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Find inspiration, instruction at Alcona Arts Retreat

July 24, 2012
By DIANE SPEER - News Lifestyles Editor , The Alpena News

With a long-term vision for making Alcona County a haven for artists and musicians, a recently formed group of local leaders has taken a significant step forward.

The group, known as Inspiration Alcona, Inc., has put together an Alcona Arts Retreat of nine nature-inspired workshops led by experienced instructors from throughout the state. Participants in the retreat can choose from oil painting, watercolors, photography, quilting, folk singing, guitar, banjo or songwriting.

Though centered at Lost Lake Woods Club, the Sept. 6-9 retreat will encourage participants to explore the different woods and water facets of the county as they seek inspiration for the expression of their art or music.

"Our long-term vision is to make Alcona County a haven for artists and musicians," said group member Laura Frawley of Harrisville. "We want people to be inspired by our surroundings and by being in a place that is friendly to creativity, innovation, change and new thinking."

As president of Inspiration Alcona, Inc., Will St. John of Lincoln detailed the scope of the retreat. It begins with a welcoming wine and cheese mixer, extends for five workshop sessions through Sunday morning and concludes with a cookout and farewell concert.

"Participants will be around Lost Lake Woods, Harrisville Harbor, at the quilt shop and other places around the county wherever the instructors feel is a good place to inspire," St. John said. "This is by design, so that everyone can get out and see what the county has to offer."

Local merchants are getting in on the act as well by contributing materials for a welcome packet for all who attend the retreat. Plenty of time has been built into the schedule for participants to eat lunch at one of the local restaurants and shop in the local boutiques and stores.

St. John took charge of seeking out instructors for the retreat. He sent requests to 50 potential workshop leaders and received proposals back from 35 of those. In the end, eight were chosen with many others kept in mind for future arts retreats.

"That's the beauty of this. There are so many artists who can teach," said Mary Ellen Jones, another committed volunteer helping with the retreat.

"The people we have are going to be really high quality," added fellow Inspiration Alcona, Inc. member Judy MacNeil. "We wanted to draw high caliber, well-known instructors."

As the center of the retreat activity, Lost Lake Woods Club offers more than 10,000 acres of woods, plentiful deer and other wildlife, five small lakes, a lodge, a dining room, a golf course and more. The club itself has many scenes worth capturing in both photography and painting.

Participants may choose to stay at the Lost Lake Woods lodge, take a room at one of the county's five bed and breakfast inns, or camp at the club or in nearby campgrounds.

The cost for participating in each workshop is $225 for the five sessions. An early bird special of $175 is offered for those who register by July 31. Lodging is not included in the workshop fee. Organizers are hoping for 90 participants and already are a third of the way toward that goal.

The retreat is being planned as an annual event and built on several other successful events in Alcona County: the Wine & Food Festival, Antiques & Collectibles Show and Harmony Weekend.

"By having this retreat, we're hoping that once people see our county they will want to come back and maybe even move here," said Frawley. "Not only will they have a learning experience, but we want them to be inspired by the area."

Inspiration Alcona, Inc. grew out of a leadership class offered through MSU Extension.

For more information about the Alcona Arts Retreat and the registration process, call 736-3000 or go online to



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