“Laney” Haake’s diary of her Artist Retreat at Volland. Enjoy!
(followed by information on reserving your own artist retreat at Volland)
An Artist Retreat
What do you do when you get the “everything’s-cancelled blues”? Well…I created my own artist retreat and I’d love to share this journey with you.
Each year, I am fortunate to be able to attend workshops and plein air events. Not only do these give me a much-needed break from day-to-day responsibilities, but they enrich my learning and skills. After learning about yet another plein air event cancellation, I was in a bit of a funk so I set about planning a ‘plein air’ artist retreat … for one!
Off to the Flint Hills
Less than two hours from home, the Kansas Flint Hills checked many of my boxes. I chose the last week of September, knowing the prairie would be transitioning from Summer to Fall and the colors would be vibrant. I also figured the weather would be mild with (hopefully) little rain.
But where to stay?
I learned about The Volland Store, just outside Alma, KS, when I painted there with other artists during a workshop last year. What was once a general store at a train stop through the Flint Hills, is now a beautiful gallery and event space. Patty Reece, who leads the Volland Foundation, rescued this two story brick building from ruins – literally. In addition, she is creating places for artists to stay. Currently, artists can book ‘The Loft’ in the gallery or “The Little House” a bungalow just up the road from the gallery. Volland is back “on the map” and as an artist I couldn’t be more excited.
The Volland Store
The Little House at Volland
I was thrilled when I learned ‘The Little House’ was available for my selected dates, but had no idea what a treat I was in for.
You’ve heard about the homebuilding kits from the Sears Roebuck catalogue. Well this 1930’s house was ordered out of a similar catalogue from the Gordon Van Tine company. As I drove up, it looked like a simple white bungalow where families have raised their children the past 80+ years. Walking in, I was in awe of the transformation inside. It’s like an urban loft and a tiny Kansas farmhouse had a baby.
A K-State architectural class assisted in the plan and renovation of this historic house. I could see and feel the thought that went into each design decision. It was actually a blessing that I had no cell service and no TV (although I did have WIFI). I was able to relax and take in the simplicity and the slower pace of life. And best of all, I could focus on painting.
Time to Paint
I couldn’t have picked a better time to go. The weather was mild and sunny with a day of rain in the middle that ushered in the cloud formations made famous in many Flint Hills paintings.
I scouted places to paint along the roads that wind through the rolling hills and prairie. My first painting location was first spotted in my rearview mirror. It was easy to pull off the side of the road since I didn’t have to worry about traffic. As a matter of fact, some days I painted all day without a single person driving by. Here I am set up along Drovers Trail Road. One of my favorite paintings from the trip.
Along Drovers Trail Road 16 x 20 Oil
I loved painting on Volland Road a few miles East of the store. It sat high on a hill and the road was pretty much untraveled so it was all mine. The cows were not too crazy about me being up there but once they realized I wasn’t going to feed them…or bother them…they went on their merry way. Being so high on a hill, the wind was relentless and rendered my plein air umbrella useless lest I find it in the next county. So I used the hatchback on my SUV as a giant umbrella to shield me, my palette and my painting from the sun.
Along Volland Road 9 x 12 Oil
One nice thing about painting out here in the Flint Hills is that you can just turn 180 degrees and there’s another painting.
Volland Road Going East 6 x 12 Oil
Just South of The Little House in Volland sits an amazing homestead – the Grimm-Schultz Farmstead. I couldn’t believe my good fortune when I was able to meet Laurie Hamilton, who recently purchased this historic stone home and property and is in the process of restoring it and the surrounding buildings. It is currently designated a historical site by the Kansas Historic Site Board and soon will be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
She invited me in to see the work being done. Her plan is to create a gathering space for artists to get away for a bit and be able to tap into their creative energies while enjoying the beauty and peacefulness of the Flint Hills. Her plans include working studios and work space for potters and metal artists. Eventually, this farmstead and the Volland Store/Residences will be joined through walking paths and points of interest. What a gift this will be to the art community.
Grimm-Schultz Historic Farmstead
Oh my goodness, Laurie is an amazing woman. She is passionate about the history of this home, the opportunity to restore it and the ability to give it a new purpose for many, many years to come. She was so generous with her time and invited me to paint on the property while on my ‘retreat’. What a blessing and a gift!
Over hot tea and the most amazing piece of rhubarb pie, we talked about the possibility of bringing a plein air event to Volland and the Grimm-Schultz Farmstead. Stay tuned – I am eager to work with Patty and Laurie on this project and hope we are able to pull something together for 2021/22.
The one day it rained, I was able to stand in the pole barn and paint the stone corn crib and wash house along with other outbuildings. I could have spent a whole week on this farm. So much to paint, so little time.
Rainy Day at Grimm-Schultz Farm 9 x 12 Oil
Luckily, the next morning the sun was out and I was back at the farmstead. The strong morning light set everything aglow. I found an old windmill laying against a weathered barn with its replacement whirring proudly above. The light and shadows were a challenge to paint as they were changing by the minute. I worked quickly and felt I was able to capture one of my favorite vignettes from the day in “Blown”.
Blown 12 x 16 Oil
Morning Light 8 x 8 Oil
A Successful Week
I began the week with one simple goal. Get away for a bit and paint. I ended the week having experienced so much more than I expected. Everyone I met was friendly, welcoming and wanted to make sure I had everything I needed. They were super supportive and curious about my art. And they are proud to call the Flint Hills home. I totally understand why. It’s strikingly beautiful and unique.
I was grateful to have this time to do something I love. I realized how much I missed painting outdoors. I have always said my best art teacher has been painting from life.
I went there with no expectations and considered my painting time as ‘practice’. Some were definitely practice – and will never see the light of day – ha! But I learned something on each painting – those that worked out and those that did not. The fact that I came home with a few small paintings I was happy with, was a bonus.
This was the perfect prescription for the ‘everything-is-cancelled’ blues. I would recommend it to everyone and encourage you to go for it. Find a spot you’ve always wanted to paint and set aside some ‘me’ time to go there. It is good for the soul!
Thank you so much for following me on this journey.
The Volland Store 8 x 10 Oil
10/8/2020 9:32:37 PM by Elaine ‘Laney’ Haake
©2017-2020 Elaine Haake Fine Art All Rights Reserved
Reprinted with permission
An Artist Retreat at Volland is an opportunity for practitioners in various creative disciplines to spend six nights (Thursday through Wednesday) in the Loft at the Volland Store or in the Little House up the road. For the cost of a weekend (2 nights), you may enjoy time away from your daily routine to refresh, reboot, write, make art, think – in a setting that lends itself to creativity.
For more information or to make a reservation, please contact:
Photos by Mike Sinclair