For the first time ever AMP hosted its annual summer programming, including the Art Monastic Laboratory, in the United States — in Springfield, VT. I helped run the summer programs alongside Raphael Sacks and Betsy McCall. We were joined by dear friends and returning Artmonks (including Nathan Rosquist, John Benjamin, Darko Peterson, Keith Lim, Jessi Barber, Kate Hamilton, Jenny Posnak, Gerry McCullough and many more), along with many new Artmonks this year.
The summer was composed of three different programs. For 4 weeks in May we had a “building period,” renovating spaces and setting everything up. Then, for 7 weeks June-July, we hosted the summer Art Monastic Laboratory. Finally, we closed the summer by hosting a week-long Artmonk Retreat — our tried-and-true combination of silent meditation retreat and artist residency program. Over the 4 months we hosted more than 20 artists, and a steady stream of guests.
It’s an understatement to say Vermont is beautiful. This new location for the Art Monastery Project is simply stunning. There’s a five bedroom farmhouse from the 1800’s, a barn that we renovated into a dance studio, gardens big enough to feed our whole community for months, and a river where we swam several times a day. The house sits on a hill looking out over the Connecticut River towards New Hampshire, just beyond the ancient pear tree in our backyard. It’s lush and green, and our neighbors were thrilled to have a new artistic group in town.
Everyday we ate breakfast, tended/harvested the food gardens, meditated, did physical training, had artistic time, shared lunch and had group check-in. Many days we had campfires, harvested wild berries, swam in the
river, shared our artworks in progress, and had lively discussions about the most important things in our hearts. The last few weeks of the Laboratory we had weekly Public Art Shares. We invited the local community to these events to share what we were creating and engage in feedback and conversations. All three Art Shares turned into animated late nights with our neighbors gathered around the campfire to talk about art and community and spiritual practice!
This summer’s Laboratory was different than any other Labs yet (and I’ve been at them all!) Artists of all different disciplines, with many different projects came anywhere from 1-7 weeks. It was a new kind of fluidity of people and projects, with waves of fresh energy coming in regularly. Though this meant our core team was doing a lot of hosting, it also meant we got to constantly experience this amazing place and lifestyle through fresh eyes. I was grateful every time someone at check-in would remind me that this type of living is rare and precious, and so important in this particular cultural moment in America.
I remember so vividly my first summer at the Art Monastery Project in 2012, and being awed that this was a possible way to live–deep in community, surrounded by art, actively exploring spirituality, and lifted up by hard work and generosity. It’s beautiful and challenging, and encourages me to grow and open further each time. This past summer was a gorgeous example of all of those things coming together once again!
I’m in Colorado for the fall and will be traveling and performing this winter and spring. As the colorful fall promises colder weather, I’m already finding myself thinking about the long, warm days of art, community, meditation and nature in Vermont to come next summer! The new location in Vermont, here in the US, feels like a type of new beginning for the Art Monastery. The 2016 Summer Lab has set the groundwork for a potential long-term home base for our sangha, the International Otherhood of Artmonks. I’m excited to see the next years unfold, and continue to dive deeper into this lifestyle and these programs!