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Updated: Feb 23, 2022

Val holding the incredibly cuddly Marmalade

Valerie Sloan, who operates Sarasvati Residency Space, resigned from her academic career due to a toxic work environment to pursue an unpaved path long before the standard age of retirement. She purchased a plot of land in rural Tennessee. The land already had three different houses on it, which was perfect for a residency situation. Over time, Val has been transforming this small farm into a creative wonderland. Each house is filled with art, art supplies, books, and unique things from Val's travels.

My beautiful room in Val's home at Sarasvati

When you walk into any of the rooms at Sarasvati, you instantly know that artists live there. The unique collections of things, color schemes, and know you have definitely entered a creative realm. Val has done such an amazing job making artists feel welcome in her space.

I actually had the opportunity to stay in the main house with Val during my stay. This turned out to be the perfect spot for me. First of all, I LOVE CATS. There are ten of them on the property, 6 of which live in the main house (more on the infamous Barn Cat Rejects later).

Frank, one of the feline residents of Sarasvati

Secondly, it was so nice to have company rather than solitude for this particular trip. As someone with slight seasonal depression, I have to keep my moody, loner artist tendencies in check this time of year. Val has her space set up where you can have time to yourself in your room, or you can hang out in the communal space for conversation.

Val and I had some great conversations while hanging out at the house. It was so interesting to hear how Sarasvati came to be.

Signs of artists

Val also asks each artist that spends time at the residency to leave something of themselves behind. I chose to leave one of my fine art bodypainting books, St. Petersburg's Art of Body Experience, behind. It is one of my favorite things I have ever made (with the help of St. Petersburg Arts Alliance, my amazing models, and photographer Michael Sheehan, of course).

Photos from St. Petersburg's Art of Body Experience Art Book

At the residency, it was common for Val to host movie nights once a week. This was a great opportunity for the other artists to get together and hang out. We watched the Val Kilmer documentary, Flea Bag, Chicken People, and Wanderlust. We also had a night where we did full moon rituals with Sari as host.

Movie night at Val's place (Sari also works on her new book)

It seems that Val has stumbled upon a brilliant retirement plan with Sarasvati Residency Space. Not only does she facilitate an amazing, affordable opportunity for artists to live and create on a beautiful farm in rural Tennessee, she chooses the artists who will come and spend time with her. Her application process is very thorough and detailed on what is expected during the residency. Each artist does at least one hour of work on the property per day, which helps her keep the space running smoothly.

A group effort trying to free some fallen, frozen bamboo

For more information on Val and her artist residency opportunities, visit online. She also hosts regular group events and summer camps through Camp Wonder Wander: Read more in my next blog post about the Barn Cat Rejects, Sarasvati's beautiful outdoor space, and why I spent a portion of my time climbing inside a small box.

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