From May 1 to 4, a wonderful gathering took place in Preston County, WV. The Aurora Project, a new artists’ retreat center, sponsored a long weekend for eleven writers.
Michele Moure-Reeves, the visionary woman who has brought the Aurora Project into existence during the past seven years — nurtured an amazing dream, written grants, organized fundraisers — first proposed the idea of a mini-retreat for writers about a year ago. I had just come from my Helene Wurlitzer experience and was enthusiastic about the good things that can result from the gift of time to create. When Michele asked me to organize a long weekend, I agreed.
The First Annual Aurora Project Writers Retreat exceeded all my expectations and those of every writer who participated. We knew we would have time to write. We did not expect that we would have such beautiful living quarters as well as incredibly delicious, healthy food prepared by an inspired cook (Michele did that, too!). And, though I knew the retreat was near Cathedral State Park, I had forgotten what a beautiful, tranquil place it is: full of virgin hemlocks, wildflowers, and birdsong, the perfect place for a writer to walk and reflect.
Several of us stayed at Brookside (above), the Adirondack-style lodge Michele operates as an inn. (A few stayed in houses owned by Aurora Project board members.) We came together for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but otherwise went our solitary ways to read, write, and think. Some people curled up in couches or in cozy nooks at Brookside. Some settled on the huge wraparound porch. Some went to a picnic shelter at the state park. There was plenty of room for everyone.
In the evenings, we had informal readings and time to get to know one another.
During the days, we were invited to visit the Utterback Farm (you can see the barn in the background of the above photo) and the Old Stone Tavern, an historic building near the Aurora Project.
On Sunday, before we left, we had an opportunity to tour the buildings, all part of an 1880s resort community, that are being renovated to serve as studios for painters, writers, musicians, and photographers who spend time at the Aurora Project. The history of this place is almost as fascinating as the current project!
The Aurora Project will welcome its first fellows in 2009. More information about fellowship opportunities may be found at the Alliance of Artist Communities website: http://www.artistcommunities.org