Creative Retreat – October 2-4, 2020

Creative Retreat

Get away from the busyness of life for a weekend this fall

Take time to slow down at our annual retreat for creative people along the scenic banks of the Jacks Fork River in the historic Ozark Waterways. There will be time to learn and time to create. Participants will stay in rustic cabins and enjoy family-style meals in the dining hall. Grab a friend and register early! Registration opens May 1.

Your choice of two tracks (each limited to 15 participants):

  1. NATURE PHOTOGRAPHY with Sandy Brooks

Nature through YOUR lens! Create an image that goes beyond documentation of the scene to express what caught your eye, what you felt and what you want to say about your experience. From beginners to experienced photographers, individualized instruction will support your vision.

Three sessions are available. Pick one or all three. On Saturday morning we will leave before sunrise to find the wild horses that live along the Jack’s Fork River. Perhaps the river will be up and the horses will gaze along it or maybe there will be fog for a dozen white horses to run through. You never know what might happen with the horses. On Saturday afternoon, we will have a post processing session. Using Lightroom or Snapseed (an app on your phone) we will be able to adjust images in many ways to create the image YOU want. We will go over simple edits to bring out the best in the photos. On Sunday morning, we will stay at Bunker Hill to do a sunrise landscape program.

Bring whatever camera you have. Cell phones or DSLRs will work for these sessions. If you use a DSLR, bring a wide angle lens for the sunrise and a telephoto for the horses. We will work with what you have to explore our individual visions.

Sandy Brooks Is a wildlife artist and photographer. She is a master gardener and master naturalist as well as a volunteer naturalist with the Missouri Department of Conservation and a volunteer with the World Bird Sanctuary and the Endangered Wolf Center. She is a juried member of the Pastel Society of America, Best of Missouri Hands and the Greater St. Louis Art Association and signature member of Artists for Conservation. She has exhibited nationally and internationally in both colored pencil and pastel. Her wildlife photography has been licensed internationally.

  1. SKETCHBOOK JOURNALING (no artistic talent required) with Mary Gainey

Sketchbook Journals, The Bunker Hill Corps of Discovery

Embark on a Corps of Discovery at Bunker Hill on the Jacks Fork River with Mary Gainey. Just as Thomas Jefferson clearly directed Lewis and Clark to document “your observations with great pains and accuracy,” we shall do likewise with our sketchbook journals. Eight men on the Lewis and Clark expedition recorded everything from wildlife, landscapes, native people, and trees, to camp life and map making. The journals were issued to the men, along with the finest pen nibs and stoneware inkbottles from France. Keep in mind, there was not one single “artist” employed for the expedition, so all the drawings and writings were entirely untrained documentation, and that includes invented spellings! “I employ myself, drawing,” wrote William Clark, and we shall do the same. The modern educator is familiar with the connection of right and left brain. The concept of sketching and journaling is very useful in educational settings where direct visual contact and descriptive writing can develop deeper understandings. In drawing and writing, we shall connect, unabashedly, unapologetically, and faithfully, committed to giving this adventure the focus that Jefferson directed. We shall set out to explore, to draw, and to write about the common and extraordinary things we see at Bunker Hill. We can write poetry, essays, descriptions, prayers, or reflective musings. None of us will be graded on how we draw or write!

(The journals and ink pens will be distributed, and dipping pens and ink will be available if participants wish to try and totally get into the spirit!)

A retired art teacher, Mary was Teacher of the Year for Missouri Art Educators, a fellow of the Missouri Writing Project and was education chair of the National Oil and Acrylic Painters Society. She’s been an avid sketchbook journalist for years, drawing and writing about what she sees.

Attendance is limited in both tracks. Registration opens May 1.

Fee: $240 for members; $280 for nonmembers. Includes workshop fee and lodging in shared cabins Friday and Saturday; three meals on Saturday, and breakfast and lunch on Sunday.

A scholarship is available for MSTA members for the retreat. Please submit an essay of no more than 200 words explaining what the Creative Retreat could do for you. Email your essay and complete contact information to Sarah Kohnle at by May 1.

Questions? Please contact Sarah Kohnle at; 800-392-0532

Brought to you by the Missouri State Teachers Association. The retreat is open to the public.

FAQ about the Creative Retreat

How can I get a scholarship? The scholarship deadline is May 1 of every year. MSTA members may submit an essay of no more than 200 words to Sarah Kohnle ,

What are accommodations like?

Think summer camp for adults. The rustic cabins are supplied with pillows, linens, towels and bar soap. Many of the cabins are near the scenic river and have covered porches where you can enjoy the outdoors. Every cabin is air-conditioned; some have fireplaces. The sandy beach is a great spot for a campfire.

What about food?

At Bunker Hill, you will enjoy time traveling with home-cooked classics like fried chicken or beef and noodles, all with sides and dessert, served family style. A salad bar is always available during lunch and dinner if you prefer a vegetarian or vegan meal. Huge pancakes or eggs are often on the breakfast table, as well as cereal, yogurt and fruit.

Can I bring my own food?

You are welcome to bring your own food if you have specific dietary requirements. Be sure to pack a cooler, as there are no refrigerators in the cabins. Bags of ice are available for purchase in the office.

How early can I arrive?

The gates open after 1 p.m., and you may check in anytime Friday afternoon. Please stop at the office to confirm your cabin assignment on the clipboard on the office door. You may enjoy many of the recreational opportunities on the grounds or sit by the river and simply relax. Dinner is on your own Friday night, but snacks and beverages will be provided during the informal meet and greet at 7 p.m. upstairs at Behrens Hall (labeled OFFICE on map).

What should I wear?

October weather at Bunker Hill is usually glorious — warm in the day with a slight nip in the air morning and night. Pack casual clothes and think in layers. Bring walking shoes or boots if you plan to hike around, and water shoes/sandals if you want to play in the river. Might be wise to toss in a rain jacket, too.

What else should I pack?

Personal toiletries,

Laptop/notebook & pens

Personal snacks

Bug spray

Camping chair

Beach towel


Booklight (if you like to read in bed)

A mind ready to learn

What about WIFI?

The beauty of Bunker Hill is that you can really unplug because cellphone service and wifi is very spotty. If you really need to check emails and messages, you might have to hike up a hill to get phone reception or jump in your car and head to town. Family can always reach you through the Bunker Hill office (417-934-2333) and leave a message.

It sounds rather remote. What if something happens?

Please be assured that there is a town less than 20 minutes away if you need to make a run for extra snacks or supplies, or if you have an emergency that requires medical assistance.

How do I get there?

If you are flying, your best bet is to fly into SGF (Springfield-Branson International Airport) and rent a car. Bunker Hill is about a 2-hour drive from Springfield, MO. It’s about 3 ½ hours from both St. Louis and Columbia, and 4 ½ hours from Kansas City. Check the main Bunker Hill website for more information. Participants will receive final instructions and a map in September. Since cell service could get spotty, it’s handy to have a map at your side.

Can I bring family?

Non-participating family members are welcome at the regular weekend rate listed on There is plenty for them to do around Bunker Hill while you soak up inspiration from our faculty. Be sure to indicate at registration if you wish to book a family cabin.

What about signing up my kids?

There is a minimum age of 18 for participants in the retreat. Many of our participants are educators and appreciate time away from students.

Here’s what past CR participants considered the most beneficial aspect:

“Focus provided on writing in a wonderful environment away from cell phones, computer Internet and distractions.”

“Focusing on writing without distractions.”

“I learned how to use my camera. Bill was very helpful and willing to answer all questions.”

“I felt I was introduced to new ideas to stimulate writing.”

“Camaraderie and rest.”

“It gave me a chance to laugh and unwind in nature.”

Contact Sarah Kohnle at for more details.