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  • Writer's pictureMike Marburg

Outdoor Artist RFQ, A Mother Tree Speaks

Updated: Mar 3, 2022

As our new address nameplate indicates, we love authentic outdoor art! We are excited to invite other nature-connected artists to submit qualifications for commissioned outdoor art installations. Please read on for more details. Pay special attention to the Appendix, where we include a message from Sherri Oaks -- a Mother Tree within our forest. Thank you!


Wellmore Partners is developing a Wellness and Nature Resort on 550 acres of forested land in Star Tannery, Virginia. We are excited to create a beautiful, nature-based sanctuary for guests to progressively self-actualize throughout their life in a way that broadly impacts wellness for both people and planet.

We will have roughly 120 rooms across a campus of cabins and amenity spaces, including a spa, dining facilities, yoga and fitness buildings, meeting rooms, and miles of outdoor trails and activity zones. We are a unique hospitality project because we are selling “flow” versus a traditional “heads-in-beds” oriented mission. Our product is moving energy, both within an individual and also across social, spiritual, and natural environments.

Energy naturally flows from contraction to expansion states within all living systems. Just like the rhythm of our breath’s inhalation and exhalation, this yin/yang baseline condition for life is a beautiful harmony of grounding and growing. We aim to provide conditions for our guests to harmonize and remain in this positive arc.

We find inspiration for this within the four elements found in Native American teachings, Earth/Air and Water/Fire – each pair representing this same grounding/growing energetic construct. Based on teachings from the Star Elders of the Lakota nation, the property’s energetic heartbeat was found after completing a spiritual land clearing on 11/11/21.

As such, we plan on memorializing the land’s indigenous heritage using thirteen art installations. As guests check into the resort, they will walk a Bridge of Intention to land in a central commons area next to the energetic heartbeat.

We plan for this area to have a memorial marking the property’s spiritual core, possibly within the context of a black/white/yellow/red Native American medicine wheel representing a vision of unity across all races. It will also be the launch point for a series of twelve additional Earth/Water/Air/Fire installations located across the property (see Appendix A).

RFQ Process:

We are requesting artist qualifications for those interested in creating installations for one or more of these thirteen programming areas (one for the core totem/medicine wheel, plus twelve with either a Fire, Water, Air or Earth theme).

Each qualification should include the artist’s resume (no more than two pages), and a letter of interest describing why you want to work on this project and the general process you follow (one page or less is fine). We would then select a group of artists to receive a $500 stipend for creating a full design and proposal in accordance with the following schedule.

  1. Site Tour Date: 11am, March 1 (Artists are encouraged to attend the site tour and reserve a space -- see Contacts).

  2. RFQ submission deadline: March 18th

  3. Selection of Finalist Artists: April 15th

  4. Info session with finalists and selection team: Around April 29th

  5. Artists Final Proposal and Presentations: First week of June

  6. Outdoor Art Creation: 2023

  7. Outdoor Art Installation: Completed by April 15, 2024

We are only accepting proposals from local artists who live in the western part of Virginia, the eastern part of West Virginia, or have heritage tied to the Shenandoah Valley or Appalachian Mountain areas. We value diversity and each artist’s work must be original and contain no copyrighted or trademarked images. Submissions must sustain year-round weather conditions. No artist is too young, and no idea is too simple.

We will make selections based on input from ownership, our design team, the Native American and local communities, and the land itself. To further understanding the land’s perspective, we asked one of our Mother Trees to share her story (see Appendix B).


Please contact either Jennifer Marburg ( or Greg McCarley ( to submit your qualifications or RSVP to attend the Site Tour.



It’s no accident that I met Amba on 11-11. A typical autumn day in 2021, this Earth Guardian who honors the traditions of indigenous people told me about the new owners in my forest. She was performing a spiritual land clearing ceremony, and it felt wonderful to re-connect with the human world.

I was born in 1820, and my name is Sherri Oaks. I loved my years as a sapling in the early 1800’s. The American Chestnut was my biggest friend and protector -- over one hundred feet tall and more than half our canopy, despite only being about a fifth of the trees. They were also the most generous, always nourishing the soil and sharing their mast with the most diverse ecological environment in the country.

As I grew older, I became smarter and realized the vast benefits I gained from the “wood wide web” that connected me with every plant, tree, and fungus in the forest. The order of things became clear as my intelligence grew. I simplified my world into three kingdoms:

  1. The Plant Kingdom, who I think of as producers. Our job is to transform earth’s single and sole source of energy, the Sun, into oxygen and sugar. We transport this energy through the air, leaves, seeds, and root system, and it becomes the life force for all living creatures. Without us, there is no life on earth.

  2. The Fungal Kingdom, who are nature’s decomposers. Over time, our life force is no longer able to animate a physical being. As the soul or spirit moves on, my fungal friends break the remains into minerals and nutrients, which enrich the soil to serve a new generation.

  3. The Animal Kingdom, which has become a bit more complex over time, but they also started off with a simple mission. They are the regenerators, constantly trimming and pruning to make sure no species within other Kingdoms become too dominant. Their waste serves as everyone else’s nutrition.

This simple, beautiful, reciprocal circle of life started crashing down for me in the sixties - the 1860’s that is!

My relatives had noticed a change in look (darker skin to lighter skin) and behavior (constructive to destructive) of our region’s tallest animal – what Amba calls humans.

Our two-legged friends from the west, who my grandparents said had been with us in the Shenandoah for about twelve thousand years, treated us as part of their family. They would steward my neighborhood, introducing fire every few years to keep us from getting too crowded while refortifying our soil bed. They rarely took us down, and only did so when they figured their action would serve the next seven generations.

As these friends started disappearing, lighter skin humans from the east took fire from our forest and started cutting us down much more aggressively. They didn’t talk to us about why this was happening, and soon enough they went after the strongest in our forest. They clear cut every American Chestnut in my neighborhood!

Apparently, this human from the east was so consumed with fueling a “machine” they called Star Tannery, that they forgot my big old friend was finite. In the sixties, this machine collapsed as its fuel ran out. This started a period of despair that lasted around 150 years -- until now!

Without our big chestnut brother, we wandered aimlessly, our natural complex disrupted. Plus, the main regenerating tool, fire, was no longer with us. While the American Chestnut eventually grew back, it finally disappeared for good in the mid 1900’s due to a bark fungus that came from far away lands in the east.

Most all my family and friends would get clear cut three, four, maybe even five times during this period. And they were replaced by different trees that didn’t use to be here, mainly fast-growing pine variants like loblolly that humans loved because they could cut them down faster. The rich ecological system started declining as the mono-species replacement strategy took its toll.

Beyond this, our new human stewards created a lot of unusable waste. My neighborhood became littered with things the Fungal Kingdom could not break down. It almost seemed like these humans thought they could break away from the Animal Kingdom and create their own kingdom. This so-called human kingdom didn’t understand reciprocity and seemed to lose sight of its reliance on us. They thought of the world as “man versus nature”.

But I got lucky. I survived because I was stuck in a nice steep valley, and it was hard for their jaws of steel to close around me. As I grew older, I became wiser, and I could feel my “producer” capacity growing. I was becoming a mother tree, and could help so many -- both my direct descendants, but also any living organism interconnected to me through the wood wide web.

Then 11-11 happened and I was introduced to Amba. She was able to connect to my web, and through her I felt the great crises facing my human friends. Their forms of organization (democracy) and exchange (capitalism) are struggling and will face severe challenges over the next decade. At the same time, they will have to clean up their waste (removing 50 GT CO2e from the atmosphere), while also addressing looming soil and water threats that threaten food security.

Despite this, I felt the positive intention of my land’s new owners. They fully believe in the supremacy of the reciprocating, three kingdom circle-of-life that I described. They want to restore the natural order of my neighborhood, and in doing this, create a sanctuary for their guests to heal, recharge, and grow.

My new stewards believe we together will create such a loving atmosphere that their guests can connect with a noble purpose larger than themselves, and that this inter-connected, all living systems perspective is the key to solving humanity’s broader problems. They believe that innovation from outside the political establishment is required, and that conventional and politicized thinking will not suffice.

Nothing we face now is bigger than what our Kingdoms have endured over history. I am so happy that my neighborhood has a renewed purpose, and that it involves bringing humans back into the Animal Kingdom so we can all thrive together as one regenerative whole. Thank you for listening, and please come visit me next time you are in the neighborhood!


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