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Christine McLean of Creative Minds Retreat

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Artist Christine McLean is feeling rejuvenated and inspired in the small community of Marmora.

Christine was interviewed in March 2020 just days before the pandemic hit. The conversation below tells the story of her unrealized plans, followed by how she’s adapted since restrictions were put in place. 

A new resident in the village, McLean is making plans to renovate her North Hastings Avenue home into a retreat where innovators come to revive their creative process in the quiet, quaint atmosphere that rural living offers. She hopes Creative Minds Retreat will be a place for entrepreneurs and makers alike to see the benefits of disconnecting, slowing down and recharging.

“Creative ideas and innovation happen when you have time and space to think,” she said. “In a sense, this endeavour is a creative project for me and an opportunity to open up that conversation by inviting people into it to experience their own creative process.”

hands on a desk holding a pencil and a notebook beside a cup of coffee

McLean’s career in the art industry has meant living in the greater Toronto area for 10 years, among the steal and glass skyscrapers, the never-ending traffic noise, and constant distractions. While my time in the city was an incredible learning experience, all this distraction inhibited the creative process for me, she said.

“I love Toronto, I love all it has to offer,” McLean said. “But it can be overstimulating as an introvert sometimes.”

After spending several years in the hustle and bustle, leaving the city felt like the right change, both personally and professionally, she added. A native of Peterborough, On., McLean was already familiar with the community of Marmora.

“I loved the idea of Marmora. It feels very community oriented and it’s very quiet, but I also see a ton of potential,” she said. “Everyone has been so friendly.”

McLean said she knew her current home was the right place to open her retreat space the moment she walked through the door. The atmosphere felt welcoming.

“It felt like a grandparents’ home. When I walked in, it just felt safe, like there was a lot of love in this home,” she said. “Thinking of my own grandparents, this is the kind of home they would have lived in. It felt familial. I’d like to keep that sense of safety while modernizing the aesthetics.”

Changes in the home have already begun to take shape. McLean has dedicated one room to yoga and meditation, two other bedrooms as guest rooms, and the downstairs living room into a warm and calm workspace. She soon hopes to add a piano. Each room will be injected with an unexpected participatory element of creative inspiration.

McLean still plans to visit the city, but the longer she spends away from the city, the more she’s enjoying the peace and tranquility of rural living.

“It’s silent. The first week I was here, it was so rejuvenating to hear absolutely nothing,” she said.

Her new home is within five minutes of the Crowe River, Memorial Park, and the downtown.

In a few months, McLean’s home will be listed on Airbnb and she’s excited to welcome her first guests by summer. What started as a pipe dream is now evolving into a reality.

“What I’m building here feels like a calling. What I’m building is my dream, but it’s also a dream I want to share with people,” she said. “I think everyone is a creator, so it really is open to anyone who wants to think creatively.”

What she’s up to now:

When the pandemic hit, simply hitting pause on her plans wasn’t the option Christine was interested in.

Her vision for the space involved constant evolution from day one, so she welcomed the challenge of shifting gears into virtual services that remained in line with what she planned to offer visitors through the house.

The aim of the retreat was to create an inspiring psychological space with tools on hand to create and explore ideas. She saw an opportunity to offer similar exercises through virtual collaboration.

As a career coach and facilitator, she now provides opportunities for co-creative thought partnerships. Her one-on-one coaching practice encourages clients looking for a flexible, fulfilling career to clarify their existing strengths and come up with an action plan together to realize their ideal future self.

You can’t get there without thinking creatively and that’s what she’s there to support them in.

She also offers virtual workshops (such as her upcoming Failure Lab) that focus on breaking down common barriers that squash creative thinking.

Novel ideas are what keep our society moving forward and, more importantly, connect our communities.

In a time where a sense of belonging is more important than ever, Christine is dedicated to supporting that through her Creative Minds Retreat work. 

For more information about Christine, visit her website at Creative Minds Retreat.

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