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Strategic Planning @ AZULE! A Photo Essay

Updated: Dec 16, 2022

August 6-10, 2022, Art2Action headed to Hot Springs, NC for a Strategic Planning retreat at Azule, an inspiring retreat center and incubator for artists of all disciplines. Board members, staff, and artists gathered with facilitators Diane Burbie and Krystal Torres-Covarrubias from The Aspire Group. For a taste of the experience, enjoy this photo essay by the Art2Action staff, with photos by and featuring the participants! (Above photo by Gabi Vigueira.)

Built in the middle of 35 acres of hilly Appalachia, Azule is a work of art bathed in natural light, mountain air, and creative potential. (Photo by Margo Miller)

Extraordinary artist, architect, and creator of Azule, Camille Shafer (photo by Gabi V.). Camille is a master of detail, reassembly, and patience, among many other things... legend has it that she dug Azule's basement with a spoon! Pieces of tile, fabric, and colored glass come together throughout the space in handmade mosaics, stained glass, and quilts created by Camille and resident artists over the years. Camille and her late husband, David Shafer, began the journey of Azule in 1972.

Our strategic planning facilitators, Diane Burbie and Krystal Torres-Covarrubias from Aspire, by the legendary car in front of Azule (photo by Margo Miller)... A little back story: Art2Action founders Andrea Assaf and Dora Arreola first met Diane Burbie way back in the early 2000's, through Animating Democracy -- a testament to the value of deep relationship over time, and the impact of wise and inspiring leadership.

Art2Action Board members, Sheree L Greer (A2A Board Chair, Founder & Executive Director of The Kitchen Table Literary Arts Center, writer, educator, stargazer), Tanya Mote (A2A Scribe, Associate Director at Su Teatro Cultural and Performing Arts Center, educator, chef extraordinaire), and Margo Miller (A2A Treasurer, Executive Director at the Appalachian Community Fund, Queen of crafting; photo by Gabi V.)

... joined by Art2Action Artistic & Executive Director, Andrea Assaf! (Photo by Gabi V.) This retreat marks the first time we'd been able to gather in person since our January 2020 board meeting, right before it all went down... These folks stewarded Art2Action through the challenging years of the pandemic, and are leading a strategic vision toward a bright future!

Exactly one year to the day after her first interview with Art2Action, Gabi and Andrea posed for this photo in front of Azule's iconic front yard Chevrolet! Fun fact: This car belonged to Dr. Kimberly, the first doctor to practice in the Spring Creek community, at the address Azule currently occupies, between 1933 and 1972. (Photo by Margo Miller)

The movement studio at Azule, adorned with stained glass by Camille, is a favorite of artists everywhere. It is especially beautiful in the early morning light. Founding member of Art2Action, Dora Arreola, and Andrea Assaf led morning movement here throughout the retreat. (Photo by Dora Arreola)

Krystal leading the group in an exploration of core values; Dora and Andrea in the movement studio, deliberating (top row photos by Andrea Assaf; bottom left photo by Margo Miller; bottom right photo by Andrea).

The sun room at Azule, with rainbow windowpanes on all sides, is perfect for skywatching. Newly converted into a sleeping space, Sheree was the first Azule resident ever to spend the night in this room! (Photo by Gabi V.)

The food during the retreat was fabulous, thanks to Art2Action board member and designated chef Tanya Mote! Plus, gluten free blueberry pancakes on our last morning by Andrea--they were good! (Photos by Gabi V.)

Andrea Assaf, Camille Shafer, Margo Miller, and Dora Arreola made up an Alternate ROOTS Rhizome! While ROOTers gathered for the first time in person since the start of the pandemic, we had our own small reunion in the mountains. (Photo by Gabi V.)

Camille Shafer in the stunning natural, creative environment of Azule (top row photos by Margo Miller; bottom photo by Gabi V.). A huge thanks to Camille for hosting us in such a beautiful, inspiring place to retreat, vision, and plan; and for being a voice of experience and wisdom as a (wo)mentor and co-learner during our Strategic Planning process. Thanks to Diane and Krystal for facilitating, and thank you to the Ford Foundation for supporting this transformational process.

Until next time, Azule!

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