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AAA World Article

Three Things: Artist Havens in the US

Express your creativity at these distinctive destinations that promise to spark the inspiration for your next masterpiece.

By Stacy Tillilie

AAA World Article

Photo courtesy of Shenandoah Art Destination

Shenandoah Art Destination
Lexington, Virginia

Nestled in the Shenandoah Valley amid the verdant Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains, this all-inclusive retreat welcomes artists of all abilities. Aspiring artists can explore a wide range of mediums and partake in custom workshops in drawing, painting and printmaking—all in a peaceful setting free from the distractions of daily life.

You provide the creativity and art supplies, and professional artists and retreat owners Jan-Willem and Nancy Boer provide one-on-one instruction along with studio facilities and a 10-acre canvas of scenic beauty with ideal sites for plein-air artistic pursuits. Select from a weekend getaway or a 4-, 6- or 10-day vacation.

Accommodations include a manor house with your choice of three rooms and a guest house with five rooms. All rooms bear the name of a famous artist—think Dalí, da Vinci, Picasso and Rembrandt—and each has its own private bathroom and free WiFi. Rooms in the manor house feature private balconies, too. Meals, which are home-cooked and highlight local ingredients, are also included. Retreats are offered spring through fall, with up to 8 to 10 guests (including any non-artist partners) hosted at a time. When not perfecting your art, you can visit historic downtown Lexington, just three miles away, or kayak or hike the surrounding countryside.

Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Photos courtesy of Hilton Head Island Visitor & Convention Bureau

Beach Shack Writers Retreat
Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

No publishing credits are necessary to attend this five-day (or longer, if you wish) writing retreat hosted at the beachfront Hilton Head Island Beach & Tennis Resort. Cindy Whitman, a published writer and graduate of the Master of Fine Arts in Writing program at Vermont’s Bennington College, leads individual as well as small group retreats, providing writing coaching and developmental editing tailored to your specific goals.

Established in 2017, the retreat operates late September through early April, Sunday through Friday, during Hilton Head’s off-season, fostering the quietude most writers seek to hone their craft—along with the refreshment of breezier weather. It also provides a postcard-perfect coastal environment, where you can take leisurely morning walks on the beach before delving into writing, reading and writing some more.

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Thanks to Beach Shack’s accommodations partnership with the Hilton Head Island Beach & Tennis Resort, guests have their choice of staying in any of the resort-managed one- or two-bedroom villas, complete with full kitchens, balconies and direct access to the beach. You also can take advantage of the resort’s amenities, including an oceanfront swimming pool (the largest one on the island), a fitness center and lighted tennis courts (there are 10). Plus, you’ll receive a complimentary welcome cocktail meet-and-greet, nightly happy-hour readings, and a five-day bicycle rental to explore all that the island offers, from nature trails to waterfront restaurants to specialty shops, including—of course—bookstores.

Art Ovation Hotel
Photos Courtesy of Art Ovation Hotel

Art Ovation Hotel
Sarasota, Florida

Unveiled last spring, this unique experiential hotel, a Marriott Autograph Collection property, caters to the creative side of guests through its mission “to serve the community as an active host, facilitator, patron and partner for the arts.”  That mission translates into not only a beautiful Art Deco building featuring 162 guestrooms and common spaces adorned with impressive artwork—many pieces by local artists from the Ringling College of Art + Design—but also hands-on artistic opportunities for guests.

No matter the season or length of your stay, you can explore on-site art exhibitions—showing now through April 7: Cuban Art of the 1980s. The Reynardus Collection; Photographers from the White Rabbit, Germany; and Jose Margulis: Alternative Realities—and observe and interact with performing and visual artists practicing their craft in the Artist’s Studio. Then make your own art by attending daily workshops and taking advantage of sketchbooks—complete with creative prompts from Ringling College students—and colored pencils provided in all guestrooms. Rooms are also furnished with ukuleles (with group lessons scheduled in the lobby), and other instruments are available to borrow.

When not immersing yourself in the arts, enjoy a long list of amenities, including a rooftop pool and bar, gourmet restaurant and complimentary use of bicycles. The hotel, which sits in the heart of downtown, neighbors the Sarasota Opera and Florida Studio Theatre and offers free shuttle service to Sarasota’s plethora of cultural attractions, shops, restaurants and beaches.


This article originally appeared in the March/April 2019 edition of AAA World.

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