Nestled amongst the towering forest on Galiano Island and backing onto Bluffs Park, Leña Residency is a retreat sitting on eight acres of irresistible land. It consists of a shared main house, a barn-style dance studio, a large outdoor amphitheatre, a small workshed, and a large workshop. Artists of varying disciplines can apply for a one-week stay in this paradise to “facilitate the quieter phases in artistic practice or process.”
Recently, while I was bemoaning our world where constant interruptions are at our fingertips, where we seem to be at everyone’s disposal, and we inevitably lose touch of our own values, I met Dayna Szyndrowski, a resident of Galiano Island and the artistic creator of Leña. She has recognized these pressures as challenges artists face, and felt the draw to create a collaborative space to facilitate creativity and mindfulness without the pull of societal or personal pressures.
I asked Szyndrowski, a photographer and dancer, what inspired her to create such a space: “There was an interest to replace my own onstage artistic dance practice with something behind the scenes, focused on creating spaces for others. This came after visiting a similar residency as an artist myself—Joya:AiR in the heart of Parque Natural Sierra María in Spain. While there to work on my own projects, I became more interested in the world created by the incredible owners than the work I thought I was there to do. With the goal to create a similar place for my local community in British Columbia, I began searching. Thanks to a collaborator on Galiano, the property was found and transformed.”
Szyndrowski describes the result as a “self-directed residency where the artists come to work without any expectations on product or outcome” in the solitude essential for creation.
Since opening its doors in the fall of 2019, Leña has been host to artists who have all come to work free of interruptions, taking advantage of the silent, natural surroundings, and like-minded guests. Szyndrowski herself lives on the property and relishes guest interaction; being there to facilitate their stays, and chatting with them throughout the day is one of her many joys of being an on-site host.
She talked about guests’ transformations, about how the stress melts away as they acclimate to their new settings: “Everyone reacts to the solitude and drastic change of pace a little differently … Some [guests] arrive and structure their days carefully, some leave their plans wide open. Regardless of how an artist fills their hours, letting go of anticipatory distractions takes a bit of effort.”
Allowing one’s restlessness and inner pressures to dissolve is not without its challenges, and the last two pandemic-dominated years have certainly brought challenges. I was interested in Szyndrowski’s approach, especially since she had opened her doors just months before the first lockdown. She has been hard at work.
“An exciting addition during the closure was a small cedar amphitheatre. Built in the meadow to create another option on the island to hold outdoor performances for local audiences, the Warbler Stage has been the setting for two local concerts and a summer Shakespeare presentation. Since reopening, it has been encouraging to see that the interest in coming to work at Leña increased and is reaching far past my own direct network of peers.”
If you’re an artist and creator and find yourself in need of a harmonious reset to balance your work or delve into a deeper space, Leña Residency may be the perfect little oasis for you. Szyndrowski accepts artist applications for residency four times a year, so you, too, can experience the tranquillity that Leña fosters on Galiano.