Letter from an Artist Colony

by Dan Simpson

Dear Friends and Readers,

Greetings from Hambidge, a retreat for artists, writers, musicians, dancers, and even a few scientists, located in the Blue Ridge mountains of north Georgia!

For me, being here raises such big and interesting questions about how we, as a society, set up our lives, or probably more accurately, how our lives get set up or acted upon by huge forces outside us. Coming to a retreat like this, where you can devote days and weeks to writing a book and to meeting other artists and finding out what they do and how they think, can feel like such an indulgence. Yet, what would it be like if everyone who wanted to delve into their dreams could spend time like this?

To some who’ve never done this, who’ve never had this opportunity, maybe never even given themselves the luxury of considering it, this might sound like Easy Street, like a big vacation, and in some ways it is. A chef cooks healthy, delicious dinners for us four nights a week and makes enough leftovers to feed us all lunch the next day. That means minimal shopping, food prep and clean-up on our part. No bills to pay, junk mail to sift through, solicitors jangling our telephones. We don’t even have cell service to distract us. For most residents at a retreat like this, it means vacation in the sense that they aren’t doing their day jobs. (I’ve needed to do mine for a couple hours a day, most days, but that’s felt like a convenient way to cleanse my palate between writing sessions.) However, most of us put in long hours on our projects precisely because we understand the rarity of having this much open space for making art. (I average about eight hours on tasks related to my memoir each day.) The fact that we might have some guilt about our privilege in doing this says something, I believe, about our Puritanical attitude as a country toward art and the way that attitude happens to dovetail with the needs of capitalism.

Even if you don’t think of yourself as an artist, how many times have you thought, “Everything and everyone moves so fast these days; I wish we could all slow down?” If you could, what would you have to feel? What might you have time to look at and think about?

In closing, let me add a link to a recording, about a minute long, which I made outside the door to my studio. This might give you a hint of what it feels like to be here. You might have to turn up the volume, it’s so quiet out here. Also, if clicking on the link doesn’t get you there, try copying and pasting it into your browser. It’s worth it. Enjoy!

Hambidge Morning Sounds