How Derrick Adams' The Last Resort Artist Retreat Provides Mindful Leisure
This feature is in the December "The Creators" Issue. Click here to subscribe.
Derrick Adams in his studio, Brooklyn, N.Y., 2022 PHOTO COURTESY OF © DERRICK ADAMS AND LGDR; DERRICK ADAMS PHOTO BY JOHN BERENS/COURTESY OF LGDR
Derrick Adams' The Last Resort artist retreat is a space for Black creatives to gather their wits before they reach their wits' end.
In this time of much-needed mental health awareness, the notion of leisure as a non-negotiable has gained traction in the last few years (see: The Nap Ministry, Black Power Naps and Rest Is Resistance, to name a few).
Visual artist Derrick Adams understands and promotes this concept even though he works. Adams is quite prolific as an artist and is currently co-deputy director of the graduate MFA department and adviser of BFA senior theses at Brooklyn College, as well as founder of at least three nonprofit initiatives in his hometown of Baltimore.
Derrick Adams, “Hug Me Around My Neck” (2022) PHOTO COURTESY OF © DERRICK ADAMS AND LGDR; DERRICK ADAMS PHOTO BY JOHN BERENS/COURTESY OF LGDR
The latest of those, The Last Resort Artist Retreat, has been germinating for at least three years, with a grand opening slated for March 2023. The Last Resort, an urban oasis in the thick of Baltimore, promises to be “leisure as therapy for Black creatives.”
Adams says he created TLR as an intentional step away from grind culture, which has been historically valorized. “I would say in Black culture, the idea of rest or leisure has somehow been affiliated with laziness,” he says. “But I’m interested in looking at it in a very deliberate way, of thinking about it as a time to reflect and to disconnect, as a way of stepping back and really thinking about direction and strategy.”
Derrick Adams, “Arting” (2022) PHOTO COURTESY OF © DERRICK ADAMS AND LGDR; DERRICK ADAMS PHOTO BY JOHN BERENS/COURTESY OF LGDR
Leisure is something Adams has been looking at for quite some time, as evidenced in his artwork, especially 2020’s Floater series, which shows Black people living their most restful lives.
"I'm interested in looking at leisure in a very deliberate way." - DERRICK ADAMS
Derrick Adams, “Turning the Corner” (2021) PHOTO COURTESY OF © DERRICK ADAMS AND LGDR; DERRICK ADAMS PHOTO BY JOHN BERENS/COURTESY OF LGDR
“I think as a creative person, a lot of ideas come from moments when I’m not physically making things. A lot of my creative thoughts come with casual encounters and just socializing with friends and other like-minded people, [or] just spending time observing my surroundings.”
In 2019, Adams purchased four lots, or about an acre of greenspace, with two semidetached houses and artist studios. Like everything else Adams creates, he was very intentional with how “the homestead” is laid out.
“We want people to come there and withdraw or just be by themselves in the residency and read a book on one of the balconies,” he says. “Or they could be down in the dining room or living room playing board games. We want to create a space where individuals can envision themselves to be in and have their own unique experience on their own terms.”
As an artist who has done many types of residencies and retreats, Adams also didn’t want the space to be “out there”—i.e., in a rural setting where many retreats tend to be.
Derrick Adams, “Sister Cousins” (2022) PHOTO COURTESY OF © DERRICK ADAMS AND LGDR; DERRICK ADAMS PHOTO BY JOHN BERENS/COURTESY OF LGDR
“I personally prefer to be in the inner city, and I actually feel way more relaxed with people around me than in the woods,” he says. “Those [rural] spaces are nice, but I do like the idea of accessibility in the inner city… where you walk around the corner and you’re right in the thick of it.”
Lewis says a lot of ideas surrounding the Last Resort Artist Retreat are directly linked to the experiences he’s had with fellow artist friends who’ve started their nonprofits, including Theaster Gates’ Rebuild Foundation, Kehinde Wiley’s Black Rock, Titus Kaphar’s NXTHVN and Mickalene Thomas’ Pratt>FORWARD.
“They all have a very particular focus on how they want to shape the future of creative thinkers,” notes Adams. “I also feel obligated to be a part of that conversation, and to use my platform and my visibility to look back on my hometown of Baltimore as a place of growth and the expansion of ideas surrounding culture production, cultural innovation and community building.”
"I feel way more relaxed with people around me." - DERRICK ADAMS
Derrick Adams, “Joyride 1” (2021) PHOTO COURTESY OF © DERRICK ADAMS AND LGDR; DERRICK ADAMS PHOTO BY JOHN BERENS/COURTESY OF LGDR
Additionally, Adams is still bringing about bounteous harvests (probably because of his respites). He’s working with Marcus Samuelsson on his new seafood restaurant in New York City, Hav + Mar, where he is creating collages and sculptural objects of merpeople for the interior of the seafood venture. His newest series, Motion Picture Paintings, combines scenes and vignettes reminiscent of movie trailers and draws inspiration from ’90s cinema, which Adams calls a cultural high point for Black culture.