Artist Retreat at Risk After Flooding

Mar 26, 2019

The flooding in southeast South Dakota is also threatening a rare space for the state’s artists. The Retreat at Pointer’s Ridge in Baltic is a non-profit camp meant to give visitors a quiet space to reflect and create. But as the river rises, the camp’s future is uncertain. 

The river’s not supposed to be here. It’s supposed to be a few hundred yards east, but instead it’s running over the gravel road that enters The Retreat. Deb Klebanoff, the camp’s founder, surveys the flooding with her husband. Their home is safe up the hill, but the water is up to the doors of most of the eight cabins on the retreat campus.

Deb Klebanoff started the retreat about five years ago to fill a need for the state’s artists. She says there are hundreds of artist colonies around the country.

“The only state in this country that didn’t have one—and I know this will shock you—was, yes, South Dakota.”

While there are some residencies for writers or painters, Klebenoff wanted to provide a space for all creative types. She usually opens the camp on April first…but now, it’s a waiting game to get into the cabins.

“If water’s gotten into them, it’s probably gonna be—I don’t know. Will we need to take carpets up? I just don’t know what we’re gonna find.”

The Retreat exists based on donations and volunteer workers. Klebanoff says she’ll have to rely on volunteers for clean-up.

“I guess I’ve spent a couple nights worrying that this could be the end of the retreat, because there isn’t money to recover, quite frankly.”

Despite her frustrations, Klebanoff still has ideas for events the camp could host—like story circles for veterans or themed writing groups.

“I suppose the world could do without that, but it shouldn’t. It shouldn’t do without that. It should be something that we just say, ‘Yeah, we’ve got a place like that.’”

Back up the hill, Deb Klebanoff points out the view through the tree branches. On what should be farmland, there’s water as far as the eye can see.

Flooding is expected to continue for at least another week.