Sunday, March 20, 2011

A Conversation with an Artist

Photo by Steve McHugh
I have always been drawn to art galleries in a somewhat similar way I have been drawn to yoga.  Both offer a refuge from the busy pace of our everyday life and opens us up to the opportunity to be present.   Yoga and creativity have very similar purposes, to be present, to get out of an often judging mind, and to open to a new world of experience. Creating beautiful artwork is much like the meditation aspect of yoga.  There is an opportunity to be completely in tune with the mind and body, harnessing the brain in a different capacity then traditional daily tasks.

At one point last summer when I was finalizing some of my retreat concepts for Madeline Island Yoga Retreats I was speaking to Steve McHugh on the island, owner of The Bell Street Gallery, and an artist and photographer.  As an art teacher and photographer he offered to run the creative component of  the Yoga and Art retreats in June. Recently, I had a chance to talk to him and gain a bit more insight on his creative side and his love affair with Madeline Island.

Amy: What brought you to Madeline?

Steve: What brought me to MI? A writer I'm working with (she's working on a fictional book based on Madeline) told me about this magical place. My wife Mary had just gotten back from Paris and we had a couple days off before I was heading to Chicago. We headed up, and it was incredible. The ferry ride, to the forests, and the greatest of all lakes, Lake Superior,  inspired me. We got off the ferry, stayed 3 days, found a cabin, bought and closed on it 1 1/2 months later. We love the place!
In 2008 we bought property, restored it over the winter, and opened in The Bell Street Art Gallery in 2009. I needed a place to display and show the great art works that the Island inspires.
Amy: Tell me about leading art classes.
Steve: The art emphasis of this retreat is the creative process and not the "finished product."  Rules should be broken with surprising and satisfying results, taking traditional materials (paper and graphite pencils) and expanding boundaries as the artist expands her  ability to observe and translate what she sees with her own hands. There is no wrong way to express yourself in art, and that can be very liberating.  The students will explore their creative side, discovering  the balance between accessing  the mind, body, and spirit connection in art.
Amy: You are a renown and experienced photographer; what are your favorite objects to photograph?
Steve: I'm a true "people person" (I just love 'em!) which is why my current focus is on photographing people–even though many clients still specify me for their product photography. But Madeline Island's landscape provides a magnificent backdrop for developing a better understanding of the art of photography. The Photography and Yoga retreat will be an opportunity for photographers (both inexperienced and advanced) to see and photograph gorgeous scenery as well as recognize the inner beauty of themselves on their yoga mat.

Amy: Wrapping up the conversation I just want to mention how thrilled I am to be working with so many experienced business owners on the island.  Considering our experienced kayak adventure guides to Steve, our artist extraordinaire, to the amazing food and lodging establishments that offer the best service on the island,  I've already experienced an amazing opportunity building  this wonderful retreat program that integrates some of the best wellness and renewal in action. And all of this in the crisp and serene beauty of an island on Lake Superior.

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