ARROW Retreat 2016 was a great success! As part of the Acadia National Park Centennial, Island Readers & Writers designed a program that, over four half-days during April vacation, inspired participants to observe the natural world around them, write and create art based on nature, and learn about those who have come before them that also appreciated the beauty and natural resources of Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park.
On Day 1, twelve ARROW participants listened with rapt attention as George Neptune of the Abbe Museum told them Wabanaki legends of creation, and the stories behind numerous local geographical locations (a mountain range that was once a giant moose!). George also taught them how to use an atlatl to lengthen the distance they could throw a spear, and showed them various items from Wabanaki culture, including furs and baskets.
Award-winning author Gary Schmidt flew in from Michigan to lead writing workshops with the participants, using Henry David Thoreau’s essay “Walking” to get them thinking about observation in nature, mindful movement through landscapes, and how to map (both in drawing and words) a local area.
Local author and art expert Carol Little offered a presentation on the sense of place prevalent in MDI art, and talked about how the island and the park have drawn artists to its majestic beauty for two hundred years.
On Day 2, Ranger Mike from Acadia National Park led a guided hike through the Blue Horizons Preserve and talked to participants about The Champlain Society, a group of amateur natural historians and scientists who catalogued their love of MDI in the 1880’s and planted the seeds of conservation in Charles Eliot’s mind (integral to conserving large tracts of the island, starting in the 1900’s).
Gary Schmidt led a second writing workshop with participants, and the group also worked on various community-building projects, like creating a “graffiti-style” ARROW chalkboard mural and weaving on an EarthLoom.
On Day 3, ARROW veteran and Maine artist Rebekah Raye guided participants in an art workshop, where they used graphite pencils, watercolor paints, and oil pastels to create 3D paintings which featured an object in nature.
Their incredible artwork can be viewed in this Facebook photo album. The day ended with an open studio session, where family and friends were invited into the studio to see completed artwork and works in progress, and to hear ARROW participants read selections from their writing exercises.
On the final day, the group finished up their art projects, played outside games that challenged them to brainstorm solutions and apply them to conservation, had ‘quiet time’ outdoors where they ‘wrote in the wild,’ and wrapped up the wonderful retreat experience with cupcakes, an exchange of contact information, and warm hugs!
One ARROW participant said, “I never want ARROW to end!” and another said, “This is the best thing I’ve ever done!”