An immersive experience was how one participant described the inaugural Sweet Briar Summer: Arts and Writing Retreat, which took place on campus from June 22–25.
Posted on July 12, 2023 by Sandra Huffman
Alumnae and friends, staff and faculty took part in the inaugural Sweet Briar Summer: Arts and Writing Retreat which welcomed creative minds from far and wide for a stimulating weekend of workshops led by Sweet Briar faculty and other visiting artists.
The retreat workshops ranged from writing, photography, and audio recording to yoga/dance and mixed media. Participants could showcase what they produced for class during the event’s closing reception, which included readings of original written work, a dance performance, photos from campus and nearby Piney River, and photos of an art feature installed near the campus entrance.Most participants expressed how much they thrived on the interdisciplinary nature of the overall programming and shared how much they would love to take part in a future event.
The retreat included a full schedule of events starting with registration on Thursday, followed by dinner and a welcome address from award-winning author Thirii Myo Kyaw Myint.She asked participants to think about why they do what they do, which provided a creative way to look at what they do both professionally and artistically. Myint was in attendance all weekend for further interaction with participants and also gave a reading of a new unpublished piece on Saturday afternoon.
During lunch on Friday, fellows from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (VCCA), Caitlin Cass, Pamela Lawton and Sam Modder, discussed their works during an artist panel moderated by Clare van Loenen, director of the campus galleries and museum.
Later that night, dinner and an evening with the Sweet Briar creative writing faculty took place in the Anne Gary Pannell Center art gallery. This included readings by Sweet Briar faculty: Susannah Nevison from her book “In the Field Between Us,” a collaborative collection written with Molly McCully Brown, Erica Trabold from her essay collection “Five Plots,” and John Gregory Brown, who read poems by Donald Justice and Stephen Crane and two poems of his own that he wrote in response to them. In addition, professors McCormick Templeman and Joe Sacksteder interviewed each other while discussing the editing process and Sacksteder’s upcoming novel “Hack House,” edited by Templeman.
Finally, on Saturday, participants headed to the Babcock Fine Arts Center for dinner and a performance and film by Orange Grove Dance. OGD choreographed their performance while on campus for the retreat. It featured movement and dance by Colette Krogol and Robert Rubama, and a featured musical performance by guest cellist, composer and producer Daniel Frankhuizen. They also shared their film “Canticle III: Still Falls the Rain,” recorded at Sweet Briar in 2022 as part of their series of dance films titled “Other Canticles,” inspired by five musical works by British composer Benjamin Britten.
In addition to events on campus, trips were available to the Ankida Ridge Vineyards in Amherst VA on Friday, and the Anne Spencer House in Lynchburg VA, the former home of the renowned Harlem Renaissance poet, on Saturday. Other optional events also included a campus tour, a tour of the greenhouse, and a yoga class.
Special thanks to workshop instructors: professors John Gregory Brown, Erica Trabold, Medford Taylor, Tracy Chapman Hamilton, Joshua Harris and McCormick Templeman; and Colette Krogol and Matt Reeves from Orange Grove Dance.