More on the feasibility of an artist retreat

Some months ago now my wife suggested I look up Randy Elrod on Twitter. Randy, a Christian man, seemed to talk regularly about an art retreat he was affiliated with. So I did look him up.

The retreat in question is called Kalein. Don’t ask me how to pronounce it. If I recall correctly, I attempted to ask him a few questions via Twitter about the retreat center, but wasn’t very satisfied with the answers. This, of course, may be a problem with the chosen mode of communication. Regardless, I revisited the Kalein website this morning in the course of an email conversation and it got me to thinking about some retreat related things again.

While the website isn’t very clear about what Kalein actually is (or if it’s actually up and running yet as a physical place; it does already have a board of directors, but also still lists start-up costs), it’s described on the About page in terms very similar to my own idea:

    “Kalein exists to provide a place to encourage and equip gifted artists of all genres (i.e. songwriting, screen writing, sculpting, fashion design, culinary arts, painting, writing, cinematography, communication, comedy, etc.) and leaders to discover, develop and discipline their dreams.”

    “An esthetically pleasing and solitary refuge where respected and recognized master teachers provide personal training, encouragement and mentoring to small groups of leaders and artists.”

Mr. Elrod also lists, as I eluded to above, start-up costs for the retreat center. They come to approximately $2.7 million dollars. I did similar math a couple of years ago and came up with a very similar number. Working out the idea from the ground up is not an inexpensive proposition.

The little house we hope to move into in April.
It’s only 720 square feet on the main level though,
not large enough to share with an artist in residence.

Recently my wife suggested we think about starting out in our own house (when we get a house large enough for such an idea). Another more economically feasible idea, it seems to me, is to look for an existing farmstead or acreage, something I’ve mentioned before. The other day I saw this in our local newspaper’s classifieds:

    Reduced to $249,000. or possible lease with purchase option. Acreage 12.5 acres. 1.5 acres of bluegrass, w/ underground sprinklers. 3,500 sq ft. home, 4 bedrooms 3 baths, 4,000 sq.ft. Heated Garage.

Of course, we can’t afford $250k at the moment either without a lot of help, but it’s a lot more personally attainable than $2.7 million. The location isn’t my favorite, but it could work and would be plenty large to get going. And I wish it were a 4,000 square foot barn and not a “garage”, but again, it would work.

Another thing Kalein has me thinking about is the number of somewhat similar ideas floating around out there right now. My wife and I are fans of collaboration, partnerships, when they present themselves, and if at all possible we want to avoid unnecessarily duplicating other efforts. There is a limited quantity of both manpower and funding in the faith-based nonprofit realm. We hope to work within the larger Body of Christ as efficiently as possible. If someone else gets around to founding a comparable retreat center before we do that’s just fine and dandy. However, comparable is the key word here. From what I can tell, my idea — the wife and I really need to come up with a name for this thing so I don’t have to call it “my idea” anymore — still bears a number of unique facets that I believe warrant a unique effort. The three facets that most readily come to mind are the longer stays, the strict focus on the tactile or plastic arts (which the church seems to have a harder time with than music, writing, drama etc) and a focus on getting these artists plugged into cross-cultural missions work.

This morning was the first time I realized that there might also be validity in multiples. I like the Great Plains for a location. My wife and I understand and believe in Kathleen Norris’ assertion that the Plains foster a contemplative spirit. We might be somewhat biased though, having both grown up on these flat lands. They are our roots. Other people might might prefer the beach or the mountains for inspiration or meditation (even though Norris argues convincingly for the Plains, despite growing up in Hawaii).

And could it be that multiple smaller retreats scattered around the country could also be more financially feasible, for the artists and the organizers? Artists wouldn’t have as far to travel, and organizers might have less managerial overhead. I haven’t thought this through all the way yet, but it seems like YWAM’s DTS model which has persisted for quite a while now.

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

One Response to More on the feasibility of an artist retreat

  1. Pingback: Is there a best location for an artist retreat? « The Aesthetic Elevator

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