About Us


Black Arts Retreat is a home for black creativity: providing restorative experiences that connect participants to art, whole wellness, nature, themselves and each other.  From the teaching and learning of ancient & ritual creative practices to the creation of new practices, Black Arts Retreat provides a spirited environment where people connect with African Diasporic creative tools as a means to transforming their daily living.  In response to demand from our participants, Black Arts Retreat has expanded our programming beyond retreats to include special events, workshops and affinity groups in order to nurture our international network of creators between retreats.  We aim to continue our work of cultural preservation & creation, international organizing and brave space keeping for generations to come.



To sustain an international network of black creators of all sorts that provides inroads to learning, collaboration, mentorship, travel and other means of support.


To increase the volume of journeys into African Diasporic Culture and Art in the US and abroad that promote the visibility, creation and preservation of forms and celebrate the vastness of the Diaspora.  This includes retreats, festivals, classes, learning communities, affinity groups, scholarship opportunities, trainings, cultural gatherings and think tanks.

To found a Black Arts Retreat Center that hosts retreats and classes throughout the year about specific cultural art forms, healing & wellness practices and other justice based programs.  The center is also home for Artists in Residence and the incubation of new work.  Features to include group lodging, farm, gallery space, working studios and performance venue. The Black Arts Retreat Center will also be available to other related organizations and practitioners who are aligned with our mission.

Our Leadership Team

“I didn’t start Black Arts Retreat. It started Me. This experience evolves from a legacy and lineage of black people creating to free ourselves.  I’m so grateful for how  this community and this work has nourished me through the years.”
– Kelly Thomas
Foundress at Black Arts Retreat

I first started dreaming  of Black Arts Retreat in 2010 when I attended a very dope and mostly white arts retreat out in the mountains of North Carolina. The natural beauty and creative immersion inspired me deeply and I got very excited about the prospect of a retreat which specifically explored forms and features of the African Diaspora with artists that looked like me.

We held the first Black Arts Retreat, in fall of 2013.  It was an overnight camping trip  and it seemed to me that everything that could go wrong did. But still the participants were so moved by the experience that they began speaking us into the future:  “I can just see us at BAR 10 years from now!”

After a second successful retreat year and an invite to Germany to produce a retreat, it was clear BAR was here to stay.  We went from hosting an annual event to housing an ever growing global community of black creative genius and our offerings keep expanding to accommodate the people we serve and the times we live in.

“Black Arts Retreat is the community I have always wanted. It’s a space where I don’t have to make any adjustments to participate or contribute.”
– Marie Casimir
Production Partner at Black Arts Retreat

Marie is a Haitian-American performer, writer, producer, and lecturer in The Clara Luper African American Studies Department at the University of Oklahoma. Her practice is rooted in improvised movement, and performative text, often using her Afro-Caribbean roots as a catalyst while also informing modes of creation. She is the founder and director of Djaspora Productions, supporting and producing art that connects artists of color locally and globally. She is a co-founder and producer of the Instigation Festival which takes place in Chicago and New Orleans. A 2018 Ragdale Artists Fellow and recipient of OneLove Nola Residency, Sixtwelve Residency, and an NPN Mobility Grant. She has served as an arts and culture consultant for the Consulate of Haiti in Chicago and Associate Director of Links Hall in Chicago.

“BAR is like coming home. It’s such a warm and welcoming environment. It feels familiar and invites me to be myself – creative, expressive, spiritual, nature loving and black all at once! I’ve not found another community like it!”
– Dionne Boyd
Development Partner at Black Arts Retreat

Dionne leads with expertise and passion around global diversity and inclusion, social impact, leadership development, organizational effectiveness and the intersection between business strategy and human resources management. She holds a B.A. in Sociology with honors from Brown University and an International M.B.A. and M.S. of Human Resources from the Fox School of Business, Temple University. Dionne is a Cornell University Certified Diversity & Inclusion Professional. She is the founder and CEO of DB Consulting Services, a boutique Coaching and Business Advisory firm in the Washington, D.C. area. Dionne is the former Director of Global Diversity and Inclusion at Tiffany & Co. where she was responsible for establishing the Office of Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) and building the strategy and foundational programs to imbed D&I into the culture and customer experience.

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