The Art Monastery is a residential community
dedicated to cultivating personal awakening and cultural transformation through artmaking, spiritual practice, and reciprocity with the earth.
We are artists who meditate and meditators who make art. Our community lives close to the Earth in order to unlearn the oppressive systems of the overculture and cultivate a viable alternative for future generations.
The Art Monastery began in 2007 in a series of historic monasteries across Italy as a secular non-profit arts organization. Ever since, we have hosted visiting artists, offered cultural events for the public, and applied the monastic principles of discipline, contemplation, and sustainability to our creative process. In 2016 we moved our operations to a seven-acre farm in Vermont. After seven years in Italy and five years in Vermont, we are now in the process of buying land.
We are dedicated to the liberation of all beings.
Through personal awakening and cultural transformation, we seek to create a community inspired by what Trungpa Rinpoche calls Enlightened Society and what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. calls the Beloved Community.
We see today’s art as the seeds of tomorrow’s culture, to build a world where
- art guides our species back into balanced relationship our more-than-human family,
- there is truly equality and justice for all beings,
- we rebalance masculine and feminine energies,
- we heal the wounds of ancestral trauma to overcome greed, aggression and confusion, and
- we align with the natural cycles of the Earth.
The Art Monastery is a residential community dedicated to cultivating personal awakening and cultural transformation through artmaking, spiritual practice, and reciprocity with the earth.
The Art Monastery is a radical experiment in collaborative living inspired by monastic traditions. Through avant garde monasticism, we take up new and old ways of artmaking to create a social ecology defined by heart-centered, body-positive, justice-seeking values.
In this way, we balance the art element of our mission (intuition, activism, and re-wilding) with the monastery element (structure and schedule, personal growth, and ancient traditions).
We support each other in our own journeys of artmaking, spiritual practice and reciprocity with the earth.
We also host artists-in-residence, retreats, gatherings and art intensives in order to share the practices and values of our social sculpture* and refresh the long term community.
*Social Sculpture is the practice of life-as-art, as coined by Joseph Beuys. Elements of our social sculpture include: a community schedule, resource pooling, ceremony, group process, artshares, shared labor and ethical purchasing agreements.
The Three Fields of Art Monasticism
The three fields of Art Monasticism are not separate, but co-arise within a unified embodied experience.
As a community,
- we make art within the context of spiritual practice and reciprocity with the earth;
- we ground our spiritual practice in artmaking and reciprocity with the earth; and
- we honor the earth through artmaking and spiritual practice.
The Art Monastery exists to bring meaningful art into the world. Our work is for artists to more deeply connect with their creative source and for spiritual practitioners to develop their artistic voice.
We do this by providing a holistic container that includes:
- a supportive community that values and encourages exploration of the artistic process
- we share common studios, performance/rehearsal spaces and housing, with opportunities for private creative space as well
- ethical, nutritious food prepared with love
- access to nature: river swimming, forest walking, sit spots amidst the trees & ferns
- artshares: weekly opportunities to share finished and in-process work within the Art Monastery community, to receive feedback and engage in dialogue
- conversations about culture shift: a supportive environment to explore how art impacts culture, and how we, as artists, can be part of changing mainstream culture
- publications, performances, and exhibitions: whenever possible, we support residents and visitors to share their work not just within the Art Monastery community, but in the larger community and online
Performances, paintings, poetry and artworks of all forms, created with the support of the Art Monastery, have appeared in major cultural institutions around the world.
Check out the portfolio. [link to list of awesome artists-in-residence and long term resident artmakings around the world]
Artmonk spirituality draws inspiration from a variety of Buddhist lineages and earth-based spiritual practices while respecting the wisdom teachings of all world traditions.
We meet ourselves and each other through:
- daily practice: 30 minutes of meditation & 15 minutes of song and chanting, five days a week
- ceremony: every full moon, new moon, solstice, and equinox
- silence: part of each day, five days a week
- check-ins: authentic personal sharing & listening at a community meal five days a week
- meal blessings: gather and sing a song before a daily group meal
- embodiment practices: somatic meditation, movement, and singing
- practice periods: 1-4 weeks of silent retreat each year
- Artmonk vows
- By practicing Embodiment, may I awaken fully and be free. Cultivating our somatic field as intimacy with the living earth, welcoming the divine feminine both within and without.
- By practicing Authenticity, may I awaken fully and be free. Practicing skillful means to balance inner experience with outer community, honoring the sacred journey of every feeling.
- By practicing Forgiveness, may I awaken fully and be free. Recognizing freedom & freshness in ever-present awareness releasing tension into the Earth.
- dedications of merit: We close our practices by setting the intention to be of benefit to others.
- For example, “Whatever goodness this practice has brought, I dedicate to all beings. Whatever insight and joy I have found, I willingly share with all beings. Whatever merit my practice has generated, may it be multiplied to infinity, for the happiness and welfare of all.” —Reggie Ray, Dharma Ocean
Reciprocity with the Earth
We live increasingly close to the land. Inspired by Robin Wall Kimmerer, we invoke the concept of reciprocity as an attempt to give back to the earth in balance with what we receive.
We steadily cultivate a handmade life to honor our more-than-human family, turning away from mass production and capitalist consumerism. We dedicate effort, time, and money to supporting a whole ecosystem of thriving life.
As a community, we:
- acknowledge the Abenaki people as the ancestral stewards of this land and seek to learn from their contemporary leadership
- regeneratively cultivate food and medicine plants and share the bounty
- buy and cook in a manner that promotes ethical food systems
- can, freeze, and dry foods for pantry storage in the winter months
- compost our food and humanure
- forage food, following the honorable harvest as presented by Robin Wall Kimmerer in Braiding Sweetgrass:
- ask permission
- don’t take the first one
- take less than half
- encourage flourishing of foraged plants
- express gratitude
- aim towards zero waste and practice ethical consumption by
- limiting our use of fossil fuels and plastic
- crafting many products with sustainable, non-toxic ingredients (for example paper, ink, candles, toothpaste, insect repellent, household cleansers)
- foregoing consumption of commercial and industrial goods
- ongoing study of what is in our waste stream
- boycotting Amazon and Big Box stores, buying local whenever possible
- engage Earth-restoration practices
- preserve and contribute to edge zones and diversified wildlife habitat
- plant trees, shrubs and native pollinators
- remove invasives
*We acknowledge that our species has overreached and created massive, damaging imbalance and ongoing harm. We are part of the privileged, industrialized, over-consuming minority responsible for undertaking widespread, immediate, creative repair work. We vow to do all that we can to live in balance within the web of life.
The pilot site and first major program of the Project was Art Monastery Italia. AM Italia intended to transform a historic Italian monastery into an international arts production center. As an extended experiment in monastic community, a long-term team of Artmonks operated AM Italia and hosted other artists, volunteers, and interns for short periods of time. The community typically peaked in the summertime at 15 to 25 members, but throughout the year individuals (whether permanent members or visiting members passing through) became part of the community that was dedicated to investigating monasticism, co-creating art projects, sharing experimental spiritual practices, building artistic skills and technique, living together intentionally, and taking part in daily living chores and activities. From 2010-2012, Art Monastery Italia was located in the monastery San Antonio in the medieval hill town of Labro, 70 minutes north east of Rome. In 2013, the project was hosted in Puglia, Italy in collaboration with the Accademia del Rinascimento Mediterraneo.
2014 launched a new Art Monastery Italia, in Caramanico, Abruzzo. A monthlong trial Laboratory yielded a fantastic new Italian partnership with our Abruzzese hosts ReTe, and a new Dance-Theater performance “Prime,” which has since toured around 40 performances in 9 cities, through Italy, Belgium, Germany, Sweden and Dubai!
2016 We offered our first Art Monastic Laboratory in the USA on a 7-acre farm in southern Vermont as well as a weeklong Artmonk Retreat. Meanwhile, we participated in Hosting Social Innovation, a two-year project funded by Erasmus+ and the EU. As such, we created a five short films and a database offering methods for anyone to learn how to help others be innovative.
2017 We returned to Springfield for another Art Monastic Laboratory, two Artmonk Retreats (enjoying participants from as farflung as Dubai and Texas), and introduced a brand new weeklong program: the Women’s Wellness Getaway. Continuing with Hosting Social Innovation, we collaborated with three other European organizations to run two one-week Innovation Host Certification seminars in Italy and Poland, as well as co-hosting the Changemaker Festival in Berlin. We also published the workbook Live Your Dream: Start Here, Start Now. The Summer Artmonks created an original theater pieced which toured the east coast US called Bootstraps.
The Art Monastery is now located, in the ancestral land of the Abenaki people (also known as Vermont), along the shores of the Long River (also known as the Connecticut River). We have four year round long-term core team members. Our community swells to 14 in the summer months. To learn what our current offerings are, check out the PROGRAMS drop down menu.
September-December 2006: The idea is born! Planning phase (based in San Francisco)
January-December 2007: Monastery search: looked at 25 monasteries across Italy More…
June 2007: First Art Monastery production: The Pacelli Project performs in Calvi dell’Umbria, Italy
January 2008: Art Monastery Italia legally formed as an Italian non-profit, Associazione Culturale (based in Calvi’s Casa del’Popolo) More…
March 2008: Art Monastery Project receives 501(c)(3) status as an American non-profit (based in San Francisco)
June-August 2008: First Artist Residencies at Art Monastery Italia; Began Symposium series; hosted first workshop (based in Calvi’s Casale S. Brigida) More…
April-August 2009: First Art Monastery Summer Festival in Calvi dell’Umbria More…
January 2010: First Artmonk Retreat at the Integratron in southern California
April 2010: Relocate Art Monastery Italia to the monastery in Labro, Italy! More…
May-September 2010: Second Art Monastery Summer Festival (based in the monastery in Labro)
January 2011: Second Artmonk Retreat at the Integratron in southern California
January-February 2011: Artmonk Roadtrip across the U.S., Founded 8 local chapters across the U.S.
April-September 2011: Third Art Monastery Summer Festival (based in the monastery in Labro). (See 2011 Annual Report.)
October 2011: First Art Monastery San Francisco production: concert as part of Art in Nature: Nature in Art festival in Oakland, California and first Art Monastery Short Film Festival in Labro, Italy
February 2012: Third Artmonk Retreat at Briarcombe in northern California
May-September 2012: Fourth Art Monastery Summer Festival (based in the monastery in Labro)
January 2013: Fourth Artmonk Retreat at Briarcombe in northern California
April-June 2013: Art Monastery Research & Development hosted by the Accademia del Rinascimento Mediterraneo near Lecce, Italy
June 29 – July 7, 2013: Changemaker Festival, co-organized with the International Partnership for Transformational Learning, Järna, Sweden
August 2013: Base of operations moves to U.S.; programming on pause while we regroup and reflect.
Aug 2013: Beginning of performance collaborations with The Alchemy.
Dec 2013: Visioning retreat, hosted by The Alchemy in Los Angeles; collaborative Solstice Theatre Ritual.
July 6-11, 2014: Second Changemaker’s Festival in Zagreb, Croatia
August-October 2014: Artmonk creative residency in Caramanico, Abruzzo, Italy. Prime tours Europe.
January-February 2015: Prime tours Dubai.
July 15-30 2015: Incontro Teatrale di Caramanico (Caramanico Theater Festival)
August 1-8 2015: New program launch — Art Monastery Vacation Getaway
August 9 – October 5 2015: Art Monastic Laboratory, Caramanico
February 2016: Monthlong Practice Period, Lyons, CO
April 2016: Artmonk Retreat, Lyons, CO
July – September 2016: Art Monastic Laboratory, Vermont
September 2016: Artmonk Retreat, Vermont
May-October 2017: Artists-in-Residence
May 2017: Artmonk Retreat, Vermont
June – August 2017: Art Monastic Laboratory, Vermont
September 2017: Artmonk Retreat, Vermont
September 2017: New program launch — Women’s Wellness Getaway, Vermont
June 2018: Artmonk Experience, Vermont
July 2018: Artmonk Retreat, Vermont
July 2018: New program launch — Silent Art Residency, Vermont
August 2018: New program launch — Wild & Well, Vermont
August 2018: New program launch — Heart Mind: Art & Zen, in collaboration with San Francisco Zen Center, Green Dragon Zen Temple, CA
August 2019: New program launch — Heart Mind: Art & Zen, in collaboration with San Francisco Zen Center, Green Dragon Zen Temple, CA
March 2020: Responding to COVID-19 — launch of a new program: Art Monastery Quarantine Social Sculpture
May-September 2020: Responding to COVID-19 — programs move online
- Artmonk Retreat: Way of the Artmonk in Disrupted Times with Joel & Michelle Levey
- The Embodied Artist: Aligning with Justice
- Heartmind: Art & Zen in the time of Covid & Black Lives Matter
- Artmonk Retreat: Art to Fuel the Revolution with Joel & Michelle Levey