Artist and Beyul Retreat launch campaign for forest meditation temple
Skye Gallery to host 'Written in the Trees' party Wednesday
What: ‘Written in the Trees’ launch party
Where: Skye Gallery
When: Wednesday, Feb. 9, 5-7 p.m.
More info: LaraWhitleyStudio.com
Titled “Written in the Trees,” this open-air temple made of glass was conceived by Whitley, whose work in recent years has used foraged antique glass from the Aspen area to create contemplative spaces in natural environments.
“Right now our country and our society are experiencing a lot of unrest and uncertainty,” Whitley said. ”My wish is for this to be a place for peace and wonder and renewal for our community.“
The concept for this collaboration emerged during Whitley’s work as a 2021 Aspen Art Museum Artist Fellow and conceptually builds on her recent installations like “Home,” a house-shaped sculpture of suspended glass shards that won a People’s Choice award at Colorado’s 2019 “Art of the State” exhibition and her “Earthly Palace” meditation space at the Aspen Space Station installation on the backside of Aspen Mountain in summer 2021.
Whitley, the gallery and Beyul are launching a $21,000 fundraising campaign for the meditation temple, titled “Written in the Trees,“ on Wednesday evening at the Skye Gallery. At that presentation and party, they are expected to announce an $8,000 matching grant organized by local philanthropist Susan Brady.
Hosted on Kickstarter and slated to run until March 11, the campaign will fund materials including stainless steel rigging and hardware as well as compensation for artists and laborers.
The collaboration began with Whitley walking the 32-acre Beyul property last year with Beyul general manager Abby Stern — who co-founded the lodge and retreat center with Aspenites Reuben Sadowsky and Andrew Skewes — and scouting sites for a contemplative space. They discovered a natural clearing where a stand of lodgepole pines form a spiral.
“Written in the Trees” would spiral around those trees and form a roofless “temple” of aquamarine-colored glass measuring about 18-by-25-by-20 feet. The plot sits along the 10th Mountain Trail, which would provide free public access to the site.
The project marks the first time Whitley has publicly campaigned for funds for her work.
“I knew I was going to need the community to step up and be a part of this creative journey if this was going to happen,” she said. “The first folks to step up and say ‘yes’ were Beyul Retreat. I give them all the props in the world for that.”
If fundraising efforts are successful, the “Written in the Trees” team would begin installation as snow clears in May and would aim for an opening this summer. It would be the most prominent among a growing number of artworks on Beyul’s “art path,” designed by artist Heather Hansen during a residency there in summer 2021, part of a series of artist residencies and collaborations spearheaded by Beyul.
The Beyul team bought and took over the historic Diamond J Guest Ranch, on the upper Frying Pan River, in November 2020. They’ve been steadily converting it into a lodge, retreat, event space and community resource since then.
The partners on the “Written in the Trees Project” project are hopeful it will become a destination for school groups for mindfulness programs and nature field trips, with programming including guided meditations on-site. Whitley has been in talks with local groups including the Aspen Indigenous Foundation, The Art Base and Carbondale Arts about hosting programs in the temple.
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