Sweet Briar Summer: Arts and Writing Retreat

June 27 – 30, 2024

Escape. Connect. Reflect.

Sweet Briar College will host the 2nd annual Sweet Briar Summer: Arts and Writing Retreat on June 27-30, 2024. This event will feature 3-day hands-on workshops held on the beautiful Sweet Briar campus, with lodging and meals included.

The classes will be led by distinguished Sweet Briar faculty as well as visiting professional artists. Along with immersive learning experiences, you’ll be treated to jazz and refreshments on the Dell, an on-site wine tasting, and gentle hikes on our miles of wooded trails.

Workshops include:

Abstraction Painting with Claire Stankus (this workshop is full)

This workshop will dive right into learning techniques for creating abstract mark making. Using acrylic paints and mediums, participants will create numerous small paintings to use as greeting cards or postcards, while also painting one or two medium sized paintings on a wood panel. We will take inspiration from artists of the Color Field movement: Joan Mitchell, Helen Frankenthaller, Robert Motherwell. Additionally we will view a few paintings and prints from Sweet Briar’s permanent collection.

Learn more about Claire Stankus.

The Artist’s Book: Decorative Paper and Bookmaking with Laura Pharis

The artist’s book is a welcoming, flexible art form. Of course there was a time when all books were handmade, but in recent decades, new artist’s books are being accepted into countless galleries, museums, and collections.

During the three days of the Arts Retreat, participants will make decorative paste-grain papers for covers, and each participant will assemble a handmade one-of-a-kind accordion book with their own painted, drawn, or collaged images on the pages. We will supply papers and tools, BUT if you have been saving a cache of interesting paper, stamps, writings, or drawings, you’re encouraged to bring them to incorporate into your own unique book.

We will draw inspiration from many different forms of handmade books, for example Nox by poet Anne Carson, The Atlas Of Vanishing Knowledge , produced by members of the Virginia Center for the Book, and Wild by D. J. Gaskin.

Learn more about Laura Pharis.

Dance and Movement with Orange Grove Dance

How does the movement of the human body impact our experience of the world? Yoga and modern dance improvisation techniques are unique physical disciplines practiced in order to gain better control of the mind and body. Through embodiment of philosophical ideas this class will explore states of presence, perception, sensory awareness, and responsiveness to one’s self and environment, as well as physical strategies related to gravity, momentum, relationship, quality, effort, shape, and space. Underlying our

physical practices in this class will be conceptual exercises that are aimed at developing artistic instincts and metaphoric agility. How do we describe what we are seeing in the movements of the human body? What are the movement cultures we are a part of and how do we choose to navigate through them? These sessions will be a rich opportunity for collaborative play and movement experimentation with each other.

In this workshop we will engage in studio practice as well as read, watch, discuss and respond to each other’s creative sketches. During each workshop session, participants will be led through a warming yoga practice by Krogol (RYT-200 certification) followed by improvisational movement and chorographic exercises and discussion led by Matt Reeves and Colette Krogol, Artistic Directors of Orange Grove Dance.

Learn more about Orange Grove Dance.

Little But Fierce: Flash Fiction with Joe Sacksteder

Sudden fiction, short-shorts… prose poetry? Because you can call flash forms what you will, they serve not just as a way of compressing narratives for a distraction-prone public, but also as a space of flux that short circuits literary categorization itself. This course is designed for writers interested in developing the craft of very short stories, but attendees who wish to adapt prompts in the direction of flash nonfiction will be welcome to do so, as will writers who would benefit from exploring new facets of larger projects through vignette form.

Short forms will allow us to survey a wide range of contemporary practitioners—Carolyn Forch√©, Jamaica Kincaid, Vajra Chandrasekera, and Aimee Bender, for example—and try out modeled techniques and approaches in a spree of writing prompts. A hope is that work produced will serve as potential seeds for longer projects. We will also learn about publishing venues for flash forms.

Learn more about Joe Sacksteder.

Smartphone Photography with Medford Taylor

“The best camera is the one you have with you.” Photography is an interpretative medium and what better way to express your creativity than with the camera that is your constant companion. The smartphone is many things: a still camera, a video camera, a darkroom, and a photo gallery.

In this workshop, we will explore some of the best processing apps that can
enhance your artistic potential such as Slow Shutter, iNaturalist, Snapseed and
you will be introduced to numerous inspirational artist’s websites. We will provide a smartphone tripod for your use.

The photo opportunities on the SBC campus in summer are endless. We will
explore the natural and abstract world of the fields, lakes and woods of SBC’s
nearly 3,000 acres. In addition, on one afternoon we will travel to the beautiful
Piney River high up in the George Washington National Forest. (Hiking boots or “boots” recommended.)

Each workshop participant will produce an online book of their work which will be shown at the final session of the workshop on Sunday. You will need to edit your work for the online book on a laptop but 27” iMacs are also available in the college library. Bring your smartphone, a “backup” for your work (hard drive or at least a USB drive) and enthusiasm for a fun four days on the Sweet summer campus.

Learn more about Medford Taylor.

Songwriting with Joshua Harris

Have you had ideas for songs but don’t know where to start? Have you recorded songs on your phone, but don’t know where to go next? Participants in this workshop will learn the basics of setting text to music in several popular genres. Topics covered include creating chord progressions, writing melodies, recording demos, digital audio workstations (Garageband and Logic), and as time permits, producing and mixing songs. Participants may come with or without pre-existing ideas for songs, but are encouraged to bring one or two poems that can be set to music during the workshop. Participants would ideally be able to play some basic chords on guitar, piano, or other similar chordal instrument, though this is not required.

Learn more about Joshua Harris.

Writing Your Life Story with Erica Trabold (this workshop is full)

Writing the story of your life—whether for family or for publication—is a tremendous undertaking. Where should a writer begin? And how do they find the momentum to keep going? This workshop offers time and space to reflect on the most important moments in your life, prompts to inspire your very best writing, and a community of other aspiring memoirists to offer feedback and support. Additionally, we’ll read excerpts from successful memoirs and discuss what makes them work. Look forward to leaving campus with a reading list and prompts to keep you writing your story long after the weekend is over.

Learn more about Erica Trabold.

Schedule of Events

Our keynote speaker:

We are excited to introduce our keynote speaker and guest Tessa Fontaine, author of The Red Grove and The Electric Woman: A Memoir in Death-Defying Acts, a New York Times Editors’ Choice, Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers pick, and best book of 2018 by Southern Living, Refinery29, Amazon Editors’, and The New York Post. Learn more about this dynamic author at her website tessafontaine.com.

The all-inclusive price for the weekend is $950 per attendee. This includes all meals, receptions, evening entertainment, and accommodations in Sweet Briar College’s Green Village Apartments. 

Accommodations in the on-campus Elston Inn are available for an additional $250 for the weekend. 

Details about Accommodations and Meals

Register now

Registration closes on June 13th!

Workshop photos from the 2023 Sweet Briar Summer: Arts and Writing Retreat. Workshop photos from the 2023 Sweet Briar Summer: Arts and Writing Retreat.

Join us for a weekend of creativity!

This event is open to everyone ages 18 and older.