Posts Tagged ‘artist’

ImageI love this picture of Irene McKinney enjoying an evening with other writers at the Aurora Project Fall Writers Retreat a few years ago. Irene loved the idea of the Aurora Project—a residency program for artists, where they have time and space to create, free from distractions. She generously donated her own time toward making the Aurora vision a reality, even while she was battling the cancer that took her from us in February of this year.

“I remember going to MacDowell Colony after four hard years of graduate school and teaching in a prison in Salt Lake City, and weeping in gratitude when they brought my lunchbox to my studio door,” she told me in an e-mail message. “I sat there in that quiet place looking out at the pines and feeling: someone thinks what I do is valuable enough to take care of me for a while.”

The Aurora Project Fall Writers Retreat takes place this year November 1-4. If you have attended a past retreat, you know what a wonderful weekend this will be: time to work on your own creative endeavor, fellowship with other writers in the evenings, beautiful surroundings, and wonderful food. Someone taking care of you for a while.

In past years we have invited a well-known writer to join us and give a public reading. Irene was our guest three years ago. Maggie Anderson and Anita Skeen have also been featured. This year we’re devoting that public evening to the poems of Irene McKinney. Everyone who attends the retreat will be invited to share, in a reading open to the general public, one of their favorite Irene McKinney poems.

For more information and a registration form, e-mail info@auroraproject.org.


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The Goodwill wool skirt quilt top has taken on a life of its own, and I couldn’t be more pleased. About the time I finished the top, I had a meeting with Barrie Kaufman, who is sponsoring a fundraiser for the Aurora Project. Like me, Barrie is enthusiastic about the prospect of having a full-time artists residency program in West Virginia.

Somehow, in the course of our conversation, I blurted out, “I should raffle off my quilt for Aurora.”

“Do it!” Barrie said.

So now I really have to finish it, and luckily I have friends (and friends of Aurora!) who are helping me. The picture shows Laurie Gundersen showing me how to baste the quilt top to the batting (in this case, an old flannel sheet) and the backing. We spread it out on her big kitchen table in Staunton, VA and got to work! By the time we left, a few hours later, the pieces were basted together and Laurie had taught me how to put in a tie. (The finished quilt will be tied, not hand-quilted.)

I’m sure the quilt will be making more appearances—when it’s tied, bound, and raffled—so stay tuned.

In the meantime, please read about the Aurora Project in the fall issue of West Virginia Living Magazine, and just let me know if you want to buy a $5 raffle ticket. You might win this quilt!





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Misty morning in Cathedral State Park

For the past few days, I have been in one of my favorite West Virginia places, the town of Aurora, attending the third Aurora Spring Writers’ Retreat. Once again, I have enjoyed several luxurious days in which to be renewed by solitude and nature, nourished by gourmet meals, and energized by the company of several other writers. At these retreats, we are on our own for most of the daylight hours, except for mealtimes. In the evenings, we are more social, and usually give informal readings.

After a few sunny days, the weather has turned cloudy, and today I have been walking in mist and (sometimes) rain. Somehow the wet weather made Cathedral State Park even more beautiful. Within the past couple of days, many jack-in-the-pulpits have sprung up. Here’s a look at three that are just unfurling themselves. I love the way their leaves are folded, almost like origami:

Cathedral State Park is very small, but it’s one of just a few places in the state where the huge hemlocks have never been timbered. That’s how the park got its name, from the huge trees that resemble the supporting columns in a cathedral. It’s a very small park; in less than two hours, you can walk every single trail in the park, crossing this little creek quite a few times in the process.

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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

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