Worth the Wait
About a year ago I received an email from Kim LaPolla of the Hudson River Valley Workshops. She asked me if I’d be interested in teaching in Upstate New York. When I asked her how she found out about me, she said she had seen me on the list of instructors at Sedona Art Center. “I see that you teach at SAC every year, so I went to your website and love you work.” she explained “Would you be interested in teaching with us next year?” “Yes!” was my first reaction. And then… “Can I come in a warm weather month?” was my next thought. Upstate New York is COLD, I attended SU, I know.
We booked the 3-day weekend workshop for May 31-June 2. I had never taught a a retreat where students lodge and eat meals together, and stay in the studio as many hours as they like. I was looking forward to seeing how it all worked.
I had to wait a year from the time we booked it, to teach my class here, It was well worth the wait.
Exactly what is a “retreat” and how is it different from a typical collage workshop? This weekend all of the students are staying on the premises in the Greenville Arms 1889 Inn, a Bed and Breakfast which houses the Hudson River Valley Artisits Workshops. The Inn offers 15 guest rooms with private baths, The workshop, lodging, and meals are all in one location at this historic inn located in upstate New York’s Hudson River Valley and Catskill Mountain region. Students immerse themselves in their favorite art medium in a wonderfully unique setting. The location is inspiring, the teachers are top professionals, and the accomodations are gracious and comfortable. Classes are limited to 18 or 20 students and the studio is available 24 hours a day.
Mark and Kim LaPolla offer students an amazing experience here in historic Greenville, NY. Mark is the chef, cooking amazing breakfasts, lunch, afternoon cookies with coffee, and nightly dinner for the students. Each day the menu is totally different, offering tempting specials like poached eggs with artichoke cheese sauce over english muffins for breakfast and Thai inspired dishes for dinner. We had home made chocolate cake for dessert, and if that’s not enough to bring you here to the Inn, there are hand-crafted chocolate truffles made on the premises!
How did this couple who previously worked in the high tech industry of California end up running a “low tech, high touch” (as Mark says) Art Workshop based Bed and Breakfast? Kim says, “I had the idea of hosting workshops because I loved to take workshops and loved the creative environment and camaraderie that is created with a group of like minded people come together. When we first started looking for a place to build this business, we were looking for a B&B with a barn or some other large building that could be converted to a studio. We were just lucky enough to find this place, which already had an art workshop program in place, for sale on the internet in 2004. We were the ones to turn it into a year-round business and added the fiber art workshops and the chocolate factory.”
I’m not sure how she finds the time, but Kim’s amazing art quilts adorn the walls in every guest room and in the parlor and dining room of the main building, they are also cover every bed at the Inn. Her work is amazing and inspiring. Her hand-made ties are available for purchase (as are some of her art quilts) and make a wonderful gift home from your visit to this small New York town.
When I asked Kim about whether or not she taught workshops on her own art quilting technique, she explained, “We do between 35 and 40 class a year, generally from March to December. Then in the winter is when the chocolate business picks up! I’ve been asked many times if I’d teach, but really I have no time! It is a full-time job and then some to manage the organizing, marketing, financials, and daily operations of all of our businesses, and when I have time off, I just want to work on my own art.”
I asked Kim if she enjoyed running this place and if she thought it was worth all the hours of work she put in, most of the year, and she quickly answered: “It’s been ten years and some of them have been quite the struggle to make ends meet, but in my mind it has all been worth it!”
Mark and Kim told me that 90% of their business is from the Artists’ Workshops portion of the Hudson River Valley School, 10% of their visitors are staying at the Bed and Breakfast to escape NY City in the summer, to hunt, or to visit family. Workshops run 3- and 5-day depending on the instructor and the subject matter (and there is certainly a wide variety of both). Hudson River Valley Artisits Workshops
At breakfast this morning some students admitted to working on their painted papers very late into the night. They brought wine back to the studio to enjoy hand-painting collage papers with friends and classmates. It makes me feel good to know that everyone is having a good time ripping and gluing, and that they want to do it late into the night. “At least you know they are having fun!” Doug exclaimed when he realized that the students were spending all their free time in the studio working away on their projects.
One thing is true, everyone always has fun in my class. But 24-hour a day fun is way more fun.
Upstate NY is a beautiful place. I remember driving to SU from MA and thinking that all the Victorian architecture here was wonderfully ornate and amazing, so many huge single family homes with such history in this part of the state. The town of Greenville is small (3739 population according to the 2010 census) and quaint, offering lots of photographic opportunities. Doug spent a good part of the weekend taking pictures around town and on the property.
We didn’t rent a car, so we are exploring things within walking (or running) distance of the Inn. Yesterday we ran to the Town Park and on some of the nature trials up there. It was beautiful watching the sun rise from behind the hills and over the top of the grassy field. Doug took a walk back to the Town Park today to photograph some of the things we saw in the morning.
The mountains make me reminisce more than anything else. I miss the mountains of New England down in Florida. There are aspects of where you grew up that stay with you always and forever; mountains on the horizon are one of the things I miss the most about being an transplant from New England.
While I taught, Doug photographed the Inn, the town of Greenville, the gardens, and my class in the studio space. We had time together at meals with the students and at night in our quaint and well appointed bedroom. (The students were in the studio, all night and even early in the morning before breakfast). We truly enjoyed our time here at the Hudson River Valley Artists’ Workshops and the Greenville Arms 1889 Inn.
No Place Like Home
We head home to Orlando in the morning. Many students expressed interest in a repeat class, as it turns out classes are already booked for 2015 so I’d have to find my way back here in 2016. I’m thinking maybe we should make it a longer workshop…
Mark and Kim invited Doug and I to stay for dinner tonight and join the next class coming in for their week-long watercolor workshop (five days and six nights). How nice it was to spend our last night visiting with the incoming students and instructor, Eric Wiegardt We had one more chance to enjoy Mark’s cooking and a glass of wine. The staff at the Greenville Arms 1889 Inn continued to make us feel at home, the serving staff calls every guest by name right from the first night at dinner. The housekeeping staff is incredibly friendly, offering genuine smiles and greetings. I enjoyed the personal attention, and I know the students did too.
One thing I’m really going to miss is afternoon home made cookies and coffee…
As is tradition, I left the demo apple for Mark and Kim to add to their impressive collection or original artwork by visiting Workshop instructors. I joked with Mark that next year when he gives the “coming attractions” speech, he needs to tell everyone to check out my original collage piece on the mantle, and to tell them that the class is great, and the instructor is a lot of fun.
Many thanks to Mark and Kim and their amazing staff, and to every single one of my 18 students who made this weekend a huge success! I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.
for being a part of
My Art Journey,
For more information on my workshops visit Facebook page for a complete listing of classes. No Facebook account required.
Click on any Douglas Nelson Photography image to enlarge. Visit his photo Facebook page for more stunning images.
Visit Hudson River Valley Artists’ Workshop page for more information on upcoming classes offered at the Inn.