In 1954, feminist poet/philosopher,
Elsa Gidlow purchased
five acres of land above Muir Woods National Monument along the Northern
California coast. The garden bloomed under her hand, and an intimate,lively
community grew up around her. She named this place Druid Heights. During
the four decades she spent there, Elsa often reflected on her lifelong
struggle to support herself as a writer, and she dreamed of a retreat
where women artists could come and work in a peaceful, supportive environment.
Elsa wanted to encourage women just as she had Alan Watts in his creativity
by providing Alan a home in a beautiful place.
the time of Elsa's death on June 8, 1986, the Druid Heights property
had been appropriated by the National Parks System. However, through
Elsa's bequest and the efforts of Marcelina Martin, who had come to
know and love her in the last
seven years of her life, Elsa's dream of an artists' retreat was kept
alive and given form. On Solstice of 1988, Marcelina was joined by Hallie
Iglehart Austen, Arisika Razak, Karen Geiger, and Joan Iten Sutherland,
and Druid Heights Artists Retreat was incorporated as a nonprofit organization.
vision was to find and develop a home for D.H.A.R., where artists could
come for retreats in a community of individuals who are integrating
art, spirituality, and ecopolitics. Our goal was to create a place which
nourishes the artist within the context of this community and which
encourages work supportive of healing the planet. Since we were unable
to purhcase such a property, D.H.A.R. decided to provide grants for
residencies at an existing retreat in Northern New Mexico.
Druid Heights began giving artists residences in the Summer of 1989.
We gave priority to women, and in particular to lesbians, creating art
that was life-affirming, socially engaged, and innovative. We were committed
to including the full plurality of women in our society: all ages, colors,
classes, physical abilities, and stages in their artistic careers. Recognizing
the critical importance of women's creativity for our culture's survival,
we supported artistic development for groups who have not usually been
so supported. We invited writers, visual artists, media artists, dancers,
theater/performance artists, musicians, and artisans in traditional
and ceremonial forms to apply for residencies. During our short life
as a harbor for the arts, we sent painters, writers, photographers,
multimedia and performance artists on retreat. DHAR manages the Literary Estate of Elsa Gidlow