Artists of all mediums have long gathered to share ideas and work collectively, separating themselves from the normalcy of daily life to hone their craft. In recent years, an ideal reprieve from society where artists can live with other artists has emerged, and it’s located on a remote, privately owned island off the coast of Michigan.
You might be asking yourself, how did a group of artist-types raise enough funds to purchase their own island? Well, they didn’t – but a man named Rob Gorski did, and in 2009, after months of negotiations and $140,000 later, Rabbit Island was his. On paper, Gorski is an unlikely candidate to head a program that invites artists from all backgrounds to his island. He’s an emergency room doctor living in Manhattan, an urbanite who grew up spending time with his grandfather in the Keweenaw, a semi-wilderness area in Michigan on the coast of Lake Superior, the same body of water that holds Rabbit Island.
When Gorski saw an advertisement for purchase of the island on Craigslist (of all places), the history he had with the area and a vision for what that land could be repurposed for sparked an intense interest in him. After initially purchasing Rabbit Island, Gorski worked with a local land trust to ensure that the property would be regarded as a conservation, and soon after collaborated with friend and artist Andrew Ranville to start an artists’ colony there. The rest is history, and less than five years after his purchase, the island has become a remarkable, and much coveted destination for artists.
Gorksi and Ranville have organized “Artist in Residence” programs that invite applicants to come and explore, create, and live on the island for extended periods during the summer. These residencies are as much a survivalist camping trip as they are a chance to cohabitate an island with other artists and create artistic installations. Rabbit Island is almost completely untouched, save for a small lean-to with minimal supplies constructed by Gorski at the “main camp.” The artist residency programs have attracted everyone from painters, to photographers, to foragers, cooks, rock climbers, writers, and everything in between.
The vision that Gorksi has for the island is still evolving, but he says “It was never about being a bunch of hipsters coming out to high-five each other on an island.” Instead, he has provided an incredible opportunity for those who want to marry a love of the outdoors with a remarkable setting to explore and create. Gorski wants Rabbit Island to be a platform for “science, art, preservation, and recreation,” and thus far, has truly succeeded.
For more information about the programs Rabbit Island offers, or how to apply, visit Rabbit Island’s official website.