Workshop & Retreat Guide: Which One is Best for You?

I used to see the two descriptives, ‘workshop’ and ‘retreat’ as interchangeable, but over the years have noticed a distinct increase in the use of the word retreat. As I have started to organize my own workshops and retreats, it became more apparent to define the difference for myself and prospective participants.

I hadn’t really given this question much thought until it was posed to me during my interview with Alyson Stanfield for her wonderfully informative Art Biz Podcast. I used to see the two descriptives, ‘workshop’ and ‘retreat’ as interchangeable, but over the years have noticed a distinct increase in the use of the word retreat. As I have started to organize my own workshops and retreats, it became more apparent to define the difference for myself and prospective participants. To my knowledge, no one has formally defined these two things so I’d like to add a bit of a disclaimer that the following guide is based on my own experience and are the guidelines I personally use when promoting and organizing my classes.

Artist Workshops are:

  • A gathering of like-minded individuals for a week or less for the purpose of learning, completing a project, exchanging ideas and/or discussion.
  • Usually takes place at a facility/house/room/building equipped specifically for the workshop, but may also be used for other purposes at other times.
  • Taught by a 1-2 professional instructors.
  • Although some may travel a distance to participate in a workshop, many may be also be local. Accommodations and meals may be, but are not always included as part of the workshop.
  • Offered multiple times a year.

Artist Retreats are:

  • The same as workshops in concept (see point one above), but are scheduled for a longer period of time-at least a week or more.
  • The location is important, is most often a destination locale and is often explored as a significant part of inspiration for the retreat.
  • There are side/field trips scheduled as part of the workshop inspiration.
  • Food, yoga, meditation, spa, and other body pampering activities are scheduled or available to the retreat participant.
  • Participants likely travel to the destination and are encouraged to stay at the location for the duration of the retreat in order to totally immerse themselves in the experience. Accommodations and meals are usually included as part of the retreat.
  • A unique experience and may be offered as a once in a lifetime or as a rarity.

I hope you’ve found this post helpful and informative. Please see this post for a comprehensive listing of my 2020 Artist Workshops & Retreats.

Author: lorraineglessner

I'm a mixed media artist, workshop instructor and former assistant professor at tyler school of art in Philadelphia, PA.

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