The Art Monastery is 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. We aim to live close to the Earth in order to unlearn the oppressive systems of the overculture and cultivate a viable alternative for future generations. 

Our Story

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 (pictured above). After seven years in Italy, seven years in Vermont, three years in Hawai’i (video below), we are now located in San Francisco. We offer online programs and in-person retreats in various locations, including Green Gulch Farm, Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, and the Berkeley Alembic. 

View of our former home on the Big Island:

Our Vision

We are dedicated to the liberation of all beings.

 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.


Our Mission

The Art Monastery is dedicated to cultivating personal awakening and cultural transformation through artmaking, spiritual practice, and reciprocity with the earth. 

The Art Monastery is a radical experiment that bridges creative and contemplative practices. 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 host artists-in-residence, retreats, and gatherings in order to share the practices and values of our social sculpture*.


*Social Sculpture is the practice of life-as-art, as coined by Joseph Beuys. 


The Three Fields of Art Monasticism

The three fields of Art Monasticism are not separate, but co-arise within a unified embodied experience.


As Artmonks, 

  • 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
  • ethical, nutritious food prepared with love
  • access to nature: green clad permaculture fields & food forest, ponds, views of the ocean, sit spots amidst the blooms, hills & palms
  • artshares: 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

Spiritual Practice

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:

    • weekly practice: 30 minutes of silent meditation every Friday evening
    • community meals: as in the tradition of the ancient monasteries, we gather for a potluck dinner on the full moon each month
    • silence: when visitors or residents feel the call, we support each other to sink into days or weeks of silence
    • practice periods: 1-4 weeks of silent retreat each year
    • 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 Ohlone & Coastal Miwok 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
  • compost our food
  • 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.

Pilot & Previous Sites:
Art Monastery Italia, Vermont, & Hawai’i

2007-2013 Labro, Italy

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 (pictured above), 70 minutes north east of Rome. In 2013, the project was hosted in Puglia, Italy in by the Accademia del Rinascimento Mediterraneo.

2014-2016 Caramanico, Italy

A new location of Art Monastery Italia launched in Caramanico, Abruzzo.

  • A monthlong trial Laboratory yielded a fantastic new Italian partnership with our Abruzzese hosts ReTe, a new Dance-Theater performance “Prime,” which has since toured around 40 performances in 9 cities, through Italy, Belgium, Germany, Sweden and Dubai! 2015
  • a 2-week theater festival “L’Incontro Teatrale di Carmanico”
  • a weeklong Vacation Getaway
  • a two-month Monastic Laboratory

2016-2021 Springfield, Vermont

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.

In 2017 we offered 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 NowThe Summer Artmonks created an original theater pieced which toured the east coast US called Bootstraps.

In 2018 we began yearround residency on 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 had four year round long-term core team members with the community swelling to 14 in the summer months and at times up to 21. We began offering many weeklong and weekend art intensives, silent meditation retreats, and artist residencies. We continued those offerings in 2019 and added on collaborations with San Francisco Zen Center, offering retreats in California called heARTmind: Zen & Art.

In 2020 and the onset of the pandemic, we pivoted. We shifted our retreats and workshops to be offered online and introduced weekly meditation groups and embodiment classes. We also began an EU-funded project Hosting Empowerment. A three-year collaboration with seven european organizations, we are creating materials to support those who facilitate the empowerment of others, particularly of marginalized folx. By the end of the project we will publish a text book, a workbook, launch a free online database of empowerment methods, produce a short film, and a self-empowerment app.

2022-2023 Hawi, Hawai’i

In a profound moment of synchronicity and grace, we leapt at the opportunity to move to Hawai’i and take up residence at Kohala Sanctuary in Hawi, Hawai’i. Designed and developed according to principles from permaculture, organic gardening, and indigenous wisdom traditions, the sacred land offered 18 acres of spectacular natural beauty for moving, making art, and finding inspiration in nature. We are deeply grateful for the time we were able to enjoy there.


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)

November 2012: Second Art Monastery Short Film Festival in Labro, Italy; hosting visual artist Mavis Muller

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 2017Artists-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 — heARTmind: Art & Zen, in collaboration with San Francisco Zen Center, Green Dragon Zen Temple, CA

August 2019: heARTmind: 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-July 2022: 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

June 2022-November 2023: moved to Kohala Sanctuary, Big Island, Hawai’i & launched new online & in-person programs:

  • Art & Zazen in collaboration with San Francisco Zen Center
  • Drawing & Meditation
  • Back to Basics: Foundations of Mindfulness
  • New Years Intention-Setting Earth Altars
  • Mothers Day Earth Altars
  • Women’s Wisdom Earth Altars
  • Women & Queer Artmonk Sangha
  • Heartmind: Art & Zen
  • weekly in-person meditation sittings
  • Empower Hour: Become Who You Are
  • 100 Day Artmonk Challenge

December 2023-present: moved to San Francisco

  • Sky of the Present Moment: New Works by Suiko Betsy McCall
  • 100 Day Artmonk Challenge