Enriching our community by building a creative network of practitioners in the arts and ecology through inspiration and place.
Willowtail has been providing creative practitioners with a unique environment to create work in since 2012 when the organization was designated 501©3 status by the IRS. The on-site studio process uncovers new dimensions to creatively explore and is fueled by the extensive and varied ecosystems that thrive throughout property that spans 60 vital acres. The acreage features pinyon and ponderosa trees within an ancient forest, extensive gardens, a bird sanctuary for 200+ species, a lake, streams, and wet lands. The preserved property is teeming with networks of wildlife including fish, herons, geese, ducks, osprey, birds, pollinators, butterflies, and mammals of all sizes. Inspired by the natural habitat, residents (of all creative disciplines) inherently integrate the exquisite and diverse environment into their studio practice. Individual and collaborative residencies have produced exquisite work that has enhanced and educated the local community and whose content continues to regularly impact and inform others across the nation.
Since 1992, founders Peggy Cloy a prominent Seattle artist, whose work was shown nationally for over 25 years, and Lee Cloy an experienced property manager of major complexes, together have transformed the property, structures and resources to meet the vision of Willowtail Springs; providing creative practitioners with an immersive ecological environment to inspire and enhance their professional studio practice. The pair created a life together in SW Colorado and built new careers to support the Willowtail vision. Conservation of the 60 acres of property has been essential to the success of the organization and its residents. In concert with the National Resources Conservation Service, a wildlife pond and complex water systems were constructed on-site. Working with prominent scientists (including CO State forestry, entomologists and arborists) Willowtail engaged in a four-year battle with the invasive Bark Beetle and won; saving the ancient forest. The bird habitat was enhanced and extended. Extensive landscaping and gardens were carved with care into the property. All structures were improved and designed to enhance the Willowtail experience. Initially, cabins were available to paying guests- the for-profit business. In 2012, the non-profit business was established to offer resident scholarships to emerging and established creative ecology and or arts practitioners. Generous support from individuals and a wide range of foundations has enabled Willowtail to cover over 115 weeks of studio resident's creative production. In 2019 Margi Johnson-Gaddis purchased the property. The facilities are now leased by Willowtail's (now entirely non-profit) Board of Directors towards the fulfillment of the organization's mission. Peggy and Lee Cloy have contributed all future proceeds of their cabin rental business to the non-profit board. All revenue generated from cabin rentals will directly support Willowtail Springs programs, staff, and operations.
Traditionally, upon arrival each resident is introduced to the property via an extensive hike that serves to orient them to their surroundings and the interconnection among the variety of natural resources on-site. The residency encounter is a classic Call and Response practice; where the environment initiates a call and creatives respond. Residents often engage one another in collaborative practice while advancing the mission to explore the integration of arts and ecology. Willowtail provides the rare opportunity for disparate artists to work alongside one another, to be influenced by each other, and to choose to collaborate on works inspired by the natural environment. All residents present the body of their produced works to the immediate community, who in-turn are educated to a variety of environmental issues through an artistic lens. Willowtail Springs presents curated exhibitions of the works produced in residency; enabling citizens to witness the breadth of works produced by residents and simultaneously introduces the many wonders and concerns of the natural environment through the perspective of residents.
"It is important to honor and preserve the creative nature that we are all born with, particularly artists, and particularly in this busy world that tends to lead us to believe that all answers come from the "outside", like cell phones and Siri and television. Willowtail provides a peaceful natural setting in which an artist can reconnect with his or her own creative muse, and in turn, pass that gift along to the rest of us, that we so badly need, whether we are aware of this or not."
Margi Johnson-Goddis, New Owner of Willowtail Springs Nature Preserve and Education Center
I have two bodies of work relevant to its southwest Colorado environment - an eleven-year series of large paintings of individual burned trees and a three-year series of artist books about bark beetles, using the wood and bark of their target trees as medium. Since these are preoccupations for much of the region, I found not only a personal welcome but professional interest in the work. Something I have experienced in every Willowtail residency is some surprise I could not have predicted. Two years ago, Willowtail received a Winifred Johnson Clive Foundation grant to foster a collaboration. I was paired together with Durango author and wild land firefighter Lorena Williams, enriching and deepening the burned tree body of work. Her stories, together with my paintings, have resulted in several exhibitions not only in traditional art venues, like galleries and museums, but also in downtown storefronts and community centers.
Suze Woolf, visual artist, three-time WIllowtail Springs Studio Resident
"As a lifelong lover of Nature, trained forester/entomologist, avid birder and devotee of the Arts, I see Willowtail Springs as important in myriad ways. Ecologically, its spring, umbilical to an invisible aquifer in the midst of an arid pinyon-juniper forest, breeds life. The structures and plantings exist in harmony with, and in some cases enhance, the native landscape. Perhaps its strongest asset in this age of increasing human disconnection from "wildness" and over-obsession with technology is its celebration of two things: our proper oneness with the environment and the resultant creativity that reunion ignites. Education, perhaps our species' most noble enterprise, is rampant at Willowtail Springs. The place, together with its creative owners and adoring visitors, deserves to reach its boundless potential."
David Leatherman, CO State Entomologist
"Willowtail is a space of great intention. The founder's care and vision are ever present-from the framing of the landscape through the windows, to the wending through the woods, to the picturesque accommodations. My days at Willowtail were balanced between reading next to the fireplace, drawing in the studio, and snowshoeing around the property. Even though the views were expansive, I was deeply focused and without distraction during my residency. I had set very ambitious goals, and I not only met them, but exceeded them and became deeply enchanted with the land and logic of Willowtail!"
Nina Elder, Artist and Activist
My Willowtail experience - from conceiving a proposal to the actual residency to executing and realizing my project - was a catalyst for so many creative endeavors that did not exist nor would have been possible otherwise. It was not simply the physical space of Willowtail, for all its beauty, I can write anywhere. It was Willowtail's Energetic creative power, which showed me what I needed to write."
David Holub, founder, DGO magazine, writer, playwright, actor
"I have watched Willowtail almost 10 years become a cultural and environmental hub for artists, ecologists and the community. The activities have created a synergy and awareness of the importance of the arts and nature in our small rural community. The amazing ways it enriches, impacts and brings other activities together has been a true positive change-maker, a treasured resource."
Mary Marks, writer and member of Mancos/Durango/Cortez/Dolores community
The Student Artist-In-Residence program at Willowtail allows my art students to be recognized for their artistic thinking and the artworks they create. It helps them understand that they are a part of the greater art world community and that their artistic ideas and work have value beyond the walls of the classroom."
Roxie Mitchell, artist, art teacher Durango High School
"Only poetry can best describe this place. To some it may feel sacred, to others it is a connection that has been lost and reclaimed when the quiet and stillness are loudest."
Margy Dudley, writer, Photographer, former owner, Open Shutter Gallery, Durango
"The energetic make-up of Willowtail forms a protective container of protection, freedom and inspiration for artists to create in ways they have not done before, filled with unimaginable calm and the intensity to work. Only after the residency do you realize the giant leaps which have been made in your artistic development and career."
Carol Meckling, painter, sculptor