Art · Art Retreats

Art Barn Retreat!

If you haven’t heard on Facebook already, the first Art Barn weekend retreat is happening in September!  Current retreats can be found at

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I thought I’d take a minute to give you the back story on the “why” behind The Art Barn.

In 2010, I went to my first art retreat.  It was Artfest in Port Townsend, WA.  It truly changed my life.

At the time, I was really new to mixed media art and journaling.  My friend Lea introduced me to it in 2008 right before Harper was born and right before we moved to Ohio.  Believe it or not, before that introduction, I avoided the whole scrapbooking section of the arts and crafts stores!  I mainly painted on canvases, did some wood burning, and created a few craft projects here and there.  I really didn’t have an established style that I could call my own.

I was so nervous picking out workshops to take at Artfest and worrying about how many people would be at the event.  I’ve never been one to love big crowds.  I worried about where we’d be sleeping.  (Fort Warden where Artfest takes place is an old army barracks.  It is clean and very livable, but it isn’t exactly what I’d call in my comfort zone.)  I worried that I wouldn’t fit in.  Would I be accepted?  Would these strangers want to talk to me?  Would I like the classes and instructors I so carefully picked?

Artfest was 500+ people who didn’t care AT ALL what their living conditions were.  They looked instead at our beautiful surroundings.  Artfest was 500+ people who were all thrilled to be there.  Artfest was 500+ people who were positive, friendly, creative, and who outpoured happiness all over the place.

Artfest was my tribe.  My tribe of creatives.  My tribe of weirdos.  My tribe of acceptance.

I left Artfest with a whole new purpose.  I wanted to create workshops to teach at Artfest.  I’d never really taught anything art related before.  I had no idea what I was going to create for workshops.  I barely even knew who I was as an artist/maker/creator.  I announced to anyone who would listen that I was going to do it. (The Wish Post!)

When I got home, I created workshops for days.  I had a tight deadline to meet, and a high hurdle to jump over.  Fears kept bubbling up again… “Who am I to think that I can teach at this retreat?”  “What if they don’t like my work?”  “What if they say no?”  I was sending these workshops to THE Teesha Moore.  TEESHA MOORE.  (If you don’t know Teesha, please, oh please, Google her.  You will not regret it.) 

My last question to myself “What if they say no?” was the question that stuck with me the most.  And it ended up being the question that helped me the most.

“What if they say no?” became…

“SO WHAT if they say no?” became…

“What’s the worst that can happen?  They can say no.  SO?” finally became…


I repeated and repeated “WHAT IF THEY SAY YES?” to myself over and over again as I finished those workshops.  I wanted to create three, but only two managed to happen in the short timeframe.  (I should maybe mention here that I was also working full time, Harper was only almost two years old, and my beloved Grandma passed away during this time, so perhaps I was being a little ambitious.)

I put those workshop proposals in the mail and took a deep breath.

I had a trip planned for Harper and I to drive to Kansas.  I had a lot of time to think about those proposals on the way.  It’s about an 11 hour drive.

On the drive, I was using my phone to navigate. A pop up said I had an email from Teesha.  I pulled over on the side of the road.  To set the scene further, this was in Missouri on a road in the middle of nowhere with a toddler who had ridden in the car for about 10 hours, folks.  I didn’t seem to care that our trip would be longer.  I had to know.

I’ve never published this email anywhere before.  It makes me cry.  Like right this minute makes me cry.  I really hope that Teesha doesn’t mind my sharing her words to me with you.

The email said, “OK…I just had to email you and tell you that never in the 12 years now that I have been organizing artfest have I ever seen a proposal come in that is so cool AND have workshops that surpassed the coolness of the wrappings.  You simply MUST be involved in artfest.”  “Thanks for proposing.  People like you renew my excitement in organizing yet another one.  And I will certainly be USING that cool folio you made.  Thanks for the time and energy you clearly put into it all.”

Tears.  Right now.  Six years later.  I hope Teesha knows how much those words mean to me.  I remember trying to explain it to her, but wow.  It’s hard to even put into words. It’s just so much to have someone whose work and presence you admire so greatly say these amazing things.  Teesha changed me too.  So much.  So thankful.

So how does all of that lead to The Art Barn?  Well, I ended up submitting proposals to several other retreats and teaching at them.  (“What if they say YES” became quite the mantra for me during that time!)  I met so many amazing people and grew my tribe all over the country.  And each time, I returned home wishing I could bring all those people with me.  I started looking for a space where I could teach locally (teaching all over the place can be a bit exhausting) and recreate the magical retreat experience.  I wanted it to be awesome.  I could see it in my mind.  I looked, and looked, and looked for a space.  And finally (after looking at so, so many spaces) I lucked upon the building that is now becoming The Art Barn.

My wish for The Art Barn is to recreate that feeling of a tribe (that I have been so lucky to feel) for everyone who visits.  I hope that people come here with feelings of anticipation and excitement, and leave with a new level of confidence and so many fun memories.  I hope that people arrive as strangers and leave as friends.  Or if they arrive friends, they leave feeling even more bonded than before.  That’s my new wish.  A wish that I hope becomes part of your wishes too.



13 thoughts on “Art Barn Retreat!

  1. Nice blog post, Shelly! I remember how hard you worked on the class projects and how that octopus became a focal point for a while. I still like him/her a lot!🐙

    Sent from my iPhone


    1. Thanks, Mama! The octopus will be back, I’m sure. Seems to be my spirit animal… just wish I had eight arms too! After I dig out of all these remodeling and flower painting projects, maybe it’ll be back!

  2. Fabulous words and a heart filled with love and art. How lucky are we all. Blessings on your Art Barn and you my friend. Sal x

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, Sal! You and Ellen are a huge part of my story too. Thank you for believing in me. I cannot wait to see you in just a few short months!!!! Best wishes to you and the Aussie Road Crew! Xoxoxo

  3. I can relate to so much of this! Especially the worries you had before attending the first time. Being an introvert, I have all those same concerns whenever I step out of my comfort zone, but it always pays off in the end!

  4. The first art retreat I went to (excluding scrapbook weekends) was just over a year ago. I was very insecure about it for the same reasons you had. But….it was the best.thing.ever!!!! I love what you’re doing! The Red Barn sounds like a great move for you. Congratulations!! You’ll create lots of happy tribes 😄

    1. I am so glad that you got to experience that amazing retreat magic too, Diana!!! Thank you for your sweet comment! Hopefully our paths will cross in the future at one of those magical happy tribe moments!

  5. Shelly, you created such a fun art vibe around your dining room table when we were having craft nights there. I can only imagine what you will achieve with a whole house!

  6. I heart you. So SO happy for you and this new adventure. Claimed it good, girl! Cannot wait for the 6E sisterhood to gather again. xoxo

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