How to Start an Artist Retreat Business

by Felicia Greene - Updated September 26, 2017
Artist retreats often inspire artists to create work outdoors.

Artist retreats allow craftspeople working in different media to experience a calming environment in which to create rewarding work. At the Ragdale artists’ retreat near Chicago, Illinois, over 200 newer and established artists come together for two- to eight-week residencies each year. Accepted Ragdale residents may include visual artists, writers, performance artists, and composers. Although the Ragdale artists’ retreat can accept twelve artists in residence at once, facilities of all sizes can provide an invigorating, yet calming, environment in which an artist is free to create (See Reference 1).

Handle your business logistics. Structure your business with help from a Certified Public Accountant experienced with camps and meeting facilities. Consult with a commercial insurance agent who can address risk management of artists’ activities, plus risks inherent in the type of retreat facility (e.g. farm or boat). Check with your local zoning office to ensure that zoning regulations will allow the retreat. Obtain a business license from your city or county clerk’s office. Finally, since you will be operating a lodging facility that may include meals, consult with your health department about cleanliness and sanitation requirements.

Design your fee structure. Create a spreadsheet that details weekly expenses for the retreat. Next, develop a weekly fee structure that is affordable for artists and profitable for the retreat owner. Consider a discount for a multi-session stay by the same artist.

Choose a suitable location. Different types of properties can be used for an artist retreat: a farm with generous acreage and several buildings for accommodations and studios; a large mountain cabin with multiple levels and rooms; or an expansive yacht docked on a beautiful rural creek with pastoral scenery.

Build studios for different media. Your available studio space will depend on two factors: the overall space allocated to artist studios; and the workspace needs of specific media. If the studios are located in farm outbuildings, for example, there is a finite amount of space available for artists’ use. If a mountain chalet has three unused rooms, that resource will dictate the number of available studios. Remember that a jewelry maker might require very little space compared to a quilter or painter. Create different sized workrooms, each of which might appeal to several types of artists. Supply basic equipment for each listed medium, and ask artists to bring personal hand tools and supplies.

Create accommodations with ambience. While at the retreat, artists’ main focus will be nurturing their creativity. With that in mind, design uncluttered living spaces and common areas that create a calming environment. Work with an interior designer experienced in using colors, textures and furniture that soothe the mind and soul. Find an interior designer through the American Society of Interior Designers website (See Resources). Create meditation and inspiration areas in gardens, wooded areas, or waterfront settings. Provide all-weather tables, chairs, and benches for artists who enjoy creating their work outdoors.

Reach out to the arts community. Publicize the artist retreat in several ways: speak to local and regional artist associations; send news releases to area art galleries; and place ads in regional arts publications: http://www.artistresource.org/artpubs.htm. Finally, advertise on a website designed to showcase artist exhibitions and opportunities throughout the United States (See Resources). Invite artists to take a tour of the retreat before making their commitment.

About the Author

Based in North Carolina, Felicia Greene has written professionally since 1986. Greene edited sailing-related newsletters and designed marketing programs for the New Bern, N.C. "Sun Journal" and New Bern Habitat ReStore. She earned a Bachelor of Science in business administration from the University of Baltimore.

Photo Credits

  • artist at work image by robert mobley from Fotolia.com
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