling. We are the guardians of this family. No matter what the story, no matter what the mindset, we are there to nurture the art…crafting a face to face movement of belonging.
Many of our family are already connected through various forms of long-distance technology. Some have created friendships in online forums and groups, blogs, and online workshops. However, using the internet to get away from the internet is where the real transformation and the real stirring happens. They come looking for something more and it finds them. New paths are forged and they gather united face to face, hand to hand, sometimes for a week or even a few days at Art is…You.
Our family consists of men and women from all walks of life. Some work, some are retired. A number have left frozen dinners in the freezer for family while others have organized doggy daycare. Many have saved all year for this moment. There are the handful that comes pulling a rollaway truck of supplies, workshop and itinerary details neatly printed and collated. While others fly through the door, their Michael’s plastic bag bulging with last minute purchases. No matter how they arrive, they all have something in common…they are finally listening to what life is telling them and giving themselves permission to play.
The laughter of anticipation can be heard and the deep exhaling of many who have held their breath for a whole year can be felt. At the end of each day the atmosphere is overflowing with joy and celebratory glee as our faculty and their students come together to gloat over the beautiful pieces that were created with their own hands. To stroke and treasure another artist’s piece, rub shoulders with their joy, and to hold their hand while they share their process is life changing for many.
The communal time is very important. Mornings are a mix of powerful messages and motivating moments. Luncheons are large, loud and festive. Intimate and low key art evenings round out each day. When there is not an official function, you can find artists grouped together over coffee, over wine, over dinner and over art…old friends greeting new friends like they were old friends. This is an experience bursting with inspiration, friendship, and art.
At the end of the week, we all go back to “real life”, but for many there is a shift. Awareness and priorities change. Fresh ideas surface. Instead of jumping back onto life’s treadmill, and feeling bound by routine, artists are incorporating what they have discovered into their lives. Discovering that the impossible becomes reasonable and the unfeasible becomes simple. This change for some is immediate, for others it takes time but once you have held the hand of another artist, that shift is inevitable.
Building a weekend retreat for artists to come together was intentional. However, the formation of our generous family, the remarkable life that it has created and the heartwarming journey that it has taken us on was something we didn’t imagine and we couldn’t have predicted.
Song writer Gary Portnoy put it so succinctly in the first line of the theme song from the Cheers sitcom: “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came; You want to be where you can see, Our troubles are all the same; You want to be where everybody knows your name.”
We encourage you to join us and celebrate 10 fabulous years
Sallianne McClelland and Ellen Legare