WWU Gift

Lummi Artist Donates 15-Acre Island Retreat to Western

By The Western Front and Ali Raetz
May 2, 2018

Western has been gifted a donation of 15-acres of retreat space and forested land on Lummi Island from a renowned sculpture artist.

Ann Morris, the creator of the bronze sculptures that inhabit the tranquil forest surrounding her studio, is donating her forested property known as “Sculpture Woods” to the Western Washington University Foundation.

Western will sustain Morris’ creations, maintain the landscape and use the space to enrich the university’s creative and artistic learning, according to a pamphlet made by the Western Washington University Foundation.

The pamphlet said the space on Lummi Island will be used as an alternative learning environment, as well as a place to hold scholarly activities, recitals and retreats for Western students and special guests.

Kit Spicer, the dean of Western’s college of fine and performing arts, has been a key figure in making this donation possible for Western.

“Everyone that I’ve talked with that’s been [to Sculpture Woods] feels that this is a special place for creativity,” Spicer said. “You can just feel creative energy in the land, the woods, the sculptures, the structured studio. Everyone has been delighted by the whole idea of this.”

While the space is not yet fully operational, Western plans to experiment with small events, Spicer said.

Morris is a notable artist whose unique work has been shown all across the country.

In an essay to the Museum of Northwest Art, Morris said she finds inspiration for her bronze sculptures of humans from “the forested land of mist and rain, where ravens rule and bones wash up on beaches.”

She said she is especially fascinated with bones, which can be seen in many of her art pieces.

According to a Western Today article, Morris said, “Sculpture Woods has been in the making since 1995. The studio, in its quiet natural setting, has been the home of my creative work. What has emerged is a place where my art lives and more can be generated. The gift of Sculpture Woods to Western Washington University Foundation is given in the hope of this Place continuing to inspire creativity in all who come here, Western students, professors, the public. May it be a gift that continues giving.”

Senior Matt Gudakov said it will be exciting to have more options for music students to host their senior projects.

He said it can be difficult to secure a spot in the main concert hall with the number of music students who need to perform final recitals.

Western has been in communication with Morris about the donation since winter 2014, Spicer said.

The final papers of transferring the property over to the WWU Foundation were signed December 2017. 

Spicer said Morris is currently leasing back the land from Western, and under her discretion Western events may be held there. She will continue to lease the property for as long as she desires. When she decides to end her lease, the full rights of the property will turn over to the foundation.

Western Window Magazine

By Mary Gallagher 

Artist Ann Morris spent two decades creating bronze sculptures and other artwork at her 14.5-acre wooded retreat on Lummi Island. Now, Morris is making sure the beautiful enclave known as Sculpture Woods can be a creative retreat for WWU artists, faculty and community members for years to come.

Morris and her two children, Brook Morris of Los Angeles and Clea Costa Van Voorhis of Chicago, have given the property to the Western Foundation to preserve as a space for art, performance and education.

​“This is a creative retreat that is welcoming to artists of all kinds,” says Kit Spicer, dean of the College of Fine and Performing Arts. “There is a palpable creative energy in this space and I think a lot of that is due to Ann and her work. But it’s also due to what Ann has done to maintain the natural integrity of this space, the land and the trees, and the studio and the gallery.” 

Sculpture Woods includes a studio and gallery along with 16 of Morris’ own larger-than-life bronze sculptures, which are situated throughout the wooded hillside overlooking the water. Morris continues to work in her studio, where she was recently adding to her “Crossings” series of tiny boats crafted from found materials such as twigs, seaweed, leather, wasp nest paper and wisteria pods. She’ll lease the property from Western as long as she wants to. 

The Western Foundation, which has established an endowment to maintain the property, will preserve Sculpture Woods as a “creative generator,” Spicer says. 

​There are many ways Western students and faculty can use the space, he says. Perhaps it could be offered for artist residencies, or as an intimate performance space for student capstone concerts. Art faculty could offer intensive courses in the studio itself. And students could serve as docents on the monthly open house days at Sculpture Woods. 

“Very few universities have anything like this,” Spicer says. “This is one of the coolest places in the world.”

She spent decades creating this Lummi Island retreat. Now she's giving it away.

By The Bellingham Herald and Jim Donaldson
April 04, 2018

A noted artist is providing Western Washington University with a unique gift — a 14.5-acre retreat on Lummi Island that houses her studio and has served as inspiration for 16 large-scale bronze sculptures that populate the property.

Known as Sculpture Woods, the forested property is being donated to Western Foundation, which in turn will maintain the artwork and use the property to enrich its fine arts curriculum.

"It's one of the coolest places in the world," said Kit Spicer, dean of the College of Fine and Performing Arts at WWU, who has been in talks with Morris for four years on the gift. "Very few universities have anything like this."

Spicer said the property could be used to display student work in an on-site gallery, provide a concert venue for student recitals, or attract internationally known artists for short residencies.

"The space will be a place to convene, to gather and to celebrate Anne and her art and her life, as well as moving forward to celebrate the creative process," he said.

Sculpture Woods will continue to be open to the public on the first Saturday of each month, for self-guided tours, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. There is no admission charge. For directions, visit sculpturewoods.com

Morris created the bronzes, many of which are primal expressions of human forms, over a decade.

In an essay for the Museum of Northwest Art, Morris said "these pieces come from the forested land of mist and rain, where ravens rule and bones wash up on beaches."

She will continue to use the studio, built in 1995 overlooking Rosario Strait, but will allow WWU to host events at the property.

Western Foundation has created an endowment for the property, thanks to a small group of private donors who have committed nearly $1 million to preserve the collection and its home.

And Outdoor Gallery of Mysteries - Anne Morris's hidden Sculpture Woods

By Culture Magazine and Lauren Kramer
Summer 2018

On a windswept bluff overlooking Rosario Strait sites a creative retreat where tall hemlock and Douglas firs share space with a series of arresting bronze sculptures. The haunting pieces of art are set on mossy embankments beneath trees and on stretches of grass, and as you walk among them they feel like timeless artifacts from a long distant past.

One is shaped like the antlers and bone of an animal, but with a human visage. There's a beast hoisting a child into the air, a kneeling man with arms stretched to the heaves, a human skeleton resting in the embrace of a tree trunk, a naked woman in a posture of submission and a massive bone against which a half-naked couple leans in repose. "This is one of the coolest places in the world," says Kit Spicer, dean of the College of Fine and Performing Arts at Western Washington University in Bellingham.

He's referring to the studio and outdoor gallery belonging to Ann Morris, the sculpture who created these provocative pieces of art on Lummi Island over the past twenty-three years and arranged theme in what she calls her Sculpture Woods. Morris recently donated the 15 acres of forest containing her sixteen bronze statues and her studio to the university. At the studio, a large A-frame building with skylights and floor-to-ceiling windows, a spirit of raw creativity permeates the room. Fiber boats made from plant materials hang from the wooden beams in the ceiling, the skull of an animal from the hook on a wall and large antlers adorn the doors, indicative of the extent to which nature inspires Morris's work.

Spicer says the donation of the Sculpture Woods will transform how students and faculty engage with their own work. "There's a palpable creative energy here, and I think it will become a creative generator for artists and others who visit," he reflected. Now that the university has become the steward of this space, he has a clear mandate for the future. "We consider this an exquisite gift and we want to use it to celebrate [Morris], her art and her life," he said. "Our goal is to maintain the Sculpture Woods, conserve its physical ambience and to make this a space where people can convene, create and celebrate creativity."

In a statement, Morris said her gift was given "in the hope this place continues to inspire creativity in all who come here—Western students, professors and the public. May it be a gift that continues giving," she said.

Morris will lease the premises from the university foundation and continue her work until she is read to move on.