Faith, art and barns

I mentioned last week how I mulled over my idea for a faith-based art center while traveling through Missouri and Illinois over the holidays. This idea comes back to me with regularity when I’m on the road, when I have more time to think than in other circumstances (and probably on account of the surrounding land’s inspiration).

Logistically, I had a new thought during this jaunt. I previously assumed the best way to make a retreat/education center like this work would be designing and building from the ground up, a quite costly prospect. Riding across Midwestern farm country last week, however, I wondered if a small cluster of farmsteads wouldn’t work to get the idea going.


A very large and well kept barn along Hwy 36 in Missouri

I don’t know how many such clusters actually exist in reasonable repair, but the idea is that two or three farmsteads right next to each other be combined to form a campus. The houses would be used for lodging and classrooms, and the barns (and outbuildings) retrofitted for studio space.

I’ve long had a thing for barns (I’d love the opportunity to convert one into living space). I’d like this project to be located in the Midwest or Great Plains near a fairly large metropolitan area (for easy access to a sizable airport). Land is less expensive here than on the coasts and the geography lends itself to contemplation, as Kathleen Norris rightly points out in her book Dakota. On the drive up to Chicago for a wedding last week I also pondered ideas such as leasing extra acreage adjacent to the campus to an energy company for a wind farm to create income for the nonprofit venture.

The chances of finding such a location for sale are, practically speaking, probably very slim. Farmsteads probably aren’t grouped together like this very often. Of course, the whole project — as much as it’s one of a few very big dreams my mind continually returns to — more often than not seems bigger than I can fathom. The whole thing needs some divine direction to come together at all.

Which is, of course, entirely possible.


About pcNielsen
Paul Nielsen founded The Aesthetic Elevator late in 2005. He owns a piece of paper, located somewhere in his house (not on the wall), stating that he earned a B.F.A. from the University of Nebraska around about 2001. While there, he studied studied architecture, graphic design and ceramics, graduating with a degree in studio art. Paul presently serves as communications manager for a small non-profit doing their print design and marketing. He spends as much time sculpting in his studio as possible — which is not nearly enough. Visit his website at

8 Responses to Faith, art and barns

  1. Pingback: Retreat for people who care for artists « The Aesthetic Elevator

  2. Shannon says:

    Yesssss please!!

  3. Pingback: Christian art center, downtown? « The Aesthetic Elevator

  4. Pingback: Abandoned prairie schools as art center « The Aesthetic Elevator

  5. Jon Presco says:

    Here are some of my ideas for an Art Farm:

    Creative Hostels for American Vagabonds

  6. Pingback: More on the feasibility of an artist retreat « The Aesthetic Elevator

  7. Pingback: Abandoned prairie schools as art center « Scissortail Art Center

  8. Pingback: More on the feasibility of an artist retreat « Scissortail Art Center

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