Free Range Art: A Creative Retreat for Artists Ready to Step Out of their Studios and into Nature

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Is it just me, or do campfire conversations and meandering wilderness walks seem to nurture creative thoughts more effectively than sitting in a studio and swiping a smart phone? Thoreau knew it when he packed up for Walden Pond, and Geoffrey Holstad and Ryan Greaves knew it when they dreamed up Cabin-Time, a roaming creative residency that takes a handful of artists and makers into the wild each year to connect with nature and each other—and produce work they’d never dream of back in their four-walled studios.

Instead of inviting creatives to a retreat where they hole up to work on their own personal projects irrelevant to the local scenery, Cabin-Time challenges residents to engage both with each other and the environment around them. It’s a special time to feel free from typical creative constraints and interact intimately with flora, fauna, water and earth. “Often projects that residents bring will be scrapped midweek, being trumped by new chances to collaborate, new ideas,” Hostad says. “Painters writing music, writers inventing constellations. This surprise is so inspiring to me.”

Cabin-Time is no posh, all-inclusive glamping retreat either. It’s a nonprofit and residents share in the camp chores, fostering an egalitarian creative environment close to nature. Picture this: adult summer camp for free thinkers. Residents have knotted works of fiber art in the Idaho wilderness, shot documentary film at Michigan’s Rabbit Island, and composed melodies and songs along the Green River in Utah.

Sound like your dream trip? The Cabin-Time crew curates its residents by applicant responses—they typically receive about 150 proposals—to a series of prompts about how their personal work might take shape off the grid, among nature and a small group of creative strangers. They are taking applications for CT8 in the Eastern Sierras, so if you think you’ve got what it takes to live and create off-grid, head over to to submit a proposal.

This article was originally published in RANGE Magazine Issue Five.

xx Hilary Oliver