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Squam Art Workshops

Squam Art Workshops
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I have always been fascinated with words: how they form, develop, and change over time. Although I have never pursued any kind of formal training in etymology, I think it’s fair to say I’m a rather passionate dilettante. You can appreciate then my keen interest as I watch the word ‘squam’ evolve and expand in all sorts of ways I could never have imagined.

Photo/Art by Sarah Greenman
What is Squam?  This is a question I am asked on a very frequent basis. The Abenaki word for water, it is, of course also the name of one of New Hampshire’s largest lakes. And then, in a way that both mystifies me and delights me—for a growing number of people—squam refers to a transformative experience, a community, a movement.

Photo/Art by Susannah Conway
In September 2008, I hosted a gathering on the shores of Squam Lake as, at the time, I lived just across the road.  The purpose was to actively engage with the idea of creativity as a way of life.  Too often, it felt to me, people shut themselves down from painting, drawing, taking photographs, writing—you name it—whatever ways fired up their creative mojo, because of false beliefs around what it means to be an artist, a writer, a photographer.

Photo/Art by Jen Korff

And then, on the flip side, we began a series of retreats focused on textiles where people had no problem being actively creative—they were already knitting, sewing, weaving, and spinning on a daily basis.  The difference was that it was too often dismissed as ‘just a hobby.’

Photo/Art by Christine Chitnis

My question was: Why do we not celebrate creative self-expression? Why do we not honor play?

Photo/Art by Amy Gretchen Maher

Play simply for the joy of play.  Creative expression as pure process—no thought to end product, no thought of commercial value, no expectation on how it will be judged—is counter to how most of us are programmed to go through our days.

Photo/Art by Jen Barlev
What I couldn’t have anticipated was how deep a chord this inquiry would strike. Since that first weekend, over 3,000 people from all over the world have participated in Squam Art Workshops and the results are resoundingly positive; lives have been transformed. That’s a strong word, I know, but I have boxes stuffed full of handwritten letters and a folder on my laptop full of e-mails telling me in no uncertain terms, personal transformation has occurred.

Photo/Art by Susannah Conway
Today I make my home in Providence, Rhode Island, which Architectural Digest has recently named ‘the country’s best small city.”  Rich with history, stunning architecture, amazing food, and an abundance of creative spirit, Providence is about to become the setting for the next experiment in Squam as I host the first ever urban Squam Art Workshops: Squam in the City.

Photo/Art by Kaitlyn Bouchard
What will this urban adventure bring to the word squam? With any luck, the experience of ‘going to Squam’ will gain new meaning as we throw down roots under these 400-year-old cobblestoned streets and see that we can nurture creativity as a way of life whether we are in the sanctuary of natural beauty or the heart of a city.

Photo/Art by Bella Cirovic
That’s my hope, anyway. I’ll let you know how it goes!



Updated Thursday, June 5th, 2014

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6 Responses to Squam Art Workshops

  1. Rita Herrmann June 5, 2014 at 2:32 pm #

    I am one of those transformed lives, though I have only experienced Squam through their online class offerings. I look forward to the day in the not so distant future when I attend a retreat in person. The inspiration and pure magic of the experience is beyond words.

  2. Debbie Strom June 5, 2014 at 4:32 pm #

    Please send info regarding your Squam Retreat please, I live in MN now but grew up in NH, thanks!

  3. Jackie Crosby June 6, 2014 at 12:15 am #

    I’m interested in learning more about this. I live in CT but have a house in Moultonborough!

  4. DJ Marshall October 21, 2015 at 9:30 am #

    I am a life long Artist and Writer, of both Poetry and Verse. One of my paintings is of the Squam River Covered Bridge. There are 37 works of Art, along with over 40 poems/verse on my online museum at:
    I thought your readers might be interested in viewing the works of a New England Artist and Writer, as well as yourself.
    Currently, I am involved in painting a series of paintings depicting scenes along the Robert Frost Trail in Western Ma, for donation , to an, as of yet, undetermined organization. Perhaps,… you or your readers may have a few ideas on that subject, I’d love to hear them!
    Thanks for your time,…and Thanks For Supporting The Arts!!

    DJ Marshall

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