Artist Derrick Adams is Building a Retreat for Black Creatives

The artist spoke with 'Surface' about how he partnered with Tiffany & Co. and Artsy to support the creative community—and his mission to bring people together.

Artist Derrick Adams and Artsy chief marketing officer Everette Taylor. Credit: Darian DiCianno, Courtesy of BFA.

Artist Derrick Adams knows the power of drifting around the pool on a giant pink flamingo. He was already contemplating the idea of a leisure-focused artist residency when he began working on his 2021 exhibition, The Last Resort, at Rhona Hoffman Gallery in Chicago. The exhibition was partially inspired by a 1967 photograph of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on vacation with his family in Jamaica, and featured the artist’s vibrant mixed media depictions of Black figures lounging on playful blow-up pool floats. 

“My show was where I really started thinking about the residency because I started to realize that I’ve been making work that’s really about coming to a space like a museum or a gallery and seeing images of people performing this action [relaxation],” he says in an exclusive interview with Surface. The realization prompted him to ask himself: “What if I made it a real experience?”

So Adams decided to open the Last Resort Artist Retreat, slated to welcome its first month-long residents from the Black creative community to his hometown of Baltimore in March of 2023. He made the announcement while celebrating the launch of his partnership with Tiffany & Co. and Artsy, which are teaming up to donate to the retreat as part of Tiffany’s Atrium initiative for fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion within the jewelry house and in creative fields.

Derrick Adams' "I Shine, You Shine, We Shine" collage, which was commissioned by Tiffany & Co. and will be auctioned by Artsy to benefit Adams' artist residency and retreat in Baltimore.

“I’m really grateful to Tiffany and Artsy for agreeing to collaborate because the initial commission was just the Atrium logo,” Adams says. “That was something I was excited about, but I also felt it was necessary to make an original work.” The original work, a collage Adams titled “I Shine, You Shine, We Shine,” will be auctioned by Artsy—which, it should be noted, raised over $16.5 million to support nonprofits through benefit auctions in 2021. All proceeds will go towards funding programming initiatives at the retreat. 

Though the retreat hasn’t officially opened yet, Adams says the bed and breakfast-style residence in Baltimore’s historic Waverly neighborhood has already hosted dinner parties with historians, visual artists, culinary artists, and musicians to begin cultivating more connections within the city’s creative community. “That’s our focus: to think about leisure as a therapeutic practice, to really think about people who experience oppressive structures that are built to keep people out, to think about joy, or think about the idea of leisure within the turmoil that we experience constantly. It is a political act for me, to put this face into existence, and for people to come and unwind,” says Adams.  

It’s an apt sentiment, considering Artsy’s chief marketing officer Everette Taylor has long admired Adams’ focus on giving back: “I’m going to be getting involved with The Last Resort myself as well supporting, mentoring, and being a patron, so I really believe in what he’s doing,” Taylor tells Surface. “I’m from Richmond, Virginia, which is an inner city very similar to Baltimore. For me, it’s very inspiring, because I didn’t even think a creative field or creative industry was something that was an option for me growing up—and so have many others.”

While the retreat will have studios and creative spaces on offer for residents’ use during their time there, creative output isn’t required. Adams takes the leisure-as-therapy approach to heart by focusing instead on the value of a time of respite and fellowship with other creatives. Programming will include intimate dinners and networking opportunities, and actual therapy, all of which is being organized by curator and executive director Thomas James. 

Bidding for Adams’ “I Shine, You Shine, We Shine,” collage is open on Artsy until August 10 at 10:00 A.M. EDT.

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