The Creative Community Story

CCI_blog_logo_1000x1500A Letter from Randy Elrod, Founder and CEO, Creative Community.

On a cloudless Monday morning August 12, 2002, while at a staff retreat, on a run through the woods in the mountains near Paint Rock, TN, I had the one and only vision of my life.

As I originally recorded in my journal, the vision was of an artist retreat (I coined it, the Rivendell Project) of 25-50 acres, a colony for artists. A place for people from all walks of life (but especially creatives) to find encouragement. Private spaces for solitude and a gathering space to meet for food, drink and dialogue, to have think-tanks, salons as in the French Revolution, in the evenings around a great room and a fireplace.

Perhaps a non-profit sponsored by churches, record companies, and private gifts. The finest facility. A place of rustic elegance.

As I explained this vision to our church staff later that day—it was easy to see their eyes glaze over—unfortunately, a church sponsorship did not materialize. But over the next four years, I felt a growing passion about this place…now to be called Kalien. A word that means calling (kaleo) with a further layer and nuance of beauty. Beauty is Calling. A triple entendre, if you will.

This dream, I suppose you could call it an obsession, led me to resign my six-figure cush job at a Franklin, TN mega-church to pursue making Kalien a reality.

I purchased 125 acres, and applied for non-profit status, taking care that it was not a religious 501(c)3, but rather a public charity. I did not want to exclude anyone.

But unfortunately, at that time, my job was my identity (what I did was what I was). My entire life had been spent on the stage. I was a stranger to my soul. This caused a devastating tailspin which eventually resulted in the loss of my 32 year marriage.

I thought the dream was forever lost.

But…

In in the middle of the turmoil of 2011, I somehow received notification that Creative Community, the name of my non-profit, had finally been granted non-profit status retroactive to 2006.

Through a series of what can only be termed as miraculous events, the dream has become reality. It took thirteen years. Thirteen long years.

My wife Gina and I have personally purchased and paid for fifty-five acres in the beautiful Appalachian Mountains and have decided to call it BeauChamp Farm at Kalien. We closed on the property Feb. 27 and have sold our home in Nashville. We have permanently relocated to Kalein.

We tentatively plan to eventually lease a portion of the land back to Creative Community to provide land for the retreat cabins.

The rebirth of this dream has become possible in part by the emotional, spiritual and financial support of our amazing Creative Community Board of Directors. And also matching funds from Dell Computers and HCA (Hospital Corp of America). These matching funds would not have been available if we were a religious non-profit.

Ironically, the first artist that will find healing at Kalien will be me. Gina and I plan to take the next year or so to heal. To listen. And to be. We plan to retreat in order to advance.

Kalien needs your support. We plan to have eight isolated cabins of rustic elegance, perhaps tree houses, who knows what else may materialize for: (1) ministers that have experienced failure or burnout, or just need a time away, a time of solitude, (2) people of any race, creed, or religion that need encouragement, and (3) artists/creatives who need a place of solitude to create, commune, listen or heal. These cabins will be available for rental. Full-time ministers, missionaries, and artists may stay for half-price. 

Gina is a champion equestrian and plans to eventually have horses—we already have a great barn there—and she hopes to establish a day program for underprivileged and physically and mentally challenged children.

We want to build several cabins for the wounded and weary. Please help us by donating HERE. We have already received funds to complete two cabins and have monies toward the third. Construction is planned to begin March 1, 2016 with a completion date approximately June 1. Reservations will be taken on a first-come, first-served basis at completion. There will be an availability calendar here soon.

It is with great excitement that I announce that the first official Kalien event took place in July 2015 with an east coast re:Quest.  The dream has finally become reality over thirteen years from the initial vision.

re:Quest will continue in the future. 

We are very thankful and very humbled this dream has come true. I plan to write this year to chronicle this new adventure. You can subscribe via email to these Letters from Kalien HERE.

I end with this “Wendell Berry-esque” rumination:

I have been changed by what has happened to me and what I have learned over the past nine years. As I anticipate moving to Kalien, I hope to see life (the past and the future) differently and in some ways more clearly than I have before. I suspect I’ve been running from things most of my life. And now—maybe for the very first time—I’m moving to a place.

I plan to write further words and phrases (letters) to keep account of what I see there—at Kalien. Thoreau says we tend to look and not really see things. I’m tired of looking—looking back at the wounds and sadness of the past and worrying about the future—it’s time for me to see the present. I have been encouraged in this by writers like Thoreau, Berry, Twain and others. And so, I want to take them with me to this new place. A place of rest, healing, and beauty. In the words of Berry, the presence of the present has become insistent, undeniable, and I dare not look away. 

My past is finally (thankfully) growing still, and may need to be observed, perhaps, at leisure in a less troubled time. But not now. In my present. I need to be present in the present. The only time that is really alive.

For me, these days have the happy sadness of an ending and a beginning. I am leaving civilization as we know it—as I have known it for over fifty years—the past has been concluded, and the future, not yet begun, is hardly imaginable. Our home in Nashville is empty, dark, full of finished moments, and already a pleasant memory.

I am not preparing for an important experience, but planning to have one.

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