A collaboration between the Art Monastery and San Francisco Zen Center
Co-led by Art Monastery Abbess Betsy McCall and Abiding Abbess of Green Gulch Farm Zen Center Fu Schroeder
$361 ($306 for San Francisco Zen Center Members)
Beginners welcome. No experience necessary.
Explore the central teachings of the Heart Sutra on the meditation cushion and in the art studio.
Join Art Monastery Founder & Art Abbess Betsy McCall and Abbess Fu Schroeder in this immersive 5-day retreat that explores Art and Zen. We will explore the Heart Sutra as a source of inspiration in both contemplative practice and creative practice. Allow yourself to be rejuvenated by a variety of guided art exercises as well as spacious time to work on your own creative projects.
We will explore the Heart Sutra as a source of inspiration both on the cushion and with paintbrush in hand. There will be sitting, walking, and movement meditations, guided creative exercises as well as plentiful time for your own creative explorations.
For a sample schedule and more info, please visit https://www.artmonastery.org/heart-mind-zen-art
Your retreat will be led by Art Monastery Abbess Betsy McCall and Green Gulch Farm Zen Center Abiding Abbess Fu Schroeder.
Betsy McCall, garnering degrees from Yale University and San Francisco Art Institute, brings her experience as a visual artist, social sculptor, competitive synchronized swimmer, and co-founder of the Art Monastery Project to inform her retreat-hosting. Investigating the relationships among contemplative practice, studio practice, and other kinds of practice (such as swim practice), her work explores breath, repetition, and pattern. Betsy’s visual artwork; which takes the form of meditative “breath portraits,” large-scale pattern-based drawings, and abstract video; has been exhibited from San Francisco and New York to Amsterdam and Rome. In 2008 Betsy co-founded the Art Monastery, an international arts organization dedicated to applying the collaborative and intentional “social sculpture” of monastic life to art-making and creativity.
Betsy currently lives at Art Monastery Vermont.
Furyu Nancy Schroeder, a resident of Zen Center for over 35 years, became abiding abbess at Green Gulch Farm Zen Center in March 2014. Fu has held most of the monastic positions at Zen Center and has been an active supporter of programs for children, people of color, the gay and lesbian community, and the interfaith community. In 2008 she was elected to the Marin Women’s Hall of Fame, and in 2010 she was appointed to the Board of the Marin Community Foundation. In addition, she has previously co-led Zen Center’s Contemplative Caregiver Course. She received dharma transmission from Tenshin Reb Anderson in 1999.
Fu currently lives at GreenGulch Farm Zen Center, Muir Beach, California.
Visit Tassajara’s Rooms & Rates section and determine your preferred accommodations before making your reservations request online or by phone.
Call the Tassajara Reservations office at 1.888.743.9362 (toll free) or 415.475.9362 (local) or fill out this online form.
$361 for non-members
$306 for members of San Francisco Zen Center
Please note that the retreat fee does not include accommodations. Retreats begin late afternoon on the indicated start date and end in the morning on the indicated end date. Visit Tassajara’s Rooms & Rates section and determine your preferred accommodations before making your reservations request online.
Are you going to be in London this spring?Me too!I’m really excited to share an immersive moving image installation that I’ve been working on since 2015 in collaboration with the fabulous cinematographer Gerry McCulloch.
The Transpires exhibition and workshop showcases work by Art Monastery founder & social sculptor Betsy McCall, two-time Artmonk-in-Residence cinematographer Gerry McCullloch, and design researcher Claire van Rhyn. A cross-institutional event, the exhibition brings together the Art Monastery, Royal College of Art School of Communication, and the Department of Media, Communications and Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths, University of London. The Transpires exhibition and workshop is hosted in the interdisciplinary Sonics Immersive Media Lab at Goldsmiths and forms part of the MCCS department’s 40th year anniversary celebrations. The event is further supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, London Doctoral Design Centre.
The Transpires exhibition and associated workshop highlight advances in communication and social d
esign research and exploratory cinematographic methods. The show investigates pre-verbal communication, with a particular focus on bodied modes of interaction between individuals and groups. This joint exhibition juxtaposes the aesthetic dynamics of pre-verbal communication alongside research on the practical application of such bodied modes of communication. The workshop introduces a series of collaborative improvisational activities as a participatory means of exploring the communication of sameness and difference in groups.
I am for art that makes your heart thump thump thump.
I am for knowing myself by the heartbeat in my ears, the rushing of air in and out of my lungs, and the bits of string in my pockets. I am for trembling hands, palms that work, the finger pointing at the moon. I am for falling open to the world. I am for not knowing what comes next. I am for starting at the center of things. I am for cayenne-pepper chocolates. I am for the moment after you dive into a pool, before you touch the surface, when you are flying over undisturbed water. I am for closing your eyes when you eat. I am for the slow strength of potato plants.
I stand for manifesting total freedom, authorization to act. To come up with bigger and more ambitious dreams that offer more and more to the world, taking us all up and up and up until we’re giddy with lack of oxygen. To restore a sense of awe to the world. A sense of connectedness.To know the oneness of the universe and express that instead of anything else, to live the universe, to be it. To give up the struggle. To stop arguing with mainstream culture. To be of this very moment, each contiguous unique one, in your heart of hearts.
I am for art that demonstrates awakening. I am for art that creates chaos out of order. I am for art that systematically repeats a mistake until it becomes a world-mending stitch. I am for welcoming the divine through simple practice. I am for the beauty of things as they are. I am for art that describes inner space and points a way in.
I am for process. I am for droplets of rain catching sunlight on the windshield. I am for art that heals. I am for the inescapable, indescribable, invisible interconnectedness of mind and matter. I stand for coming to know death.
I stand for leaving it up to you. The you that is beyond your name, your body, your personality. The you beyond your identity, beyond your sexuality. The you that has no gender, no name. The you your ego is terrified of. The you that knows all things.
This last year I’ve been painting more than ever. It has been deeply fulfilling to me. Putting my work out into the world in a much more intentional way is the next step. Facing down my own inner blocks about it has been a big part of the journey. But I’m going for it!
Honestly, when I read the news and hear about yet another head-hangingly appalling statement or another heart-clutchingly astonishing act of aggression or toxicity, and I ask myself what can I DO about this. Unless there’s a march to attend or a petition to sign or a donation to make— and even when those actions are available— I often feel lost as to how I can make a difference. And eventually I work my way around to remembering that I really believe in the idea that cultivating your own inner peace does, in ways that are not visible and may never be known, make a difference.
And beyond cultivating peace is cultivating joy.
And for me that joy stems both to and from making beauty.
I don’t think I’m saving the world by making paintings and putting them out into the world. But I am saving myself. And I sincerely hope that in the process of doing that, I can offer some spark of joy or peace to you.
So there. I finally got this website launched (which is, of course, so much more and so much less than a website) and I’m super psyched to share it with you— so, with my heart pounding and eyes shining, I invite you to peruse my work! To make this occasion all the splashier, Iet’s go big with a 40% off sale! Please let me know what you think of the work and the site and the goodies.
May you find peace and joy and beauty that is real and palpable
and spills out of you and touches everyone you meet.
It is my honor to be offering workshops in memory of one of the greatest professors I had while I was an undergraduate at Yale: Robert Reed. He did things that blew my mind, such as assign homework assignments of 50 18×24″ drawings to be made on cardboard at a park that was a 45-minute walk from campus. He delivered this news casually. I remember stuttering, “Did you say 50? As in, 49 plus 1?”
He made a big influence on me and now I have the opportunity to share my own teaching, which is inextricably linked to what I learned from him.
There will be lectures and discussion panels open to all.
The workshops are primarily geared towards college-level art and design students, but we welcome participants with other levels of experience.
The goal of this workshop is to explore the outer reaches of the definitions of drawing, as well as the connections between contemplative practice and studio practice. Because of the nature of
the sharing amongst students, the personal nature of the approach, and the connection to
nature, this workshop consistently has the effect of bonding the group to each other.
Description of Investigation
Divination Altars draws inspiration from the ancient monastic practice of Lectio Divina or Sacred Reading, where monks study sacred texts, as well as from the work of earth artists such
as Andy Goldsworthy or Day Scheldkrit. This workshop approaches the natural world as a
source of wisdom, a sort of sacred text in itself, and provides a structure that guides students to
slow down and tune into the natural world.
This workshop follows the Way of the Artmonk, a 4-phase approach that links mindfulness &
embodiment practices with creative practice. The four phases are attune, welcome, respond,
Still the bodymind. Allow connection with the source to arise (whatever that source may be).
Receive everything that comes. No judgement. Amass material.
Apply the appropriate tool. Reflect and refine.
Share the work. Connect with the world.
The hub that keeps the wheel turning: PRACTICE – Sharpen your skills. Repeat regularly.
In this workshop we begin by attuning to a question that is near to our hearts. This question
could be something about the student’s creative practice, a block they are experiencing or an
unresolved issue in their work. We then welcome nature’s wisdom, collecting natural materials
in the area. In the third phase the students respond by arranging the materials they gathered
into drawings built of found natural objects, into shapes, patterns, or installations. Finally, the
workshop culminates in offering: students divide into groups and visit each other’s drawings.
Without knowing the question each maker was holding as they built their installation, the
others will offer reflections of what they see in the earth drawing. These reflections, offered in
both written and spoken form, are the divination, the response to the maker’s question.
Relationship to Robert Reed’s Teaching
This approach finds inspiration in the classic Reed assignment of building a dinosaur out of
found materials and then using those dinosaurs as models for drawing. Combining Reed’s
freestyle approach of pressing the student to with inspiration from eastern and western
monastic philosophies. Reed’s influence is also expressed in the rigor of practice, the approach
of blasting your way to inspiration by making making making.
What to Bring
The materials required for the outdoor version are for each student to bring a tote bag, clippers or scissors, and warm clothes for being outside for up to 2 hours.
I am delighted to announce that I have been offered an artist residency at ModNomad, a creative studio and sanctuary overlooking mountain and sea in Sausalito, California January 2019. They offer residencies and collaboration opportunities to artists, activists and other social creatives of various disciplines who are instigating for the common good and a reawakening of our civic spirit.
Cuban jazz great Chuchito Valdes (a member of the three-generation jazz dynasty from Havana, including his grandfather, Bebo Valdes, and father, Chucho Valdes);
journalist and health insurance whistleblower, Wendell Potter;
Brittany Powell, photographer and creator of The Debt Project;
National Book Award-nominated poet Roger Bonair-Agard;
former National Nurses United organizer and executive director of Progressive Democrats of America, Donna Smith; and
social artist, Gregory Sale, who is currently launching a year-long exhibition on Alcatraz aimed at changing social ideation about our fellow citizens with conviction histories and their re-entry to society.
In addition to offering me a residency, ModNomad is also offering an event that brings folks together to introduce new possibilities and paths to get there. “Cognitive Potlucks” bring together the likes of journalists, artists, visionaries and public intellectuals of integrity to explore the major issues and key forces polarizing and paralyzing us and look for opportunities to synthesize activist efforts, to disrupt and change narratives.
Let’s get together and subvert conventional thought, shall we?
I especially love that they are embodying this ideal:
People and planet need us to—in the words of Dr. King—”call our beloved nation to a higher destiny.”
I am very pleased to announce that I’ll be installing a solo show at San Francisco Zen Center, a place that is near and dear to my heart.
Come and see what I’ve been making in Vermont at the Art Monastery!
Friday, Jan 4 at 7:30pm
Works on view at
San Francisco Zen Center
300 Page Street
through January 30.
Practice. Studio practice. Contemplative practice. The dedication and rigorous rhythms demanded by both disciplines inspire my work, which explores repetition, breath, and liquid movement as a space of transformation.
In 2008 I moved to Italy to lay the foundation for a monumental life-as-artwork: the Art Monastery. The vision of the project was to establish a long-term community of contemplative artists that applies the collaborative and intentional “social sculpture” of monastic life to art-making. We practiced intimately with intention, intensity and devotion. With a team of collaborators, I reanimated historic monasteries throughout Italy (near Rome, Pescara, and Lecce) into international arts production centers. In 2016, we made the transition to the US and today the Art Monastery is located on seven farm-and-barn acres along the Connecticut River in Vermont.
My time dedicated to the Art Monastery social sculpture has affirmed the daily link between meditation and studio art-making practices. Practice is a commitment, repetitive and prolonged, a disciplined and sustained effort that yields perspectives that are undiscoverable any other way. Regardless of the stated goal, practice in itself reshapes the practitioner over time, whether gradually or through bursts of inspiration and insight. By engaging the repetitive rhythms of practice, my work also aims to reshape my life as an artist.
Almost all of the paintings in this show use Yupo paper. Yupo is a Japanese “treeless” paper that is basically waterproof. Because it is waterproof, the ink puddles and floats on the surface, as opposed to sinking into the fibers the way it would on normal paper. The ink continues to move until it dries, creating movement and maintaining brilliance of color.
I begin my studio sessions by lighting a candle and offering incense, invoking the muse, the divine mother, Naga Kanya, and Avalokiteshvara. I work intuitively, in connection with my breath. Each line, drawn with tiny paintbrushes or fine-point pens, is made in intimate relationship with the breath.
Sometimes I chant before I begin my markmaking or while I am painting. I recite the Jewel Mirror Samadhi, the Harmony of Difference and Equality, the Fukanzazengi, the Hymn to Prajna Paramita, and other sacred texts. The titles of many of these works come from that sacred poetry.
I am for art that makes your heart go thump thump.
I am for knowing myself by the heartbeat in my ears, and the rushing of air in and out of my lungs, and the bits of string in my pockets. I am for trembling hands. I am for falling open to the world. I am for not knowing how to behave. I am for starting at the center of things. I am for cayenne-pepper chocolates. I am for the moment after you dive into a pool, before you touch the surface, when you are flying over undisturbed water. I am for closing your eyes when you eat. I am for the slow strength of potato plants.
I stand for manifesting total freedom, authorization to act. To come up with bigger and more ambitious dreams that offer more and more to the world, taking us all up and up and up until we’re giddy with lack of oxygen. To restore a sense of awe to the world. A sense of unity. To know the oneness of the universe and express that instead of anything else, to live the universe, to be it. To give up the struggle. To stop fitting in with counter culture. To stop bickering with mainstream culture.
I am for art that demonstrates all this. I am for art that sucks all this up and makes that hollow burbling sound because it’s still sucking after all the liquid is gone. I am for art that creates chaos out of order. I am for art that systematically repeats a mistake until it becomes an unmistakable stitch. I am for approaching the divine through math. I am for beauty as a means to an end. I am for a region before time, or space, or matter. I am for art that describes a rarely visited inner space. I am for process. I am for droplets of water catching sunlight on the windshield. I am for art that heals. I am for the interconnectedness of mind and matter.
I stand for coming to know death. I stand for leaving it up to you. The you that is beyond your name and your body and your personality. The you beyond your identity, beyond your sexuality. The you that knows all things. The you your ego is terrified of. The you that has no gender, no name.
“You arrive with the apple blossoms, fresh and pink.
What will you prune? What will you nourish?”
Those may not have been her exact words, but that is the sentiment that has stayed with me from Lauren’s words the welcoming ceremony on Day 1 of the apprenticeship. You can imagine how easily those words return to me, every time I weed or hoe or plant or seed.
The Talmud says there’s an angel that bends over every blade of grass and whispers, “Grow, grow!”
Tibetan Cherry Tree. Woof!
At Green Dragon Temple, there’s always an altar where you need one.
Sketches I made in the garden on my first weekend. Buds that seemed to just barely contain themselves. Bust out and through, little friends!
The farm & garden from the trail above.
The Farm Altar. Every morning we bow in here after breakfast.
Window to the optimistically named Tidy Shed
My go-to source for info about edibles, Farm Apprentice Hannah, braves the wild cucumber! Careful folks, it’s mildly toxic.
Is it not so awesome? Can you believe this thing is native?
Walk to the beach. Oh California!
Me after an enthralling Native Plant Walk with the excessively inspiring Head of Grounds, Sukey. Drinking Douglas Fir tea (so citrusy!), donning Clingweed crown. I love it here. I love being outdoors, sinking my hands into the soil every day, surrounded by people dedicated to understanding themselves. And dedicated to kindness. Kindness! Truly remarkable.