Artists Colony Opens Up Grounds for Public Visit

If she were still alive, Ellen Babcock Dorland would be startled by what will happen at her old homestead in west Riverside County on Sunday.

From 1 to 4 p.m., up to 300 visitors are expected to tour the grounds of Dorland Mountain Arts Colony, a working retreat for creative people. Visitors will sample wine and snacks, listen to poetry readings and music, look at art and absorb the atmosphere of the property, which Dorland and her husband, Robert, began homesteading in 1930.

“It’s the most unusual day of the whole year because the public is allowed” onto the colony land, said Jane Applegate, president of Dorland’s board of directors. The rest of the year, Dorland’s seclusion is preserved for its resident artists.

If Ellen Dorland, a concert pianist and music scholar, could see the influx of visitors for Dorland’s third annual open house, “I think she would be clucking and tsking,” Applegate said, “but (the board) realizes it’s time to reach out to the public for support. We’ve been a very private, almost secretive organization, but it’s time to open the door a little” to the community.


Dorland, which is about 100 miles south of Los Angeles, is the only artists’ retreat in Southern California. It opened in late 1979, while Ellen Dorland was still living on the colony property.

Two Weeks to Two Months

Four to six writers, composers and visual artists can be in residence at one time, for two-week to two-month stays. Living in small cottages on the 300-acre parcel of land, the residents--chosen on the basis of work submitted for review to boards of established artists--work in rustic solitude, substituting kerosene lamps and propane appliances for electric conveniences.

Sunday’s tours of the grounds will include glimpses into several of the artist cottages. Most tours will be led by current and past residents. “That’s what the people love the most, to see Dorland through an artist’s eyes,” said Applegate.


Past residents also will provide the day’s entertainment. Georgiana Sanchez, an American Indian writer from Long Beach, will read some of her poetry, and Los Angeles writer Rob Sullivan will read baseball poems.

Patricia Bulitt, a dancer/choreographer from Berkeley, will perform an Eskimo dance called “The Mother of the Mukluk Seal” in the central oak grove. Bulitt, a current resident at Dorland, also will perform a new “site- specific” dance of her own.

Elsewhere, the work of eight visual artists will be on display, and in Ellen Dorland’s former studio Pacoima composer Leon Levitch and Santa Barbara composer John Biggs will play and discuss their work. In another building, three architects will seek feedback on plans for expanding colony facilities.

Community support of Dorland is particularly needed now, Applegate said, because Dorland’s seclusion is threatened by development plans for nearby property.

Those who attend the open house should wear casual clothes and comfortable shoes for walking about the somewhat rugged land. “We’ve always said, ‘No children,’ but this year we’re liberating the place,” Applegate said. However, parents are asked to “keep track of their kids” and to be aware that “the terrain is not suitable for toddlers.”

Admission is free, but reservations are required and can be made by calling (714) 699-1961 today.

Dorland is about eight miles east of Temecula. Parking is available at the intersection of State Highway 79 and Pauba Road, and shuttle buses will continuously carry visitors up to the colony.