Art Monastery San Francisco is the Project’s program centered around the Bay Area. Beginning with the art, at present AM SF has no physical location.
AM SF conducts weeklong Artmonk Retreats in the Mojave Desert in Southern California and Bolinas in Northern California. Each of the public concerts given at the end of these retreats have proven our hypothesis that out of contemplative silence can come inspiration, creativity, and jaw-dropping performance. In 2011, AM SF offered its first official Bay Area concert as a part of the Art in Nature: the Nature of Art festival, where Artmonks performed sacred polyphony from various traditions in a cathedral of redwoods just outside of Oakland.
In addition to the Artmonk Retreats and concerts of sacred music, AM SF gathers Bay Area contemplative artists in a weekly meditiation group, the Artmonk Sangha.
Vision for AM SF: Discipline, Creativity, Sustainability
Simply put, we envision a self-sustaining community of artmonks in the Bay Area.
This community (of 30-40 long-term and 10-20 short-term residents) will live an experimentally-monastic life together: through a shared routine, shared rituals and celebrations, shared contemplative time (if not shared contemplative object), shared meals, periods of silence, retreat, and philosophical debate, shared monastic rule (community agreements) and vows (statement of personal intention), and the guidance of tripartite leadership team (an abbess or abbott, a spiritual director, and an artistic director), developing together an open-source art monastic lineage (e.g. the Otherhood of Artmonks) in close affiliation with the Italian pilot Art Monastery and other Artmonk chapters around the globe.
We will inhabit a beautiful monastic site (an existing one or a newly built one that is architecturally inspired by monastic tradition, yet which honors California’s weird spiritual architectural heritage) located within a two-hour drive of San Francisco or fifteen minutes away from a BART stop. This site will have private spaces for living, performance and gallery spaces, musical practice spaces, a vast garden, kitchen & dining hall. We will collaborate and perhaps even share space with existing local arts and academic institutions.
We will create world-class art (through e.g. a resident theater company, dance company, musical ensembles, visual art installations, sculpture gardens, a poetry and literature publishing house, a film residency) together.
What kind of art will it be? The kind of art that could best happen in an Art Monastery in California.
A plugin for your community…
Art Monastery SF currently inhabits a small house in the North Berkeley hills, and we’re looking to expand. If you are you part of an existing co-housing community, ecovillage or other intentional community that would be interested in collaborating, OR have access to a large urban space, OR have a lovely piece of land within ~1 hour of SF, we want to talk to you.
A Message from Executive Director Nathan Rosquist
Living in intentional community is not for everyone—the idea triggers an autoimmune response in some people, for whom it might signify the sacrifice of personal autonomy and individuality—but once you develop a taste for the stuff, it doesn’t fade. I unabashedly love it.
Since I began this blog-inquiry into monasticism just many months ago, dissecting Taoism, Vedanta, Eastern and Western Christianity, as well as the various vehicles of Buddhism into what I have called the elements of monasticism, community is an element I haven’t written about directly much at all. Yet it figures in my mind as an important piece of what all monasticisms are aiming at. For those individuals who dwell in abbeys, ashrams, friaries, priories, sketes, lavras, mathas, mandirs, koils, gompas, lamaseries, wats, viharas, community is a powerful spiritual practice.
So we’re making a monastery.
No, it’s not the one pictured above—the famous Cluny Abbey, founded in 910 by William the First of Aquitaine—which I include in this post because, although it grew into something massive (such a symbol of opulence that it was destroyed during the French Revolution), it started out modestly enough. William donated his Burgundy hunting preserve and an abbey was born.
Nathan Rosquist met Art Monastery Project co-founders Betsy McCall and Christopher Fülling in April of 2008, a few months after they had moved to Italy to start the pilot Art Monastery, and a couple months before Nathan received an MBA in Sustainable Community Economic Development from BGI. He volunteered for the Art Monastery Project in Italy for 17 months out of the following two years.
In October 2010, Nathan moved to the Bay Area to be with his then fiancée, now wife, Phoebe Jevtovic Rosquist (who had been a visiting artist of AM Italia since 2007), to start a new Art Monastery in the US. Since the 8-day Artmonk Retreat and four subsequent chapter meetings in Berkeley and San Francisco, and after conversations with interested artmonks around the Bay Area, Nathan developed a rough idea for how to make it happen.
As he had learned in Italy, birthing a self-sustaining community of monastically-inspired artists is a hard and tortuous process. Yet, as far as he and a few others are concerned, there’s nothing more valuable, nothing worthier of our time and our steady effort (aside from, perhaps, our continuing practices of contemplation and art-making).
Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (510) 520 4747 to get involved.
Creating an Art Monastery by Nathan Rosquist is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.