Arts in the Cascades

Photo by Hannah Lauber

March 23–26, 2018

The relationship of art, the earth, and the spirit is the theme of this year's Arts in the Cascades, which returns to Holden Village on March 23-26, 2018.

This is an immersive weekend that includes an interpretive hike, group activities, optional one-on-one conversations with the leaders, and plenty of studio time. There is room for 20 artists.

As a participant, you will be led by nationally renowned artist and former Holden Artist in Residence Kristen Gilje – along with Holden Spiritual Director Heather Swanson and Village Naturalist Travis Houle. And you will examind what it means to be in the wilderness and look through the lens of these disciplines to experience the earth in a new way.

You will engage with the natural world, channel your spiritual and creative energies, and express yourself through the medium of watercolor.

"The arts can help give visual language to the unseen; form new ideas, new ways of being together, and new ways to inhabit the future," Holden Village Executive Directors and artists Peg Carlson-Hoffman + Chuck Hoffman said. "The arts harbor prophetic voices of our time."

Gilje, a highly acclaimed liturgical artist, will invite you to "play in the realm of divine color" while engaging with the North Cascades landscape and environment.

"We will use art to deepen our observation and our interior emotional responses to invite the sacred into our painting time. Whether describing mountains and fog, snow, close-ups of wildflowers or tree bark and rocks, we will use the unique properties of watercolor to explore the essence of what we observe and remember. And we will use simple drawing and watercolor techniques to pull it all together on paper."  --Kristen Gilje

Some drawing skill and watercolor painting experience would be helpful for this unique artistic experience.

"My goal," she says, "is to help you advance in your watercolor skills, as well as develop a tool for sensing the sacred presence in all life."

Swanson and Houle will lead sessions and be available for one-on-one conversations throughout the weekend.

Houle, the Holden Village Naturalist, said he will discuss patterns that appear in the landscape and in nature, and he would be able to address the significance of the natural objects that might attract the artist's attention.

Swanson, Holden's Spiritual Director, sees the retreat as an opportunity for artists to channel their spiritual energies through the wilderness and onto paper with paint. "What we pay attention to grows," she said.

Retreat Leaders

unnamed.jpgKristen Gilje

I was fortunate to live and work at Holden from 1997-2006. There I immersed myself in the surrounding natural environment with glee, and as Holden’s artist in residence expressed through paint my love of life in the mountains. My main medium at the time was watercolor, which expanded into silk painting, oils and acrylics during those years. I now make silk art full time for churches across the


nation from my Bellingham, WA studio, and enjoy teaching watercolor, the medium I know and love the best, when I can.

"My artistic mission is to communicate the sacred presence of God in all creation, by connecting therhythms, stories and images nature has to offer with liturgical rites and rituals through art.”


Travis Houle 
Holden Village Naturalist
I work as the Naturalist at Holden, teaching on the natural history of the valley and the environmental ethics of the village. Trained as a scientist before arriving at Holden, I have research experiences in paleoclimate reconstruction, field geology, field ecology, evolutionary biology, and sustainable development. An avid artist and musician since childhood, I also bring an eye for the relationship between the arts and the aesthetic to my perspective on the natural world. Raised with context in a variety of religious and spiritual traditions, I also seek to find the intersections between our selves, communities, and nature. I am excited to interpret natural subjects with students, helping to translate form and essence of the cascades environment into watercolor and sketch pieces.


Heather Swanson 

Holden Village Spiritual Director
I migrated from the East Coast last summer to serve Holden Village as Spiritual Director. With my background in Christian Holistic Spirituality and Ignatian tradition, I offer spiritual direction in the understanding that Divine Life runs through the whole of our experience. Spirit and wilderness is an integration that I am passionate about and have cultivated through personal outdoor experience and my work with directees. At Holden I seek to facilitate listening to the wilderness as a context for spiritual growth in the beauty and intensity of the Cascades.

During our weekend, I am excited to facilitate listening for the spiritual movement within each artist's individual aesthetic process and throughout our collective experience. I hope to draw from my attunement to language to foster exploration of language within the dynamic integration of art, science, and spirit.

Event Notes

  • Fees and What's Included: The cost of the weekend is $295, which includes room and board for three nights in Holden Village. The cost also covers art materials. Additional materials for your studio practice may be purchased from the Holden Store or Art Studio.
  • Remote Location: Often called a "place apart," Holden Village is one of the most isolated continuously inhabited places in the lower 48 states. The peace provided by Holden’s remoteness is a great gift, but also a responsibility. It takes the better half of a day to get in or out of the Village to the nearest town and, although Holden has a medic on staff, the Village cannot provide complete medical attendtion. We ask that all members of the community take into account Holden’s remote location when planning a visit. READ MORE
  • Transportation: To attend Arts in the Cascades, you will take the Lady of the Lake ferry on Friday, March 23, at 10 a.m. from Chelan or at 10:50 a.m. from Fields Point Landing. You will then spend Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights at Holden Village, and will return by boat to Fields Point Landing at 3:10 p.m. or Chelan at 4 p.m. on Monday. Parking fees apply at both landings, so carpooling is encouraged. READ MORE
  • Technology: There is no cell service at Holden and internet access is limited. We hope you enjoy this unique opportunity to unplug and unwind.
  • About the Food: Your registration fee includes three delicious meals served daily. If you have dietary restrictions, please let us know and the Holden kitchen will accommodate you to the best of our ability.

Questions? Feel free to contact the Arts, Enrichment, & Outreach Lead!