2014 Alcona Arts Retreat shaping up

Back for a third consecutive year, the 2014 Alcona Arts Retreat once again offers a three-day series of art and writing workshops inspired by the woods and waters of Northeast Michigan.

This year’s retreat takes place Sept. 4-7, with much of the activity as in years past centered around Lost Lake Woods Club. Organizers lined up a total of seven different workshops, which include both new and returning instructors.

“We are really excited about this year’s retreat,” said Inspiration Alcona board member and artist Judy St. John of Lincoln, who not only helps with all the planning but also looks forward to being a workshop participant herself. “We have some really good painters coming. There’s a collage artist coming for the first time. She’s very experimental and will have us collect items in the woods, then use those to stamp images on paper. I like collage a lot and will be taking that workshop.”

St. John’s husband, Will, serves as president of the Inspiration Alcona board and stays active in the retreat planning process. As a retired Detroit Free Press editor, his interests list more toward writing, so he plans to sign up for a poetry workshop with returning instructor Jack Ridl.

“I took the workshop with Jack last year and think I will sign up again,” Will St. John said. “I had never written poetry before, so it was actually fun and interesting. Jack’s good. He was a professor at Hope for a lifetime. He has a devoted following and he deserves it.”

During its inaugural year, 38 people attended the first Alcona Arts Retreat in 2012. Last year, that number rose to 65, which the couple said is about capacity for Lost Lakes Woods Club. Half of those participating were area residents and half were from points elsewhere.

“That’s good,” Judy St. John said. “Part of our goal is to build a sense of community within Alcona County. We wanted to bring cultural events for people of Alcona. “

Another goal is to show others from outside the area the assets found in this corner of Northeast Michigan.

“One of our goals has always been to bring people from outside the area to the community in terms of both students and instructors in order to expand the economic base,” said Will St. John. “We want people to see how beautiful Alcona is so that maybe they will want to vacation here or retire here. It take a while to get that word out.”

Just as filling the retreat with participants has turned out to be quite doable, the couple said finding willing instructors also has not been a problem as several instructors from years past have asked to return, while others have heard about the retreat, then contacted the board about becoming a part of it.

“The painters have petitioned to come back. They all really want to come back,” said Will St. John. “That makes me feel we’ve done well by the instructors that they want to return. And clearly the instructors must be talking to other instructors.”

With Lost Lake Woods Club as the hub of the retreat activity, this private residential community features a lodge where participants can stay, a campground, dining room, 10,000 acres of woods, five small lakes and a golf course. Some classes will be held at the lodge or on its grounds and woods, but others will meet elsewhere in the county.

Extras include an opening wine and cheese party, evening entertainment and a closing cookout by the lake.

Cost for the retreat is $225, with room and board extra. This year’s workshops include:

  • Watercolor Painting with Carol Yager
  • Woodcarving with Orlando Villarreal
  • Writing Poetry with Jack Ridl
  • Experimental Collage with Jessica Kovan
  • Memoir Writing with Anne-Marie Oomen
  • Digital Photography with James Lady
  • Plein Air Composition with Helen Kleczynski

For more information about the retreat and the workshops or to register, go online to www.inspirationalcona.org.