It’s the beginning of spring and in the mornings the fog lays low and heavy across the redwoods. A group of queer artists are gathered on the dining hall deck, coffee in hand, as Rik Lee demonstrates how to create little plaster trolls from some casts he has brought. Inside, Thor and Joe lead a guided discussion on how to talk about impact as artists, looking glamorous in their wigs and lashes. Some listen and take notes while others take it in while they knit or weave. It’s March 2016 and it’s our second annual Muse, a retreat for queer creatives.
Muse is our first big event of the year, with more than 60 people attending last year. We created it to build a space for LGBTQ* artists of all types to come together, share art, grow skills, and be inspired. Art has the potential to inspire all of us towards a better world, and we feel by helping queer artists grow stronger we can help them create a larger impact in the world. And, it’s been a smashing success. People leave Muse feeling a renewed excitement for their art, with new ideas brewing, and access to new friends and resources.
Every year we organize an incredibly diverse series of workshops and projects for attendees to engage. We pick a theme and ask that some of the workshops incorporate the theme into their teachings. In 2016, our theme was “Inspire” and we had a lot of work focused on getting your creative juices flowing: these ranged from “Inspiration and Your Inner Critic” to “The Why of What We Do”. But, we also have a lot of great activities that are completely unrelated to the theme: like “Photography of the Nude”, “Butoh and the Primal Queer”, or “Introduction to Screen-printing”. Every year, the workshops vary wildly, so that no two Muses will ever be the same.
We also hold the Queeriosities Cabaret and an Art Salon each year. These act as venues to show off your art to the rest of the group. The cabaret is a space to perform poetry, drag, dance, fashion, or fierceness of any type. We set up a small stage and theater in the dining hall, though on dry years we will move down to the campfire amphitheater. The following night we hold the Art Salon, always named after LGBTQ* artists we wish to honor. In 2016 it was the Gertrude Stein and Oscar Wilde Art Salon – this year is the Audre Lorde and James Baldwin Art Salon. We set up a wondrous gallery of all the art people bring to share or have made throughout the weekend and then throw quite the party to celebrate all that we are creating.
Leaving is a sad affair each year, though we’re buoyed by knowing the friendships we’ve built during the weekend are only going to continue to grow. After all, Muse is just the beginning of the warm season, and just one of the first of many programs at Groundswell for the year. There will be lots more learning, loving, laughing, and creating to come.
Muse takes place this year on March 3rd – 5th and the theme is “Revolution”. We’ll be studying the power of art to create social and political change, and some of the ways different arts like theater, film, or poetry work to create that change. We’ve got workshops ranging from guerrilla filmmaking to burlesque dancing, and with such a poignant theme it’s bound to be a powerful year. There are still plenty of spaces and scholarships left, so consider coming out to Muse for some inspiration and rejuvenation.