Colony Artists 2006
Cyprus, Turkey
Barbados, West Indies
Andrew Etheridge
Arrow Ross
Bonnie England
Chappy Valente
Claire Feuillet
Dick Roberts*
Eleanor “Ellie” Collins
Elizabeth “Bebe” Wolfe
Feridun Işiman
Gayle Tustin*
Hiroshi Sueyoshi
Joyce Blunk
Linda Dallas
M.J. Cunningham
Marjana Kostojcinoska-Uzunceva
Michael Mosca
Neville Kamau Crawford
Pamela Toll*
Rosie Newman
Sergej Andreevski
Shawn Best
Wayne McDowell
Wei Ru
*NBI Co-founder/Co-Director
by Odette Arnold

“Freedom in art,
freedom in society,
this is the double
goal towards which
all consistent and
logical minds
must strive.”

– Victor Hugo

When given a gift, Pam Toll, Gayle Tustin and Dick Roberts are the type of people who like to reciprocate. So after what they described as transforming experiences in an art colony in Macedonia, all three came away with a burning desire to pass it on.

In 1998, the trio established the No Boundaries Art Colony on Bald Head Island, a somewhat remote barrier island of stunning natural beauty in southeastern North Carolina. There they have paid forward the amazing gift they each received on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean: a block of time, free from everyday respon­sibilities, to completely immerse themselves in their art.

The name No Boundaries was inspired by the founders’ desire to bring together artists from around the world and erase all boundaries separating them — linguistic, political, cultural and otherwise. Over five international colonies and nine years, this goal has been realized as No Boundaries has hosted artists from 26 countries and 25 different U.S. cities. Additionally, there have been four local colonies. Not only have significant contributions to the art world been created, substantial bridges of mutual understanding
and respect have been forged among the participants.

However, No Boundaries as a title goes beyond describing the global mission of the colony; it has also become the theme for each individual's approach to his or her own work.

The climate at the No Boundaries Art Colony sets the tone for boundless creativity, a license to take a chance on some new medium, technique, subject matter — or all of the above. The group dynamics create an atmosphere in which artists are encouraged to reach higher, explore beyond comfort zones, and take greater risks in their work. After all, for a blissful two weeks, life only demands that they create. Accommodations and meals are provided; unlimited canvases and paints are available. It's hard to imagine a safer environment.

Pam, Gayle and Dick agree that the colony fosters a very nurturing envi­ronment for artists. Not only do the participants indulge their own muses, Gayle explained, they sincerely and enthusiastically encourage and inspire one another. “The colony creates an environment of blanket generosity,” said Dick. “Giving begets giving; friendships are solidified.”

“Science and art belong
to the whole world, and
before them vanish the
barriers of nationality.”

– Goethe

The concept of the colony building a brotherhood and sisterhood among artists from various geographic and cultural backgrounds was carried out in an even more literal sense in 2006 through association with the Sister Cities Program. No Boundaries Inc. is based in Wilmington, North Carolina, where Pam, Gayle and Dick live and work. Like many other cities, Wilmington participates in a Sister Cities program, which has as its mission the cultural, humanitarian and economic exchange and development of the cities involved.

The complementary nature of the philosophies was not lost on the No Boundaries founders, so bringing in artists from Dandong, China; Doncaster, England; and Bridgetown, Barbados, became part of the colony’s goals. “The sister cities’ involvement made the 2006 colony more notable,” said Gayle. “It heightened our whole purpose. Bringing people together in the name of world peace has always been a part of our mission. It doesn’t matter where we are from or what is happening politically in our countries; we can get along. The colony becomes an island unto itself.”

Perhaps the most dramatic ambassador for the Sister Cities connection was the Chinese artist Wei Ru. Because he spoke no English and none of the other artists spoke Chinese, Wei Ru might have felt that he was an island unto himself during his two weeks at the colony. Instead, Wei Ru was able to explain through a translator, “Artists communi­cate through art. It makes things less difficult. I am inspired by the other artists in the colony, which is a major benefit of being here. I like it very much.”

Neville Crawford of Wilmington’s sister city in Barbados echoed the benefits of camaraderie. “I like the tranquility of this place,” he said of Bald Head Island. “Coming here inspires me to see differ­ent types of artwork. We can share ideas and opinions. I can make contacts, branch out and see the possibilities.”

“People don't appear to have precon­ceptions about each other. You can be completely who you are,” added the English artist Ellie Collins. “Relationships are extremely intense here,” Ellie contin­ued. “You know you have two weeks to use to your best advantage. I hope I don’t slip back into the mundane part of life. You are given a reprieve from all of that while here, and I hope to maintain the natural momentum when I get home.”

“Creativity requires
the courage to let
go of certainties.”

— Erich Fromm

But it wasn’t just the sister city participants who benefited from the warm embrace of brotherhood.

Chappy Valente, a local artist from Wilmington, the American sibling to the cities mentioned, has participated in No Boundaries several times. “You can be less guarded here; it’s a safety zone emotionally,” he said. “Your work in progress is lying out there in the open. There is an element of trust with that.”

Although he barely traveled 40 miles to attend No Boundaries, Chappy under­scored the significance of the colony atmosphere. “It is critically important to get away as an artist,” he said. “There is no way to discover something new about yourself otherwise. Here you are not told what to paint. There are no expectations on what the work will look like. It’s a different mind space.”

At home in Scotland, Rosie Newman is part of a group of artists who all live and work in the same area, so the colony-like atmosphere was not new to her. What was new to her was the aura of Bald Head Island. “I am experimenting with different subject matter and techniques which are influenced by being here,” she said. "The palette is different. The light is different. I’m taking a different approach. I wanted to do that, not come all this way and just do the same thing.”

“Everything from this island inspires me to make this kind of art,” concurred Sergej Andreevski of Macedonia. Sergej travels and exhibits internationally, yet is heavily influenced by the Bald Head Island setting. Because No Boundaries’ inspirational roots lie firmly in the mountains of Macedonia, several artists from that country have attended over the years. Sergej met Dick in his native Macedonia at the influential 1996 colony and has been instrumental in the organization since.

Sergej also commented that he has seen the quality of the work evolve over the years. “This is a very high quality group,” he related. “I feel a good energy from them, not just for the art but the connection between the artists. The first colony had a special energy and this time it is the same. There is a lot of freedom here, like the name No Boundaries. It's like the vastness of the ocean. It feels very different, very special to be here.”

Marjana Kostojcinoska Uzunceva, the first Macedonian woman invited to the colony, was delighted to come. Marjana’s work reflects her concerns and fascination with traditional female roles in that society and with the elaborate rituals and ceremonies that mark life in Macedonia. “I am inspired by the ‘tough ladies,’” she said. “These are women who accomplish much, who flourish and leave something behind them.”

Hiroshi Sueyoshi, artist in residence at the Cameron Art Museum in Wilmington, N.C., called the No Boundaries experi­ence “refreshing.” A potter who is accustomed to working with his hands, Hiroshi satisfied the tactile urge by adding handfuls of sand to his paintings. Although he was working in a totally different medium and was therefore a bit out of his usual comfort zone, he said he found the colony to be personally fulfilling. “You go to bed thinking about art, wake up thinking about art,” he said. “You just do art, eat, and do more art. It is very spiritual. I don’t want to leave.”

A self-described colorist and storyteller who teaches art on a university level, Claire Feuillet of Orleans, France, also mentioned the freedom to paint as a true luxury. “It’s like a dream for me to be in this place,” said the second-time participant. “I couldn’t imagine something better. It gives me energy and I feel the quality increasing. The invitation is a real gift: we’re given art supplies, meals, everything. It is so generous.”

Michael Mosca of Pittsboro, N.C., agreed. “There are no words to express my appreciation of this generosity. It’s overwhelming.” Of working with other artists, he said, “The back and forth, giving and sharing, is priceless.” Michael said he wanted to break away from the work he had been doing and “The colony created a doorway for that, a freedom. At home I might be tempted to play it safe. Here, there are no worries
about anything.”

In a different way, Wayne McDowell of Wilmington, N.C., also finds the No Boundaries experience liberating. Because he paints full time and is represented in several galleries, he said coming to the colony is like a vacation. “You have the obligations to show in the galleries,” he said. “You don’t do it for the love of it all the time.” Wayne said for him, painting is research. “It's trying to understand something, to get at the real truth behind the perception.”

Feridun Işiman of Cyprus is equally philosophical about the subject of art. “Art has a role in building world peace,” he said. “My country has been at war, and here, meeting new artists from around the world, we exchange experiences, make new friends, see another culture. We see each other with open hearts. In each new experience, you take something new and give something new. By me, they know my country. I would like to be a friendly, smiling face of my country.”

It is clear in speaking with all of the artists that, in addition to the work, gathering around the table for meals, sharing perceptions over coffee or wine, singing, dancing and laughing are vital aspects of colony participation.

“It’s an important part of what this is all about,” said Pam. “People are up late, talking, singing, carousing. It's like being a kid and it is Christmas every day. You don't want to sleep late because you”might miss something.”

A third component of No Boundaries Inc. is to enhance the local community through educational opportunities. Each year, participants visit budding artists at DREAMS of Wilmington, Inc., a non-profit agency that works with inner-city children to help develop their skills and interest in the arts. Participants also visit local schools and other community organizations, holding workshops and furthering children's exposure to new cultures.

The University of North Carolina at Wilmington is also very supportive of No Boundaries, sending students to work as assistants in the organization, documenting all of the working papers, and exhibiting works on the campus once the colony has ended.

Pam, Gayle and Dick maintain that it is through such community outreach that the goals of No Boundaries are maximized. The experience cannot be contained within those two weeks — however marvelous they might be — in November on Bald Head Island. Who knows what will come of a child from Wilmington being inspired by a painter from China? How does one measure the impact art has on one person, a community, a nation or the world? The ripple effect is too large; the earth-shattering changes are sometimes too subtle to recognize immediately.

But that is the magic of art. And, too, the mission of No Boundaries.