“We didn’t start out loving Italy and its culture.  We were curious and our appetites had been whetted by art history courses and the chance to travel with John and Souheir Rawlings.

John’s technique of storytelling while you stand in front of the work of art he is telling about can never be matched by a textbook with tiny reproductions of the works.  His skill for reading his students’ ability to absorb no more until a cappuccino or gelato is consumed is amazing.   It’s too late to stand at the elbow of Rafaello or Boticelli or Veronese and watch him create, but we’re happy to stand at John Rawlings’ elbow and look at the art through his eyes.

John taught us to see the art and architecture, and Souheir taught us to be brave enough to try our beginning Italian language skills with the people there.  We begin the first trips to Italy noticing cultural differences and come home having discovered all the shared cultural traits.

John and Souheir have led us through what was their home across the Atlantic and now returning particularly to Venice is coming home for Jill and me.  As our water taxi carries us from Marco Polo Airport and Venice materializes from the mist, we haven’t a dry eye left.  Must be the fog.  Soon we will be carried away by the smells of bread fresh from a neighborhood bakery oven, the faint diesel exhaust of the bus boats, or the Vivaldi performance escaping from the doors of the church we pass in Campo San Stefano.

And two more raging Italophiles have come home.”        –Dan Yuhas and Jill Rocksund

“John & Souheir curated a most detailed, interesting and well-coordinated experience of Venice. As first-timers in Italy, my husband and I found meaning & inspiration through the way the residency unfolded.  Our favorite aspect of the experience was the Rawlings sharing their passion for Venice, which was contagious and inspirational. John brought us to special places and shared both personal and history tales. In this way, they brought us into the heart of Venice’s history and the depth of its art.  We appreciated also how we as a group got to know each other in formal and informal ways, which deepened our experience. We recommend this program for anyone looking to experience community and art in Venice. We want to participate again and will certainly return to Venice one day: this residency landed during our month-long honeymoon and thanks to John & Souheir we’ve been bitten by the bug. Now we don’t want to travel any other way but through programs like theirs!”                 –Joanna and Thomas McPherson

“Thank you for the most amazing Artist Residency I have participated in.  The excursions, activities, and travel pass you provided were optional but we soon discovered the true value of them and used them to the fullest…..even in revisiting places seen on previous trips.                        –Linda Katsuda

“As a professional artist, it was a great joy to be accepted for an ‘Artist’s Residency’ in Venice for the month of April 2017. This was titled ‘Art and Soul’ and organised by John and Souheir Rawlings of Montana. While I have been to Italy many times and exhibited in Venice before, I have never been on an actual ‘residency’. My wife, Tricia, and I were very happy as the professionalism of the organizers seemed genuine enough but we were somewhat uncertain as to how things would go.  However, we had no need for any concern as, on arrival in Venice, we were met by our genial host, John Rawlings and guided expertly to our apartment (ready stocked with food essentials) in the Castello district of the city. There were twelve artists selected from different parts of the globe and we were all introduced to each other and taken to the studio spaces in Giudecca. There is much I could relate about the interaction between us all but, suffice it to say, we all got along extremely well with each other and had a great creative, and often hilarious rapport.

Apart from the times that we were left to our own devices (painting and creating towards a pre-arranged exhibition) John and Souheir would arrange meeting points around the city from where we would walk to places of interest, particularly great Churches, Basilicas and craftsmen’s workshops. It soon became very clear that we were in the hands of a true expert on the history and art of this great city.

We were taken to many incredible places both in and out of Venice; San Giorgio Maggiore, (to the top of the Campanile), the islands of Torcello, Burano and Murano as well as the amazing fish and fruit markets of the Rialto. We walked with the Palm Sunday procession from Campo Santa Maria Formosa to the Basilica of San Marco and visited the beautiful church of Miracoli. Another great day was spent in the museum of the Basilica of San Marco followed by the Easter Sunday service in this great historical venue. There were bookbinding classes and, for the real enthusiast, Italian cookery classes. In the heart of Venice we had a wonderful insight into the craft of forcola making and when we visited Murano we were privileged to see a real glass workshop in action. We were treated to a day in Padua to view Giotto’s Scrovegni Chapel and a trip to Vicenza to visit the magnificent Palladio museum. For me, two special excursions were a visit to The Peggy Guggenheim museum and the boat trip across to the island of San Michele. This is the great cemetery of Venice where we viewed the graves of many luminaries who included Joseph Brodsky, Ezra Pound and Igor Stravinsky. All of these activities, plus much more, were expertly managed by John and Souheir.

In the days between such adventures we were busy preparing our artwork for the exhibition to be held at the Imagina Café in Campo Santa Margherita. The show opened on April 19 th and was another happy and hilarious evening for all.

We were all genuinely impressed by this wonderful couple who had put such a project into operation. The sheer professionalism of Souheir coupled with the enthusiastic erudition of John made for an unforgettable month of laughter and learning.

“Venice is eternity itself.” Joseph Brodsky

Thank you so much John and Souheir for this rich slice of eternity!”

—Keith and Tricia Morant

“Venezia with Art and Soul:  For a month I was away from my family, my home, my job, and most of my responsibilities. It was detoxifying and soul discovering. Venezia, along with the help of John and Souheir, allowed me to enter a very hidden space. One that at times I tried to manage, control and conform to what I thought I needed. I learned very quickly to succumb to the agenda of this place. When I allowed the intent of Venice to guide me I discovered what was beneath the surface, amazing layers of history, architecture, art, and culture. I was given the opportunity, if only for what is a brief moment, to become one with this place and to become one with myself. I learned a plethora about Venice through the guidance of Art and Soul, and as a happy coincidence, I learned just as much about myself.  Thank you for the amazing opportunity to see me and Venezia”.                                                        –Nichole Riley


NEW MEXICO, U.S. ARTIST RETREAT:          2017-02-28 17.59.55

“I truly enjoyed my month at EBLAR as did my fellow artists in residence.  John and Souheir are truly wonderful and giving hosts.

As we prepared for the opening of our group show, John and Souheir worked non-stop to insure everyone got all the help needed to mount a successful show and a good time was had by all. Every concern with regards to the tasks of daily living too was addressed quickly and to the satisfaction of participants.

Both John and Souheir offered additional classes and workshops for our group along with members of the community that stimulated creative development.  They also organized outings of interest to artists and travelers alike. On a personal level, they are fun, down to earth and genuinely concerned that all members of the group feel welcomed and valued.” –Sherel Purcell

“My time at EBLAR exceeded my expectations. The location is a place of stunning rarefied beauty.  I have never been somewhere so quiet and peaceful in my life. It was the perfect atmosphere to sink deeply into creative practice. The studio environment was harmonious, allowing for deep focus, and full of camaraderie and connection with the other artists. EBLAR was a very rich and wonderful experience.
I felt I reconnected with the sense of pleasure and meaning that art making brings, something I hadn’t felt for many years before.”
–Caz Love
“My time at EBLAR was really beyond words. John and Souheir are some of the most incredible people I have come across in life thus far. They are wise and accommodating and also just pure fun! I learned so much from their approach to life. The more intimate size of the group was also a plus, we were really able to bond in a way that I haven’t seen happen during other residencies and retreats. The landscape that surrounds EBLAR is extremely inspiring, even despite the fact I am not a landscape artist. I don’t believe that I have ever lived in a place so quiet! It was unbelievable to wake up and watch the sunrise and listen to the birds on the lake below. It was an incredible experience to make art in the desert, surrounded by sun, mountains, wildlife, green chiles and hot springs. The people of New Mexico are some of the kindest you will ever meet! EBLAR was both a spiritual and creative experience for me, and I left a different person than when I arrived.”
–Taylor Maroney

“It was a very positive experience! The landscape, which is transportingly beautiful, filled my soul. John and Souheir were supportive and well organized. They know when to get involved and when to pull back. They supported everyone in the group, but were careful to leave us lots of room.  And the other artists, who were working on a wide range of projects, were interesting – and also fun. The owner of Lago Rico, Neil, is totally dedicated to reviving the place. Will, who worked with us more closely, is knowledgeable about the history of the damsite and the local towns. And both were very helpful.”             –Laurie Kahn