Artist enclaves offer a retreat where scenic wonders of the natural world inspire creativity. Here are a few of our favorites.

By Paulette Perhach
September 23, 2004

From the earliest days of art―cave etchings and claypots―the sea has served as a prominent muse to those whointerpret and express the world around them. Painters can't helpbut be stirred by the blazing shades of the setting sun over thesea, composers by the constant rhythms of the surf on the sand.

Sitka Center for Art and Ecology: Otis, OR
Named for the tree that shades its campus, Sitka offersworkshops such as Botanical Drawing, Nature Journaling withWatercolor and Pen, Cedar-bark Basket Making, and Mushroom Huntingon the Oregon Coast. "A big part of exploring the relationship ofecology and art is creating an atmosphere where they seem to beworking together," says executive director Randall Koch. "If youhave a beautiful, natural place to practice your art, it helps thediscovery process." Much of this discovery happens in the PacificOcean. During a workshop called Kayaking in the Estuaries, artistsget an intimate view of the life of the sea. "The whole climatehere is highly influenced by the ocean," says Koch. "It beckonspeople." Every November, Sitka sells works by Northwest artists intheir three-day Art Invitational, held at the World Forestry Centerin Portland. For more information, call 541/994-5485 or

Haystack Mountain School of Crafts: Deer Isle, ME
On a cliff overlooking Jericho Bay, this retreat drawsstudents who want to advance their skills in a variety of crafts.They work in media such as clay, glass, metals, and paper, and takeblacksmithing, weaving, and woodworking in classes ranging fromBamboo Basketry to Expressive Sculpture in Iron. "Folks whotypically only get to dabble in these crafts get to concentratewith no distractions: no television, no cell phones ringing," saysLesley Lichko, development director. Artisans travel from all overthe world to the quiet campus set on 40 acres, where waves lapagainst Maine's speckled granite shores. The foggy sunriseilluminates the islands of Merchants Row. At the end of eachsession, students sell their crafts in a public auction held in theschool's auditorium. Haystack also offers free tours and eveninglectures. For more information, call 207/348-2307 or

The Hermitage Artist Retreat: Englewood, FL
In 1999, the Sarasota County Arts Council received permissionfrom the city to turn one of southwest Florida's last undevelopedgulf-front properties into an artists' community. Now, artisansworking in a variety of media escape to the restored 1907 homesteadto be inspired by the seemingly endless stretch of beach and toenjoy the Florida weather. "The water has played an importantrole," says Bruce Rodgers, acting executive director. "Many of theartists have told me they have been much more productive than theythought they would be. Feeling the power of the gulf, of thatwater, has released a lot of their own creative energies." TheHermitage requires each resident to perform works for thecommunity. Poets might read to children, painters teach workshops,writers give lectures. The program also has an open house in Julyand January. For more information, call 941/475-2098 or

The Yard: Chilmark, MA
In the hills and meadows on Martha's Vineyard, three housesand a barn serve as the setting for the only artist community inthe United States dedicated exclusively to the art of choreography.Dancers live steps from the beach, and The Yard's creators believetheir quiet coastal setting contributes to the life of the colony."It's very much a part of what we have to offer," says DiAnn Ray,executive director. "It affects people." During the summer months,dancers from the Yard entertain vacationers. For show times,tickets, and information, call 508/645-9662 or

Headlands Center for the Arts: Sausalito, CA
Located in a national park in a valley of the MarinHeadlands, the Headlands Center offers workspace with a Pacificview. "Certainly the coastal light is amazing. The totalenvironment is pretty profound," says Kathryn Reasoner, executivedirector. "The artists are invariably affected by the sight."Headlands attracts artists not only with its setting, but also witha chance to share with the larger community. The center facilitatescommunication between artists and local professionals inarchitecture, education, urban planning, and environmental work, aswell as encouraging a dialogue between artists. Kathryn says thegoal is to bring art and creativity into every corner of life tohelp solve problems. The solution could be something as simple asusing art to help children learn math, she says. A schedule ofpublic events is available. For more information, call 415/331-2787or visit

To find an artistic enclave near your home or favorite vacationspot, visit the Alliance of Artists Communities